This one is hard.
This one is a post that I hoped that I would never have to write. But it must be done because it is such an important part of the story.
Today The Treetop Palace has lost its queen.
I have often said that “life in the wild is wild” and that was never more true than it was today. My emotions are churning and I have no idea if my fingers can even put into words the thoughts that are swirling around in my head.
The overlying purpose of this blog is to share the stories of Jim and Cindy’s adventures in a way that is both factual and entertaining. But just as important is our goal to educate our readers on the realities of life in the wild. Jim and Cindy have met challenge after challenge and they have overcome each one. But some challenges are just too big. Sometimes the challenges win.
I apologize if the following record of the days events are painful for you. They are for me as well. The images captured by various people today are graphic and may be disturbing but I owe it to Cindy and to you, our readers, to share this day’s happenings for they too are a part of the struggle for survival that goes on all around us. It would be unfair of me not to share these events with those who lovingly follow Jim and Cindy. Let me assure you that this is not the end of their story for Cindy will live on in the lives of her many offspring. Jim is young, healthy and has a well established territory. It will be difficult to watch him over the next several days and weeks as he waits for his mate’s return but eventually he will realize that she is not coming home this time. Every year more and more young adult female eagles pass through his domain looking for a mate to bond with and we will continue to share Jim’s adventures as they unfold.
But now for today’s tragic events as I understand them:
Life has a way of becoming ordinary, even to the point of being mundane. Every day we each follow familiar routines as we rush off to work, school or wherever. And so it was this morning. As the crews of The Mad River well field began their never ending duties of maintaining wells, servicing pumps, clearing away debris and such, Cindy was busy with her normal duties as well. She was on the hunt for yet another stick to add to the aerie in preparation for this winter’s eggs. She had found a nice long stick, one any eagle would have been proud of, and headed back to their sycamore tree. That is when tragedy struck. Apparently just around 9:00, the ends of that long stick made simultaneous contact with bare wire conductors that carry electricity through the well field. Now we all know that wood is a non-conductive material but water is an excellent conductor and this stick was quite water-laden. The electrical current flowed along the stick, into Cindy’s left foot, passed through her body and exited her right chest. She was gone in an instant. Work crews nearby heard the electrical buzz, lights flickered and breakers kicked off. Workers nearby rushed toward the direction of the flash and their worst fears were confirmed. There, on her back, on the barren ground, they found the lifeless body of Queen Cindy still clutching a portion of her prized stick. The following image is both poignant and sad.
What a tragedy. What a loss.
Our local utility company has been pretty proactive in protecting our eagles by installing avian protection devices on many of the poles within the well field but the conductors between the poles are always an unseen threat to our eagles. I have often mentioned that the well field crews take the privacy and protection of their resident eagles very personally so I can only imagine the disappointment and the emotions that flooded their hearts as they realized that there was absolutely nothing that they could do. Grown men can cry too. Here before them on the cold ground lay the still form of unmeasurable beauty and grace. A “friend” they had cherished for over eight years. One whom they had encountered in summer’s heat and winter’s snow. One they had grown to admire and respect for her fortitude and resiliency. One many had even come to love.
Word of the tragedy spread rapidly across the well field as phone calls were made. Betty Ross and Rebecca Jaramillo, our dear friends at The Glen Helen Raptor Center were notified of their need and they responded at once. We have relied on their expertise often to recover injured juveniles from Jim and Cindy’s nest. Just a few years ago I stood here with Betty and others during the release of a rehabilitated fledgling and we had rejoiced together as Cindy appeared out of nowhere, swooped low under a tree and escorted her no-longer-missing youngster into the sky. Now tears flowed down the cheeks of many of those awaiting their arrival.
All stood in solemn silence as Rebecca quietly and respectfully placed Cindy on a towel and swaddled her snuggly.
Later in the afternoon Roger and I made our way to the raptor center to say our last goodbyes to this wonderful creature that we had grown to admire so.
We had spent hours watching her from afar, recording her story in images and words and sharing it with others. We wanted to…no…we needed to finally hold her in our arms and show our appreciation for all that she had meant to us over the years, all that she still means. She had never failed to make us smile, never failed to encourage us to allow our hearts to soar. Many people think that it is funny to become so attached to a wild creature but there are so many folks in Virginia, Iowa, Florida and across the country that understand that allowing yourself to become attached to a wild eagle carries far more blessings than heartaches, far more joy than pain.
Cindy was truly the queen of her domain. The Bible says that God’s unseen attributes are clearly seen in what He has created. Cindy never failed to reflect God’s glory, power, majesty and grace to my heart. The memory of her beauty will bless my heart forever as it does now as I share a posting that I never wanted to write.