Since Jim and Cindy are still on their sabbatical, please allow me to share about a recent encounter with our second Montgomery County, Ohio bonded-pair of Bald Eagles.
This morning had become a beautiful late summer morning by the time I arrived at Englewood MetroPark. The long streak of hot, humid weather had finally broken overnight and there was a slight hint of autumn in the air. The damp, shadowy grasses beneath the towering trees were aglow with the glimmer of the sunbeams that had struggled through the branches on their way earthward, golden rays that almost sang out praises as they pierced the darkness. It was one of those special mornings when you can taste the change of seasons in the air and you realize that you have grown tired of the heat and humidity. Dew-laden spider webs danced in the slight breeze, refracting the filtered sunlight like natural stained-glass windows. In fact, the beauty and serenity that bathed the landscape made the park almost cathedral-like as I paused to embrace its solitude. All was right with the world, or so it seemed.
High in the branches of a nearby tree a small drama was silently unfolding. There, side by side, sat two, young-adult Bald Eagles. Many have grown rather fond of this pair over the last month. We have watched them almost daily as they have become more and more a piece of the park, hunting its shallow waters and defending its boundaries from other passing eagles. They have become increasingly territorial as if they are planning to stay and make Englewood their home. We have begun to refer to the pair as Liberty and Belle and as we watch them this morning, Liberty seems sorrowful and downcast. He had flown to this tree alone but soon Belle was at his side. There is no chatter between them, only silence and understanding.
Liberty appears almost overcome with grief or concern. His head is bent low and Belle can find no words of encouragement and comfort. As a young, bonded pair of only 5 years of age, this is likely their first nesting season. Perhaps the promise of the changing season has caused the young male to ponder the magnitude of all that lies ahead. The hours of nest building, the demands of 35 days of incubation, the responsibility of rearing eaglets… maybe for this moment it is all just too much for him to shoulder.
Belle looks my way and as our eyes meet I see the expression on her face and read a message in her eyes. She somehow knows that the future events lie securely in the past. They were uniquely designed for this moment and equipped with all of the tools necessary for what lies ahead. Her confidence seems unwavering, her determination sure. But I also see a touch of bewilderment as she sits beside her forlorn mate. She is trusting that her presence alone is enough to buoy Liberty’s spirits.
As they sit together I almost feel as if I am intruding on a very private moment, but the story is too captivating for me to turn away. After what feels like a very long few minutes, Liberty’s mood begins to lighten. Slowly his head begins to rise. Maybe Belle’s quiet presence has soothed away his fears, maybe it is enough for him to realize that he is not in this alone. Maybe, just maybe, he realizes that together they can soar higher than he has ever imagined and overcome any obstacle that may arise. Belle refuses to look away. She want’s her mate to sense her devotion, to share her strength, to be upheld by her faith.
Slowly Belle inches to her right. I watch in amazement as she extends her right wing across Liberty’s chest as if to embrace him. He responds by turning his head and lifting his eyes, for the first time since my arrival, to gaze at his mate. The crisis has passed. Both eagles appear proud and strong once more.
I openly admit that I have added my own interpretation to what I saw transpiring in that treetop this morning. But it was a blessing to have seen it and to have witnessed my first eagle hug. Bald Eagles are monogamous and that pair-bonding in birds can run deep. As a teenager I watched helplessly as a Mourning Dove starved herself to death next to the spot where her mate had died after being hit by a car, even though I had removed her mate’s body after finding her standing next to it for over a day. Two days later I found her lying in the same spot. Many animals crave companionship and having someone special in our lives can make a world of difference. My love and admiration for eagles grew even greater today.
Sometimes words can encourage us, calm us, challenge us or move us in so many other ways, but sometimes there just are no words. Sometimes words aren’t needed.