Kodak moment

I almost didn’t see it.

The constant movement of children sledding on the hill next to the library was most likely what kept my eyes from focusing to the object that sat on the ground much closer to me, just a few feet away from the bare oak. It was only when it moved (ever so slightly, mind you) that I took notice.

The bird was larger than any I had seen in the wild that close, at least a couple of feet tall. Its plumage was probably still in its winter colors: creamy white head feathers gradually tapered off to hues of caramel and chocolate. It stood with its wings slightly spread, dark feathers hanging like fingers over the ground. Its eyes were cold and black, glaring at the bustling people around it (who didn’t seem to notice that it was there), and over its shoulder at me.

The bird was so close to me, only a couple of yards, that I could see the feathers rippling across its body as its muscles contracted. Once I took notice of the bird, I had frozen in my tracks, hoping to watch it as long as possible without scaring it away (or provoking an attack). I couldn’t believe that this wild creature had allowed me to come so near, or, for that matter, that it was standing so still in such a populated area. It eventually turned its attention towards me, and I could see why it had not flown away.

The talons were an unreal color of yellow, bright and almost unnatural. In their grasp was something furry, most likely a squirrel, that was slowly being strangled. The bird was patient, tightening its grip each time the rodent made a muffled squeak. Those piercing black eyes bored into me, almost challenging me to try to take away its prey. We stared at one another for what seemed like hours.

Still standing, it suddenly spread its wings completely, showing its true, enormous size. The wingspan must have been at least four or five feet across. Without warning, the bird opened its mouth and let out a blood-curdling shriek that chilled my bones. A primal battle cry, that bird wanted everyone around to know that it had just made a kill. I shook when it let out a second scream before taking flight, still gripping its prey.

Naturally, I had left my camera at home.

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