For each of the past three summers, I’ve participated in the Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend.
For those who don’t know, Grandfather Mountain, about 70 miles from Asheville near Boone and Blowing Rock, is a 720-acre privately-held nature preserve, the only privately-held property to be designated as an International Biosphere Reserve.
North Carolina owns 2,500 acres of the mountain’s undeveloped backcountry and operates it as a state park.
Part of the attraction is the animal habitat area. The habitat provides as wild a setting in which many of the visitors will ever see such animals live.
Wilma, a bald eagle who came to Grandfather Mountain in 1981 after being shot out west, was one of the habitat’s residents.
Wilma was at least 34 years old and had called the Grandfather Mountain animal habitat home longer than her habitat neighbor, Morely the golden eagle, the cougars, the bears, the deer and the river otters.
She was also one of the first subjects I photographed on each of my trips to the mountain.
I’ve always though there was something majestic about bald eagles. And Wilma, even though her injury left her without a wing and unable to fly, spent a lot of time sitting on one of the many perches in her habitat looking as majestic as any other.
But Wilma won’t be there the next time I visit Grandfather Mountain. She had to be put to sleep last week because of bad arthritis and declining health.
Sure, there will be other wonderful images to get on the mountain. But I know one I’ll miss.