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Bald eagle joins Virginia Beach friends for cocktail hour

There’s never been another cocktail hour quite like the one that Nancy Dickerson attended last weekend.

Dickerson dropped by Jean Carlston’s home at Atlantic Shores to have a glass of wine with Carlston and Carlston’s daughter, Ann Kramer, who was visiting from out of town.

When Kramer answered the door, she told Dickerson to be very quiet.

“She said, ‘You’ve got to come out and see what’s on the rail,’” Dickerson related.

And what should be on Carlston’s deck railing out back overlooking the Atlantic Shores lake at Shores but a juvenile bald eagle.

“It was unbelievable,” Dickerson said. “I’ve never been up close and personal with a bald eagle.”

A bottle of wine, crackers, cheese and salami were also out on the deck waiting for the three humans to come sit and have a drink.

But the eagle was waiting there, too.

“At first he scared us, the size of the talons and the beak,” Carlston said. “I’ve never been that close to a large bird before.”

Dickerson decided the eagle didn’t have a mean look on its face, that it just looked curious. So Dickerson offered the big visitor a cracker.

“When I held it out, it wasn’t aggressive,” she said, “but it took it.”

The eagle also took a piece of salami from Dickerson while she was trying to reach Reese Lukei, a local raptor expert. The eagle dropped the salami and even flew to the deck floor to pick it up. Then it flew back to its rail perch to dine.

When Lukei called back, he said if the eagle was still on the railing in the morning to call back and he would come out to check on it. He explained to Dickerson that the youngster had probably been born in a nest in someone’s yard or where it saw people on a regular basis. So it wasn’t afraid of humans. He also told Dickerson not to feed it at all.

“He said, ‘No crackers, no processed meat!’” said Dickerson.

“So we just sat there having a glass of wine and the eagle is just chilling with us,” she added.

Carlston said they decided it must be a female eagle because it wanted to join the women’s wine gathering.

The eagle was still on Carlston’s deck railing the next morning, and Lukei was called. By the time he got there, it has flown to a nearby rooftop.

An Unforgettable Experience

Later Lukei told me about the juvenile eagle in Thoroughgood that walked up on someone’s back porch and looked through their sliding glass door. That kind of behavior is a result of more eagles being born in an urban environment, he said. Still, he added, the eagle’s interest in cocktails with Carlston and her guests was pretty rare.

And it was a rare cocktail gathering for the three humans, too.