Reality Bites

I am afraid that I have some terrible news to share with all of you. (If you follow this blog with your children you may want to read through this posting first to decide if it is appropriate for your child.)

Jim and Cindy lost one of their three eaglets today.

As you know, just two days ago one of our eaglets was seen on the ground, hopping around for hours. It showed no signs of injury other than holding its right wing slightly different from its left wing. When the good folks from The Glen Helen Raptor Center approached it to capture it, it flew up into a tree. (I covered this event in more detail in my last posting.) Well yesterday the observant and protective staff of the well field noticed another grounded eaglet. It may have been the same bird or one of that bird’s two siblings, we just don’t know. I was on the road to Georgia and eventually Florida for vacation with my family when I received the call about this second eaglet so I was unable to observe the downed bird personally, but Roger captured the disturbing image below that clearly shows that the youngster had somehow severely damaged its right wing.

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I just cannot get over how bewildered, desperate and just plain out-of-place this eaglet looks. Betty and her assistants from the raptor center responded and captured the injured bird. The eaglet had suffered traumatic injuries to its right wing. Parasites had found the wound and had done additional damage. The injuries were so severe that the eaglet died before it could be examined by the vet. What a loss.

I often site statistics (maybe too often) but they are so very important in understanding the plight of the Bald Eagle. Juvenile Bald Eagles usually do not fare well. As many as 70% to 80 % never see their first birthday. As far as we know, of Jim and Cindy’s 10 fledged eaglets, only 2 have been lost. I suspect that number may be higher but we will never know for sure. Even with the careful monitoring and swift intervention by caring people when a crisis does occur, life in the wild is wild.

Jim and Cindy were aware of the eaglet’s situation and were seen bringing it food but its fate was sealed when whatever happened happened. Even though I am far from home I know that both parents, especially Cindy, will be seen flying through the area searching for the missing eaglet for the next several days before turning their full attention back to their remaining pair of juveniles. That breaks my heart. But what a wonderful and touching testimony of their devotion to their offspring.

Sometimes you beat the odds but, eventually, the odds beat back. Reality bites, and sometimes it bites hard enough to bring tears to your eyes.

Published in: on July 17, 2014 at 4:11 am  Comments (6)  

The Fears, Joys and Thrills of Eagle Watching

Every year more and more Bald Eagles are passing through the southwestern Ohio skies in search of a territory of their own. Several of our larger bodies of water are now claimed by a nesting pair of eagles. One local body that seems to be struggling a bit is the lake behind Englewood dam, just north of Dayton, not far from Clayton, Ohio.

A few years ago a young pair of eagles constructed an aerie in a tree near the west side of the lake but later abandoned the nest. In the ensuing years other eagles have shown interest in the abandoned nest but have all moved on. The shallow lake itself has seen sporadic flurries of eagle activity providing some wonderful photographic opportunities, but the eagles always seem to disappear as quickly as they had come.

Late spring and early summer was such a time at Englewood. Several juveniles and a pair of adults were fishing its waters and perching in the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, tragedy struck again. On Sunday, June 29th, a severely injured adult Bald Eagle was discovered in Clayton. Personnel from the Glen Helen Raptor Center reported that the bird had sustained severe electrical burns from apparent contact with power lines in the area. The injuries were so serious that the decision was made to euthanize the animal. Unfortunately, as the Bald Eagle population continues to recover these reports are much too common, here, in Decorah, Iowa and across the nation.

This morning I received an unnerving call from Betty Ross of Glen Helen. She had received a call from Jeff, a well field worker, concerning a grounded eaglet within the well field. Since I was near the area, Betty asked me to contact Jeff and visit the well field to evaluate the situation. Over the phone Jeff told me that he had seen one of our three juveniles sitting awkwardly in the grass for several hours. He further reported that this eaglet’s two siblings were perched side by side in the top of a tree nearby. (When we lost the eaglet named Spirit in 2011, his sister, Pride, spent the day perched atop a pole near her injured brother.) Jeff stated that the eaglet was hopping around but apparently unable to fly. I asked him if the eagle was possibly simply holding prey in its talons, if it was dragging a wing or if it appeared visibly injured in any other way. He responded that it looked otherwise healthy.

Fifteen minutes later I was watching the bird myself. The scene was just as I had been told, two juveniles in the tree and one more looking very out-of-place on the ground. As novice flyers, recently fledged eaglets are easily grounded at times. It takes a lot of strength and a bit of practice, to get airborne from the ground, but this 15-week-old bird was not even trying. A grounded eagle is subject to parasites and predators and will eventually starve if not fed. After watching our subject for 10 minutes or so as it was heckled by a persistent Red-winged Blackbird but showing little reaction, and then seeing it hobble 20 feet deeper into the grasses of the field I noticed that its right wing was being held slightly farther from its body then the other wing. I called Betty and asked her to meet us.

In about 30 minutes she arrived with her assistant, Molly. In the meantime the eagle had continued its awkward trek along a 40’ wide stretch of grassland between two reservoirs, heading in the general direction of a wooded area.  It had by now wandered yet another 150’or so, so I repositioned my car to a spot between the eagle and the grove of trees hoping the juvenile would remain in the grassy field where it could be more easily captured. Throughout this time we had stayed quite a respectable distance from the bird. As Betty’s car approached the eagle hopped up three steel stairs onto the concrete base of pump #40, a platform about 3’ above the ground. Then, as Betty and Molly approached from the west, I approached from the east. We were still about 70 feet away when the juvenile fluttered, hopped and using the drop from its platform flew low over the ground, across a narrow reservoir and swooped up into a tree!

Although it did appear to be favoring its right wing a bit, it had flown. I suspect that in one of the early morning downpours it had fallen from a perch or had been knocked down by the wind and rain. Once grounded, it had been unable to get airborne again and the slight elevation provided by that concrete platform was all it really needed to fly.

I have been part of a rescue where the juvenile did not survive its injuries and part of one where things turned out well but the best rescues are those where the rescue never really happens because the eagle rescues itself. The well field workers are always watching for any signs of trouble and it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Not having my camera with me (Sorry Roger.) I was only able to snap this image with my cell phone.

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All in all, today was a good day amid the fears, joys and thrills of eagle watching.

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm  Comments (8)  

A Smile on a Sunny Day

It seemed like it would never end. The long, grey, gloomy, wet days crawled slowly by like a long freight train crossing a roadway. “Will it ever end?” I asked myself as yet another thunderstorm warning was issued. With nearly every break in the weather I would make my way to the place where eagles roam the skies but as I arrived so did the clouds and then the rain. We always seem to have a bout of severe weather, just after the eaglets have fledged each year.

The first couple of weeks after leaving the nests the novice flyers stay secluded in the trees of the well field being tenderly cared for by Mom and Dad. Seldom will they fly above the green, leafy canopy during that time. Our best chance of catching a glimpse of one of the young ones is when one of them decides to return to the nest and wait for food. But by now, the nest is just a place where eaglets once lived.

Finally the forecast changed and the skies cleared!

And the eagles came!

Tuesday, was the day of transition as the downpours became more intermittent and the clouds began to thin. The freight train was finally clearing the crossing.  As Roger waited and watched he saw an adult Bald Eagle headed towards him and the waters of Eastwood Lake, and it was being shadowed by a juvenile! He snapped this image of the approaching adult.

Passing By

Passing By

Then he snapped this image of one of Jim and Cindy’s three 2014 eaglets looking mighty pretty as it passed by.

Big, Beautiful Baby

Big, Beautiful Baby

As the youngster circled above the lake, the adult did an interesting thing. Do you remember how your primary teachers tried to make learning fun by turning it into a game? That was pretty sneaky of them, but it was a pretty successful ploy. Well the adult eagle found the front half of a fish floating on the water but rather than snatching it with its talons, as it skimmed the surface of the lake it flipped it up into the air behind its tail feathers. Not once, but three times! All while the juvenile circled overhead. It seemed to be daring the youngster to pick it up. (Eaglets in the aerie know that Mom and Dad fly in with food but they have no idea where it came from. Most animals, say an owl for instance, will see their food scampering or slithering across the ground but a Bald Eagle’s main dish is hidden beneath a wet blanket in a world quite different from their own. They have to learn where to find the prey as well as how to capture it by watching Mom and Dad hunt.) Although the youngster did not take the bait, Roger did take this picture.

A Sneaky Lesson

A Sneaky Lesson

Today the sun was out in full force! Four of us gathered to see what the early morning rays might bring. They brought Jim! He flew in and landed in the tall, dead tree at the northeast corner of the lake where he sat for a few minutes searching the waters below him. I captured this image just before he left the perch, plucked a large fish out of the water and flew back to the well field.

Early Morning Hunter

Early Morning Hunter

Within half an hour he returned to the same tree. He looked pretty regal sitting there scanning his domain, like a king on his throne!

His Royal Highness

His Royal Highness

But what is a king without a queen? Right behind him came Cindy! If Jim looked regal Cindy looked absolutely stunning in the sunlight!

Her Royal Highness

Her Royal Highness

And together they were breathtaking!

Love Birds

Love Birds

As I stood a mere 100 feet from where they were perched I realized again how thrilled I am that Bald Eagles have returned to Dayton. The babies are growing up and Jim and Cindy were able to leave them unattended for a time, but not for long. After some brief royal chatter between the two of them, Cindy was off and winging her way back to the well field.

And then, just for icing on the cake, as I was leaving Eastwood around 7:30 this evening I saw two juveniles playing in the air above the trees of the well field. As I watched from a distance, they were joined by a third! I saw them swoop at each other a bit as I attempted to drive closer but they dropped into the trees and disappeared.

Watching our eagle family always brings a smile, especially on a sunny day.

Published in: on July 10, 2014 at 6:06 am  Comments (6)  

Eaglet Update

It has been a while since I have posted due to some storm related internet issues and a general lack of news to report. As you have probably already discovered the Boonshoft Eagle-cams have been deactivated for the year. So here is the latest.

All three eaglets have fledged the nest and all three eaglets have returned to the nest. That is very good news. The fact that they all have returned to the nest means that not only did they all survive the initial flight but that they are all healthy and able to fly where they desire to fly! Jim and Cindy are still bringing food to the nest to feed the trio. The nest will soon lose its attractiveness as the youngsters grow more experienced at perching in trees. As in years past, the family will move deeper into the wooded areas of the well field and enjoy their solitude. In a few weeks we will see more of the youngsters as they begin soaring with Mom, Dad and each other. We hope to get some pictures of the juveniles then.

Jim and Cindy are again making daily trips to Eastwood Lake, often while being harassed by Eastern Kingbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. I took this picture of Jim high over the lake yesterday as a kingbird rode him through the sky.

Hitchin' a ride.

Hitchin’ a ride.

High over Dayton.

High over Dayton.

Then today Cindy passed overhead escorted through the hazy skies by yet another pesky kingbird.

Annoying!

Annoying!

The smaller, territorial birds have been particularly persistent this year, never missing an opportunity to make their presence known.

Really? Again

Really? Again?

Just Ignore him.

Just ignore him.

Even the Common Grackles were getting into the act with the local Red-tailed Hawk.

Pushy, pushy.

Pushy, pushy.

It was 3 years ago today that Jim and Cindy’s first male eaglet, Spirit, was critically injured in a failed landing attempt on a wooden utility pole. As far as we know he is the only fledged juvenile that they have lost. Let’s hope this year is uneventful.

Boy, this update has been factual, informative and bland so allow me to call on a slightly smaller feathered friend to brighten things up a bit.

Roger's friend Bubba.

Roger’s friend Bubba.

 

Published in: on July 4, 2014 at 4:28 am  Comments (18)  

One Small Step

Do you know what it is like to be an eaglet about to fly from the aerie for the very first time? Neither do I. But let’s try to experience that moment in our imaginations. Actually, it may not be all that hard to imagine because we have all been through a similar experience before.

Do you remember your first step? You had mastered the art of rolling over, sitting up and even crawling, but that just wasn’t enough. You wanted more. So with a certain determination you began to experiment. You made your way to the nearest table, chair or couch and grabbed on! Perhaps in your mind you envisioned yourself simply crawling up the piece of furniture but your knees just could not find traction on a vertical surface, so you added this newly learned fact to your ever-growing storehouse of knowledge. Next you reached as high as your little hands could reach, grasped onto something and tried to pull yourself up. This effort proved slightly successful as you became a bit more erect but your arms just were not strong enough to keep you upright so you tumbled back to the floor. Remember? But you were determined to improve your mobility so you kept trying. Days passed. When you were awake and not being fed, or carried, or tickled, or having your annoying diaper changed, you were practicing. Alone in your crib you discovered that if you pulled yourself just right and tried real hard, you could move those two, long things hanging out of the bottom of your diaper into position to brace you upright for a few seconds and those chubby things at the bottom of those two long things (those things that Mommy insisted on tickling and kissing all the time) made pretty good platforms to stand on. You then learned that once you were standing upright you could bounce up and down and giggle with pride in yourself! Slowly you were leaning the basics, always adding to that storehouse of knowledge. What you did not realize was that as you stood bouncing and giggling, grasping tightly to your support, your muscles were growing stronger and stronger and you were developing a sense of balance. Finally on one glorious day you released your grip on the furniture and with your arms sticking out on either side of your body and your hands (for some unknown reason) making tiny circles in the air, you moved one foot and then the other and then fell onto your soggy diaper with a SPLAT! Mom cheered and applauded. Dad cheered and applauded. You cried. But you had done it! You had walked! Remember?

That is what I envision our trio of eaglets are doing right now. We call it “baby steps” for a reason. They have peered down from their aerie and seen people, machinery, deer, foxes, coyotes, groundhogs… They have looked into the sky and watched planes, heron, song birds, vultures, clouds… Everything around them seems to be going somewhere. Everything but the three of them that is. So they have been practicing. They hop and jump and flap their beautiful wings. Each movement strengthen their muscles and adds to their coordination. With every repetitive action they add to their own storehouse of knowledge. This week they will release their grasp on the safe and familiar and take that one small step towards freedom!

One may have taken that step already! Late Sunday afternoon I saw two very interesting things on the eagle-cam. The first was only two eaglets in the nest. Lately all three have been clearly visible on the rim of the palace. The second thing was Jim bringing food to the nest. Now the missing eaglet could have been lying down and Jim brings food to the nest every day but I have observed over the past four nesting season that every single time an eaglet fledges from the nest Jim or Cindy will immediately bring food into the nest if another nest-bound eaglet is present. It is as if the parents are trying to keep the unfledged eaglet content while they tend to the novice flier.

The oldest eaglet is 82 days old today and Jim and Cindy’s past eaglets have fledged between 83 and 86 days. I was so encouraged by the eagle-cam tonight that I fired off an email to our friends in the well field to let them know that there may be a flying eaglet in the trees near the nest. The crews there are very protective of their eagle family and will keep an eye out for any grounded or injured eaglets.

The fledging process is a dangerous one and the eaglets have many things to learn. As they fledge they will hopefully land safely in a tree. If an eaglet should land on the ground, it is much more vulnerable to predators and parasites and it may have difficulty getting airborne again as it will need to run and flap and lift its 10 pound body out of the tall grass. From a tree limb gravity will assist it in getting airborne again. The eaglets’ landings will be awkward and rough for a while as they learn this art and as they learn what size limb can be trusted for support. Jim and Cindy will keep watch over the flying youngster and bring it food as well. Eventually it may try to fly back to the nest and its siblings so if you see three eaglets in the nest, one may be smiling just a bit.

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I can only try to imagine what an eaglet goes through as it fledges but I know that instinct drives them to try just as it drove each of us to walk. They were designed for flying. They too were fearfully and wonderfully made. I may not be able to soar like an eagle but I can rejoice with them as they discover the wonders of flight. From the ground to the heavens they journey untethered. What freedom! What beauty! What gracefulness and liberty will be theirs! And it all begins with one small step.

Published in: on June 16, 2014 at 4:40 am  Comments (6)  

An Open Window

Here we are yet again, sitting and watching as the window of opportunity stands open. The eaglets are ready to fly but not quite willing to do so, yet. All 7,000 feathers are in place, their skeletal frames are sturdy and healthy, their muscles are strong and capable, but it takes a bit of courage to take that first step when that step is 60 feet above the ground.

The eldest of the trio is 77 days old today so the youngest is around 73 days old. The fledging-window is between 70 and 92 days of age so they are all three able to fly. I do not want to rush them but I tend to grow a bit impatient as I sit at that window and watch. This point was driven home again this morning as I met with a group of Raptor Campers from The Glen Helen Raptor Center and viewed the aerie from Eastwood Lake. All three eaglets sat at various posts on the rim of the massive nest and looked totally bored with their finite world of sticks and dry grass. First one and then another would spread out their wings and flap vigorously enough to lift themselves one, two or three feet into the air and then drop back down to the safety of the nest. Jim and Cindy were nowhere to be seen but I am sure they were perched watchfully in a nearby tree possibly eating a fish and enticing the youngsters to “go for it”. This is both an exciting and dangerous time. Many eaglets do not survive that first step. It is reassuring to know that The Glen Helen Raptor Center’s personnel are watching with us and are less than an hour away if they are needed.

As I watched I was reminded of the simple little poem that I penned on June 16, 2011 as I impatiently watched and waited as Jim and Cindy’s first eaglets, Pride and Spirit, were about to fledge. I share it with you each year as we watch and wait together.

 

Two Little Eaglets

 

Two little eaglets

way up in the tree.

Two little eaglets,

looking down at me.

You sit there in your aerie

staring at the sky,

and every time you flap your wings

my heart lets out a sigh.

Silly little eaglets

hovering o’er the nest,

Don’t you know that you can fly?

Your wings will stand the test.

Do you care that I’m waiting here

to see you soaring high?

I’m tethered to the earth below,

but you, you own the sky!

If I were an eaglet

and could do what you can do,

without a moment’s hesitation

I would launch into the blue.

(But wait! One’s perched upon the edge!

It leans into the breeze!

It spreads its wings! Then hops back down.)

You’re such a little tease.

I know that you are old enough,

your wings are sure and strong.

Dancing high across the sky

is where Eagles belong.

You’re made for inspiration.

You can make the mute heart sing,

rejoicing in your majesty

borne on outstretched wing!

“Why don’t you fly?” I ask out loud,

“When will you learn to soar?

I know that you are ready.

What are you waiting for?”

Then deep within my spirit,

the eaglets speak somehow.

They say, “We’ll take that leap of faith

when we hear God whisper, ‘Now!’ “

Smiles, frowns, gasps, tears… You just never know what expressions might come to your face as you sit beside an open window.

Jim and Cindy's Spirit in 2011.

Jim and Cindy’s Spirit in 2011.

Published in: on June 11, 2014 at 5:24 pm  Comments (6)  

2014 Picnic Time!

This is more of an announcement than a typical posting so I asked Jim to make it for me.

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“Hey everybody! Those silly humans that are always watching Cindy and me with those big cameras of theirs are getting together again for a picnic. They are going to meet at 1:00 PM on Saturday, June 14th at the large shelter near the Overlook parking area at Huffman MetroPark. They will have burgers and hot dogs on the grill and drinks to share but, get this, no fish or ducks! Can you believe that!? They are a bunch of Coots. Wait, no Coots either! They wanted you to know that if you want to join them you should bring a side dish or a dessert to share. Well, that’s about all. I’m gonna catch this thermal and soar for awhile until Cindy starts calling for me. It is hard for me to get away, she has eyes like an eagle!”

Thanks Jim.  We usually have plenty of food but since we never know how many are coming things could possibly get interesting. In the event that something unforeseen should happen, our back up site will be Eastwood Park at the same time and date.

One more thing: Our Boonshoft Museum internet EagleCam project has recently lost a few key people due to job changes so if you enjoy the EagleCam and this blog, please take a moment to let the good folks at Boonshoft know. Thank you.

Published in: on June 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm  Comments (6)  

Time Flies

Time is a funny thing. Each moment that we live is often a moment that we take for granted, or even waste. So much of life is spent longingly looking forward to a time when we are able to do this or that, and before we know it we are on the other side of the anticipated event and wondering where the time has gone. The future seems to crawl along at a snail’s pace while the past seems to rush away at supersonic speed.

This point was driven home in my heart today as I met with dozens of Beavercreek first and second graders and shared about our eagles. It seems like yesterday that my face was one of theirs, but it has been more than 50 years! Their faces were eager to learn, their eyes were full of wonder and their written questions innocent, poignant and thought-provoking. “Why do thay look so sloe in the sky?” “Why do they look mad?” “How old do they live up to be?” “How do thay swim?” “What is there pray?” “How do egols fly with out flapping” I fear that with the lessons learned through the passage of time we adults lose something very precious. We concentrate so hard on the facts and the answers that we miss the wonder of the questions. We can take for granted the beauty and mystery of Creation. Nature becomes too natural, the monumental becomes mundane.

May it never be!

But time moves on and our three eaglets are a testimony to its passing. Believe it or not, the eaglets each have all of their 7.000 feathers and the eldest of the trio will be 70 days old on Wednesday! This is significant because eaglets typically fledge the nest between 70 and 92 days of age. Time flies. We paid a brief visit to the aerie for a quick wellness check over the weekend and found Jim and Cindy well and all three eaglets looking very healthy, happy and extremely bored.

 

Faithful Guardian

Faithful Guardian

The big three.

The big three.

"What's all the flap about?"

“What’s all the flap about?”

Catching air!

Catching air!

As is typically the case when there are three eaglets, two were usually close together while the third, quite possibly the youngest, was always somewhere in the background. The two older birds seemed to by quite interested in learning how to use those beautiful wings. Although their flight path was vertical and they only cleared the rim of the nest by a foot or less, they were getting the idea. I suspect that it will most likely be a week or so before they begin to fly.

Jim arrived with a Red-winged Blackbird escort and proceeded to fly overhead making slow, low circles in the sky.

Jim's pesky Red-winged wingman.

Jim’s pesky Red-winged wingman.

He was looking somewhat soiled, as should be expected, and even nonchalantly scratched his chin on one pass.

If you've got an itch...

If you’ve got an itch…

Within the next few weeks he will begin the annual task of teaching his eaglets how to hunt prey. But for this moment he was contentedly patrolling his domain as I found myself marveling at his beauty and gracefulness.

Announcing his presence.

Announcing his presence.

His Majesty

His Majesty

Scanning his domain.

Scanning his domain.

I want to thank all of the children who have participated in my Bald Eagle presentations over the years, not just for their polite attention but also for sharing their wonder and curiosity with me. As I drove home from the school I pondered how many of these children were born in 2008, the year Jim and Cindy arrived in Dayton ending a long, 70-year drought of eaglelessness. May they never know a time when the skies of the Miami Valley are not blessed with the majesty of resident Bald Eagles.

Time flies, but if we are careful and watchful, we can embrace and cherish moments that soar!

Never lose the wonder!

Never lose the wonder!

Published in: on June 3, 2014 at 1:05 am  Comments (18)  

A Day At The Aerie

Bald Eagles are usually very dedicated parents and Jim and Cindy are exemplary Bald Eagles! They could write a book about the self-sacrificing devotion necessary to rear young eaglets. (OK, since holding a pen or typing on a keyboard may be a bit challenging with talons, maybe I could write it for them.) It takes coordination, cooperation and mutual respect for parents to properly share the duties, burdens and responsibilities of parenthood. Whether the child has feathers, fur or just unadorned, naked skin, successful parenting is an art form and Jim and Cindy are masters.

Let me share a few of the thrills, joys and surprises of spending just three hours watching those masters at work.

Although both the male and female adult Bald Eagle willingly share incubation, brooding, guarding, hunting and feeding duties, each parent has their own specific area of expertise. Cindy is usually the one you will see in the aerie (or perched just above it) and Jim is the primary hunter, sentinel and (eventually) flight instructor. When he is not hunting he is often perched in a nearby tree searching the skies for any possible threat to home and hearth. Out of view of the online Eagle-Cams but always with a clear view of the nest, he sits in alert silence, constantly scanning the trees, waters, grasses and skies of the wellfield, just as he was yesterday.

Always diligent!

Always diligent!

Jim the guardian.

Jim the guardian.

Meanwhile, up in The Treetop Palace stood Cindy, watching over three ever-hungry six-week old eaglets. The morning rains had finally subsided and the warm sunbeams working with the light breeze had all but dried the little trio’s soggy feathers.

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It was a warm and tranquil scene, an hour better suited for snoozing than eating. For a few minutes the eaglets napped and Cindy yawned as she basked in the toasty sunlight.

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But with the passing of time the little tribe began growing restless. Napping in the sunlight was alright mind you but it is hard to rest when your tummy starts growling. After all, it had been at least an hour since their last meal and now the three amigos were impatiently pacing about the nest and peering over the rim, straining their eyes for a glimpse of Dad, and (more importantly) lunch.

 

Jim had left his guard post about 30 minutes earlier and had headed off in the direction of Eagle Lake. Just what was he doing? We expected that he would arrive soon with the usual meal of fish in his talons. Perhaps he would bring home a duck of some sort. Maybe turtle would be on the menu. (The nearby “Garbage Tree” shaded a number of discarded empty turtle shells littering the grass beneath its lofty branches.) As if on cue, in the skies over Eagle Lake we spotted the unmistakable form of an approaching eagle carrying something in its talons! As it approached the river we could see that the prey of the day was not fish, fowl or reptile. It appeared to be mammal. But what mammal? Over the years we had seen squirrel, raccoon and groundhog making the airborne, one-way trip to the aerie but this was something different. Something different indeed. To our surprise, shock and somewhat dismay we could see the stocky body, heavy webbed feet and short, flat tail of a young beaver in Jim’s talons! (Well that was new.)

Leave it to beaver.

Leave it to beaver.

The youngsters in the nest looked a bit confused too as Jim landed in front of them. All eyes were on the strange entrée, including Cindy’s. Her mouth dropped open and she stared at the furry critter with a “What in the world is that thing!?” expression on her face.

"What cha got Poppa?"

“What cha got Poppa?”

For several minutes all five eagles were in the nest. Jim seemed quite pleased with himself while Cindy and the eaglets inspected, evaluated and reevaluated the unfortunate beaver.

The happy family.

The happy family.

What happened next was quite heartwarming. Cindy pecked at the animal, picked it up and carried it across the nest passing two hungry mouths and began carefully feeding the smallest (and most likely the youngest) of her eaglets. Jim, looking to be rather proud of himself, flew off to one of his guard positions.

Off to resume his post.

Off to resume his post.

Faithful father.

Faithful father.

For the next quarter hour or so Cindy shredded meat and fed her baby while its siblings sat in the nest and patiently watched. Eventually the youngster had had its fill and slipped back into the nest as the other two moved forward. Bit by bit the larger eaglets consumed their meal, occasionally tussling over a single morsel.

RMP103
RGP745

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When her brood was satisfied and most of the beaver had been consumed Cindy ate a little herself, turned and left the nest for the shade of a nearby tree as the youngsters watched her depart.

Cindy needs a break.

Cindy needs a break.

Faithful mother.

Faithful mother.

Her rest was well deserved. Her tireless devotion to her offspring was inspiring. She is after all a mother,
and mothers simply and lovingly do what needs to be done. With full tummies, her babies soon drifted off to sleep in the gently swaying nursery. Jim was perched a few hundred feet away on the broken top of another sycamore tree. Here now, with her broad shoulders turned towards the warmth of the ebbing sun sat the faithful mother, quietly enjoying the stillness around her, knowing that little ones grow hungry way too soon and the precious demands of motherhood will summon her again as nighttime approaches.

 

Our short visit has been educational, amusing and inspirational. I marvel at all I have seen. We are grateful to have enjoyed this blessing. Our pictures will allow us to share the adventure with others and to revisit the memories of this day for years to come. For us, this day was special. For Jim and Cindy it was just another day at the aerie.

RMP100s

RMP101s
 

Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 3:23 am  Comments (16)  

Happy Mother’s Day

Just a quick post for all you moms out there. (A full post will follow this evening.)

 

“There goes Mama again.”

“Yep. She sure does fly good.”

“I know. I think that Mama is awesome!”

“You got that right! Mamas are like that.”

IMG_8365et3Ss

Happy Mother’s Day!

Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 12:59 am  Comments (4)  
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