The Eagle Has Landed

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Feb 12, 2011

"There is an eagle in me that wants to soar and there is a hippopotamus that wants to wallow in the mud."
Carl Sandburg

At 4:18 p.m. on July 20, 1969 Neal Armstrong's voice echoed through the speakers at NASA's Mission Control in Houston with these words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." 

While Michael Collins orbited the moon in the Command Module, the lunar lander named the Eaglehad just placed Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on the moon. It wasn't long and we heard the other famous words, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." 

Any of us who were living at that time will always remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard those words. 

In a much less dramatic fashion and with much less fanfare Evie and I will also probably never forget the landing of another eagle in our lives. It was a typical day near the end of August when she happened to look out our upstairs window and there in the middle of our simple stone birdbath in the middle of our backyard was a huge golden eagle. 

She couldn't believe her eyes. Quickly she called me and I grabbed my camera to try to record this incredible moment. We quietly opened our front door as I carefully moved around the side of our house so I could get a clear, open view. 

As I slowly moved closer and closer to that magnificent creature, it suddenly noticed me. I thought it would take off but it just stayed there. It took drinks of water. It splashed in the water. It glanced at me but at no time did it appear afraid. I was hardly 25 feet away. 

At least 10 minutes went by as I looked in awe and kept taking pictures. Fortunately my digital camera was set on "silence" so it had no idea how many photos I was taking. 

Even though there are more than 60 species of eagles in Europe, Asia, and Africa and they range in size from the South Nicobar Serpent-Eagle which is only 1.1 pound and 16 inches tall to the Steller's Sea Eagle which can weigh nearly 15 pounds and the Philippine Eagle which can get up to 39 inches tall. 

The bald eagle and the golden eagle are the only two species whose natural habitat is North America. Like all birds of prey, their very large powerful hooked beaks and strong muscular legs and powerful talons aid them in catching their food. Eagles are also known for their excellent eyesight. 

Did you know that at an altitude of 1000 feet, an eagle can identify a rabbit moving almost a mile away? Approximately one out of 18 eagle attacks on prey are successful. An eagle can eat about one pound of fish in about four minutes. About 40 percent of young eagles do not survive their first flight. An eagle's nest is called an "aerie" and the eagle will use the same nest year after year. The average life span of an eagle in the wild is about 30 years. 

Golden eagles usually mate for life. Their status is often regarded with mystic reverence among certain native communities. The golden eagle is the national bird of five nations: Albania, Germany, Austria, Mexico and Kazakhstan. 

Evie and I will always remember the micro-drama that played itself out in our backyard that day as we watched that majestic bird. Finally, I backed up and went inside to set my camera on video so I could film it as it spread its wings and took off. Unfortunately, moments later we looked out the window and it was gone. 

Just like that it came and just like that it was gone. But the incredible pictures I took will forever enhance our memory of the day a golden eagle landed in our back yard. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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