While white water rafting on a camping trip in Northern California, we observed a big bird flying low above the water before perching on a branch overlooking the river. Having seen animals I deigned more interesting (turtles, dragonflies, roadrunner-like ducks), I didn’t mention it, but my dad pointed it out to the rest of our raft. Our guide was excited and told us that it was a young eagle. She slapped the water with her paddle and the bird took off. We all watched it fly with a newfound awe. She explained that bald eagles start as the one we saw, brown with some mottled white, and get a brilliant paper-white head and tail when they mature (which was a shock to me because I thought they were their own species and always looked like that). We saw the young eagle again further along the river and a couple bald eagles over the course of our trip.