I can remember when the American Bald Eagle was on the endangered species list and seeing just one was news worthy of national headlines. I had never seen one live-in captivity or in the wild-until last year when I discovered there was a small population right in my backyard. That's when I became obsessed. I scoured the internet for information about their habits, migration patterns, and searched for their local hangouts. I'm a warm weather, summer loving kind of girl, but despite the onset of fall and winter I was determined. Layers of fleece, a mug of coffee and camera in hand, I headed out to the lake every chance I could on my quest to spot one. No doubt if you live in Alaska, Washington or Western Canada, you're probably wondering what the big deal is, but here on the Eastern seaboard in central NC there aren't a lot of Eagles. I dragged my photographer friends out at dawn and hiked what felt like every inch of the 180 mile shoreline for what I later learned were only 5 nesting pair. I've since seen many, but never really close enough for "the shot". In early February I discovered a webcam of a pair at the lake and watched as the eggs were incubated, hatched and cared for by the adult birds. I had no idea how addicting that would become! Once the NC birds began to fledge the nest I discovered another cam at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in VA. On April 26th the female Eagle was struck and killed by a plane, the 3 eaglets were removed from the nest the next day and taken to the Wildlife Center of Virginia to be raised and then released. Fast forward to July 27th. I decided I'd drive the 3 hours to Charles City, Virginia to attend the release at Berkeley Plantation on the James River. They were not only releasing the triplets, but two additional juvenile birds that had been injured and rehabbed at the center. They released 5 Juvenile Bald Eagles with a crowd of about 1200 in attendance. It was a pretty amazing experience watching the birds as they took their first flights into the wild. They said we would see the moment in flight when the bird realized it was free-it was true-all of a sudden after it gets air-born the bird relaxes, the flight becomes smooth, and sure, the Eagle soars effortlessly into the great wide open. If you've never seen it, you need to!