When I started the Eastwood Eagle Watchers blog several years ago it was with two basic objectives in mind. The first of which was to share the ongoing story of Jim and Cindy with anyone who was interested in our Dayton, Ohio Bald Eagles. The second was to vent my passion for these majestic birds. There were several other secondary goals fell under these two objectives. Over the course of the years we have attracted many new followers that have clicked the “Sign Me Up” box on first page of our blog and each of them now receive an e-mail every time I add a new post. Currently we have 427 followers and I am grateful for every single one. There are many more folks who visit this blog but have not clicked the “Sign Me Up” box. Our most active day recorded 1,155 hits on the blog. During the past few years I have published a total of 190 posts. Now I know that these numbers are small in Blogland but each person is precious to me and each post holds a piece of my heart. Thank you all for tagging along with us.
As I’ve mentioned before, I fear that I too often repeat myself (no pun intended). But with the cyclical nature of Jim and Cindy’s annual activities and in light of all the new followers, repetition is sometimes necessary.
I have openly confessed, here and elsewhere, that I have been fascinated by the American bald eagle for as long as I can remember. I have great admiration for their fortitude, their dedication to one another, their strength, their tenderness, their natural beauty and abilities, and their gracefulness. They never cease to inspire me, and to challenge me to work on flaws in my own wavering character. In fact, they so inspire me that it is often a challenge to remember to update everyone on their activities and not just sing their praises.
So what exactly is going on currently with Jim and Cindy and their two juveniles? Well, they are still hard to find. Whether by remaining deep within the wooded recesses of the well field or traveling to other places within their domain, they are not making their presence known. But other Eagles are!
Recent online conversations have reminded me that many people have yet had the pleasure of watching an eagle in the wild. Let me take you along on a virtual eagle-watching outing. Join with me now as we take a brief excursion 25 minutes northwest of the Eastwood nesting site to Englewood MetroPark, the site of Montgomery County’s most recent eagle activity. As we enter the park from the gate at US 40, near the east end of Englewood Dam, we slowly descend the shaded winding roadway that leads to the lake below. The lake is just a shadow of its former self. This once vibrant and active body of water was the site of many picnics and fishing trips during my childhood. Today it is just a few inches deep. Bright white egrets grace the tree tops in sharp contrast to the dark green foliage on the trees. Great Blue Heron slowly stalk fish along the shoreline. Killdeer noisily dance along the damp mud ringing the lake while sandpipers hunt for tasty morsels nearby. The late summer leaves are not only deep and dark, but they are becoming a bit brittle as well. As we exit the car an Indigo Bunting flits from branch to branch in a nearby tree and a hummingbird buzzes past our heads. The shallow water makes fishing and boating impossible, so the scene is quite natural, undisturbed and serenely still.
Methodically scanning the distant trees along the far shore of the lake we spot the bright white head of an adult Bald Eagle! It’s perched almost completely motionless as it attentively watches the other birds flying by.
After 15 minutes the eagle flushes from the tree and makes a large, low circle above the water before paralleling the shoreline and slipping effortlessly through the shadows and then up into the dark, shaded recesses of different tree.
Up to its mate.
As we focus our binoculars on this secluded hideaway, we are surprised to find not one, but two Bald Eagles perched side-by-side! The female is slightly larger than the male, and still has some fading darkness visible in her head feathers while the male’s head and tail are a brilliant white. We surmise that the female is quite possibly a five-year-old bird and the male may be slightly older. Here together they sit enjoying the coolness of the shade for the next 30 minutes.
But then they are off circling low over the water in opposing rotations, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise. They pass just in front of us and our hearts skip a beat as we see their 7 feet of wings and we get a close look at those piercing, yellow eyes. We know that they are aware of our presence but they seem to be unconcerned as they pass by.
Their arcs are large and as they gradually ascend. As we watch they rise 20, 40, 60, 100 feet above the water. Now one changes directions and they circle together just a few feet apart. We’re thrilled as one bird flips onto its back in midair and extends its talons towards its mate.
I wanna hold your hand.
There is no contact this time and in a moment they are both upright again. We continue to watch as they complete a few more circles and engage in a little more flirting. By now their arcs have grown smaller as they complete a larger circuit above the trees that surround the lake, while occasionally and gracefully swooping at each other. Eventually one of the eagles folds its massive wings and descends towards the water. When it is 10 feet above the lake it spreads its wings again and slowly glides lower until it is just 6 inches above the water. We watch with anticipation as it makes one low pass and then another. On the third pass the eagle is more focused as it slowly drops its legs and extends its feet forward as it drifts effortlessly towards its prey.
I’ve got this one.
Then in a flash there is a splash as its talons pierce the glassy plain beneath it and emerge grasping tightly to a wriggling, shimmering fish. The eagle’s course continues unwaveringly toward the distant shore and then flies up and alights on a barren limb. It is only then that we notice that its mate has already perched in that same tree.
What a sight! What a thrill! We stand there watching the Bald Eagles perched before us, replaying the last few minutes in our minds and wondering how this day could get any better. But then, unexpectedly, it does! A shadow passes before us! In unison we look up to see a third eagle passing slowly overhead!
This is a large bird with a distinctive dark band edging its white tail and a partially white head. It is a four-year-old eagle and she is calling out as she glides towards the others. She makes one pass by the tree, before she pivots and lands just a few feet from the perched pair. Instantly an argument begins as the pair screams and chatters at the newcomer. They are quite fond of their lake and seem unwilling to share it with this intruder.
Three is a crowd!
In less than a minute there is a flurry of wings as one of the adults launches from the tree with a sheer look of determination in its eyes. It noisily chases the four-year-old from the tree.
Comin’ at cha!
It is immediately joined by its mate and we watch in amazement as the trio of eagles crosses the lake and disappear beyond the trees to the north!
And away they go!
That was my experience last Wednesday and Thursday and it still brings a smile to my face. To see that activity right here in the Dayton, Ohio surpasses my wildest dreams. I have lived most of my life not knowing this thrill and I know that many eagle fans across the country are still awaiting the eagles’ return. As their population continues to recover, take heart. They are coming! Keep looking up and you too may soon have sweet memories of watching wild eagles at play.