Wild eagle strikes a pose after landing on amateur fishermen's boat
VANCOUVER -- In the picture, the brown-coloured eagle's golden-yellow talons curl on the edge of the boat.
Derril McKenzie, a millwright from Kelowna, B.C., smiles into the camera, leaning in to get both the eagle and himself into the shot, seemingly unfazed.
The story of how the amateur fisherman came to pose with an eagle began the morning of Aug. 31 on a routine annual fishing trip to Gardom Lake just outside of Salmon Arm, B.C.
McKenzie and his son started fishing about five years ago as a way to get fresh air and sunshine. However, on that Friday McKenzie's son slept in and he was joined instead by his brother-in-law, Dean Wirachousaky.
The two of them went around the lake a few times and decided to try their luck at a spot that has proved lucky for other fishermen.
"All of a sudden the eagle came out of nowhere. I noticed it just out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a crow, and then as it got closer I thought it was a raven. And then I could see as it spread its wings out that it was bigger than that. And it plunked itself on the bow of the boat."
McKenzie said his first reaction was total surprise and shock. As far as he knows, eagles usually stay away from people.
"So, you have this big bird ΓÇª I think it's about the size of a turkey," he said. "We were just like - what's going on here? How did this happen?"
Time seemed to have stood still, he said, as the bird explored the boat.
The bird, which McKenzie called Eddie, hopped down from the bow to the floor of the boat, and seemed like it was looking for something. He thinks the bird might have been fed before from a boat and was probably looking for fish.
It moved closer to McKenzie, who slipped his sandals back on fearing the eagle might take a bite of them.
His brother-in-law revved the engine, thinking the eagle might take off if the boat speeds up. The eagle did take flight as the boat sped but decided to land on McKenzie's head.
"It had one foot on my shoulder and one on my head. It put two holes in my shirt but didn't leave a mark on my shoulder at all. Or on my head. It was very gentle."
When he put his arms up to protect himself, the bird gave him a little nudge, much like a budgie would do, he said.
"It wasn't aggressive. If it wanted to hurt us I'm pretty sure it could have."
That's when McKenzie says he felt a tiny bit of fear but all the while he was trying to give his brother-in-law the camera so he could get a picture. His brother-in-law decided to give the bird a tiny nudge with the oar because he didn't know what the bird might do next.
So, the bird jumped in the water and swam back to shore, then flew up to a branch.
The two men decided to call it a day.
When McKenzie told the story to his family, he said it was met with wows and "big eyeballs."
He says he reckons that if he didn't have pictures to prove it, he probably wouldn't be believed.
"It's a life experience. It'll never leave my memory that's for sure. People at work and whatnot are calling me the eagle whisperer."