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Not one fowler in fifty thousand,' writes Christopher North, ‘has in all his days shot an eagle. Beside the difficulty of it, there is a certain daring impiety in such an act, which perhaps disturbs: the aim. Above that glorious bird—between him and the sun—no living thing
From a region of unbroken solitude, he scans the movements of the minutest creatures here below with eyes of fire. Even when very young, they possess this marvellous power of vision. An eaglet was tethered to a rock on a mountain summit, where, from a lurkingplace built of loose stones, the hunter hoped to get a shot at the parents when they came to bring it food. Long before he perceived anything, the young bird would utter its cry of welcome, and its screaming and fluttering would always warn him of the approach of those magnificent creatures, who were not as yet to him even a point in the sky. Great as are the distances which these birds sometimes fly, it becomes comprehensible when we know that an eagle, as he sweeps freely through the air, traverses a space of sixty feet in a second of time. To be able thus rapidly to move along is undoubtedly an attribute of power; but there is something far more imposing, far more majestic, in that calm, onward motion, when, with wings outspread, and quite still, the mighty bird floats buoyantly in the atmosphere, upheld and borne along by the mere act of volition. The length of time he can thus remain suspended without a single beat of his broad shadowy pinions is, to me, still an inexplicable fact. He will sail forward in a perfectly horizontal direction for a distance of more than a mile, without the slightest quiver of a feather giving sign that the wings are moved. Not less extraordinary is the power the bird possesses of arresting himself instantaneously at a certain spot in dropping through the air with folded wings from a height of three or four thousand feet. When circling so high up that he shews but as a dot, he will suddenly close both wings, and, falling like an aërolite, pass through the intervening space in a few seconds of time. With a burst, his broad pinions are again unfolded; his downward progress is arrested, and he sweeps away horizontally, smoothly, and without effort. He has been seen to do this when carrying a sheep of twenty-six
pounds' weight in his talons, and from so giddy a height that both the eagle and his booty were not larger than a sparrow. It was directly over a wall of rock in which the eyrie was built; and while the speck in the clouds was being examined, and doubts entertained as to the possibility of its being the eagle, down he came headlong, every instant increasing in size, when, in passing the precipice, out flew his mighty wings, the sheep was flung into the nest, and on the magnificent creature moved, calmly and unflurried as a bark sails gently down the stream of a river.' An eagle does not dart down upon his
prey as a robin upon a worm.
He will not descend to any spot of ground unless he can leave it again with the same bold curve with which he came. Through this many a lamb escapes, and the eagle fasts. That bird can go for a week or even a fortnight without eating anything, but when he does eat, his voracity is proportionable to his enforced abstinence. In building his eyrie, he always chooses a spot inaccessible to his enemies- -some ledge sheltered by the overhanging rock, whither man (apparently) cannot climb, and where his young will be safe from weasles and other vermin ; a rock facing the south is the favourite locality, since the sun insures the egg being kept warm in the mother's absence. Such spots, of course, are rare, and therefore made use of for this purpose again and again. At Rohrmoos, in Allgau, thirty miles from the Lake of Constance, such an eyrie had been tenanted during the breeding-season for time immemorial ; and on July 13, 1860, one Count Max Arco, a hero who had shot ten eagles, sat down before the place with the intention of rifling it of the eaglet it was known to contain. This feat was pronounced by the
natives to be simply impossible. The wall of rock was five hundred feet high by six hundred paces bread, and above the recess where the eynie was built, projected at least five-and-twenty feet. Nearly half-way up this precipice was a path the chamois took, and along which a very good mountaineer and climber might make his way. To approach nearer than this to the eynie, was beyond all human possibility. Below it, and growing on the path, was one small fir-tree, and above grew a lonely red yew. From this yew as his hiding-place, the count contrived to shoot the female eagle on the very next day, but the killing of her mate was a far more difficult matter. For more than a week did the hunter pass his days in this ambush, and generally in fog or rain.
On the 19th, says the count, the weather being magnificent, I went away to my post at half past one in the morning. There was such a hoar-frost that I was almost frozen, and by the time it was six o'clock, I did not think I could bear it any longer, when, towards eight, the arrival of the eagle gave me a little warmth. He wheeled round for a while, then perched on the very summit of the precipice, about two hundred yards off, on a dead-tree, and never once ceased gazing at me in my concealment for full two hours. I watched him the whole time with my telescope through the small port-hole in my screen, and saw distinctly that he was occupied uninterruptedly and exclusively in discovering if I was inside or not. countless various movements with the head, neck, and eyes were in a high degree interesting. Bitterly uncomfortable as it was to do so, I still resolved not to stir, as his cunning would assuredly have discovered the least movement on my part. Those were two painful hours ! At last, he spread his large pinions, and, with a single
rush, shot away from the rock, and disappeared over the ridge. I thought, should he not have observed me, he will certainly think all is right, and will go to fetch provender for his young ; if, on the contrary, he does not return, then he assuredly has seen me in spite of my concealment. An hour had scarcely passed, when I suddenly heard a rushing noise, and at the same moment he had already flown past the eyrie. In doing so, he had with a dexterity equal to his cunning, flung sideways to his offspring a roe-kid which he held in his talons, and then, instantaneously folding his long wings close to his body, dropped like a stone through the air a distance of two hundred feet, when suddenly, as with a start, spreading out his pinions, he began to wheel about quietly as before. All this was the work of a moment, so that it never once entered my head to fire. The extreme cunning of the creature in letting himself fall in this way completely stupified me. “If he does so always,” then, I thought, "I do not know how I am to hit him."
Upon the next day, he shot him dead as he flung the food in to his
young The real difficulty of the matter—the taking the bird's nest—had now to be faced in earnest. The being let down over the cliff-top, and then pulling one's self sideways towards the eyrie, by means of a boat-hook, was found to be impracticable—the projection being so great that it was only possible to get above or below the eyrie, and not into
After eight hours of fruitless endeavour, it was decided that a ladder must be employed of 100 feet long at least. During the night, therefore, the count had two old and crazy ladders repaired, and a new one constructed. These three were bound firmly together, and held by a rope from above the precipice, with the foot resting on