Two bald eagles float atop the New Meadows River in Harpswell on Sept. 6 after becoming entangled in midair and falling into the water. Credit: Courtesy of Lynne Thompson

Lynne Thompson and Scott Crockett have enjoyed many beautiful mornings sitting on their deck and drinking coffee at their home on Long Island along the New Meadows River in Harpswell.

They frequently watch with delight as the six bald eagles living in the vicinity go about their daily routines. But they weren’t prepared for the incredible sight they witnessed on Sept. 6.

Two eagles flying overhead engaged each other and became entangled in midair.

“They just spiraled, coming down, and crashed in the water. I was like, oh my God!” said Thompson, who described hearing the eagles smack into the water.

They used binoculars to observe from a distance and couldn’t tell exactly what was happening, other than that the birds appeared to be flailing around in the water.

Erynn Call, a biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said such eagle entanglements are not uncommon and can involve eagles of all sizes and ages.

“It can happen because of pair bonding, because of a mating ritual; it can happen because of aggression or it can happen just from play,” Call said.

There was a situation on Aug. 30 in West Poland where two eagles were found entangled under some trees. The birds were able to get free after a couple of hours.

“It can be deadly if they can’t extricate themselves from each other,” Call said, noting that the birds are capable of injuring each other with their talons and their beaks or could be hurt as the result of a fall.

Fearing that the eagles were in imminent danger of drowning, Crockett and Thompson got into their skiff and made their way onto the river.

When they came upon the eagles, they were struggling to keep their heads above water.

“One of them was kind of hissing at us, so we said, let’s be careful here,” Thompson said. “I get it, that they were nervous.”

Thompson took numerous photos with a brand-new camera to document the birds’ plight. Fearing that one or both might not survive, Crockett used a small pole to gently nudge them apart.

In the meantime, an immature eagle circled overhead to get a look at the situation.

Two bald eagles swim toward shore in the New Meadows River in Harpswell on Sept. 6 after becoming entangled in midair and crashing into the water. Credit: Courtesy of Lynne Thompson

Having been freed from each other’s clutches, the eagles showed off their aquatic skills.

“The two of them were swimming and it was like they were doing the breaststroke,” Thompson said. “It was really cool watching them swim together.”

The larger of the two birds eventually made it back to shore, where it got up on a rock, flapped its wings to dry them and flew away.

The other eagle remained in the water, trying to swim to safety. Crockett and Thompson helped usher it to the water’s edge.

“He was really, really tired,” Thompson said. “He barely got up on the rocks.”

A bald eagle swims toward shore in the New Meadows River in Harpswell on Sept. 6 after becoming entangled with another eagle and crashing into the water. Credit: Courtesy of Lynne Thompson

At that, they left the bird alone in the hope it would be able to rest enough to regain its strength.

“We figure he’s OK,” Thompson said.

Call encourages people who encounter wildlife to seek help from DIF&W or an animal rehabilitator, such as Avian Haven.

“We definitely always recommend ‘if you care, leave them there,’ to get advice on intervening, but that’s good that they were able to do that safely,” Call said.

For Thompson, having the opportunity to witness the incredible events involving the eagles is further evidence of how special it is to be living in Maine, surrounded by wildlife.

“We live in a beautiful state and we’re very fortunate and some of us are able to see these things whether it’s a moose or a deer or an eagle or an osprey or whatever,” Thompson said. “We’re very blessed.”

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...