Happy Anniversary!

That is a phrase we often hear or utter ourselves as times of remembrance make their annual appearance on our calendars.

Happy anniversary. Sometimes that wish can be as mundane and as void of emotion as “Good morning.” or “Have a nice day.” but at other times the sentiment carried in the syllables of that phrase come straight from a heart of gladness and appreciation for the noteworthy past event. Happy anniversary!

But some anniversaries are anything but happy as we remember the loss of a loved one or a traumatic and stormy trial of one’s life. Such remembrances can be painful, dripping with sorrow, hard to bear and can fog our hearts with emptiness and dismay.

But, whether an anniversary is happy or sad, anniversaries are best shared with those we love, for shared joy or sorrow brings us closer together and strengthens the invisible bonds that we call friendship. That is why I want to share this anniversary with you for I desire to share my joy with all those who follow this story of wild eagles, soaring wings and majestic inspiration.

This September marks the 9th anniversary of the return of nesting Bald Eagles to Dayton, Ohio after a long 70 years of absence. From 1938 to 2008 our skies were missing the special grace and wonder that can only be found on eagle’s wings.

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Not to mention that awe-inspiring beauty!

The memory of their return still makes me smile as does the memory of making so many new friends as we stood in the snow, rain and sunshine over the years, captivated by the activity around The Treetop Palace. What a special blessing! What a special place! 15 eaglets have fledged from the palace over those 9 years and although not all have survived the challenges of life in the wild, each novice flyer carried with it the power, strength and promise that embodied Jim and Cindy and now shines in Jim and Hope.

September is also the time for our eagles to return to courting and nest building, slowly at first but gradually building to an all-consuming passion. That is the promise held in this image from a few weeks ago.

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But lately we have only seen one adult sitting in “Jim’s Tree”…

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which always concerns me but the missing adult has never failed to eventually return in the past. Still, a lone eagle is a lonely eagle. (I also find it interesting how their majestic demeanor is evident whether perched or soaring.)

Power, majesty and beauty returned to our skies 9 years ago this month and I pray that they will forever grace our skies and bring smiles to the faces of young and old alike and that for generations to come eagle watchers’ spirits will take flight as they look on each September as a happy anniversary!

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Published in: on September 19, 2017 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

Do you remember that catchy little song from Sesame Street? Many, many years ago that little tune would get stuck in my head after watching the PBS series with my daughters. The words of the song listed the policeman, the grocer, the baker and other “people that you meet while you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day.” The song supported a sense community and encouraged children and parents to get to know and appreciate those around them.

Life is full of blessings and some of those blessings are people. In the fast-paced world we live in today we can find ourselves bombarded with noise, distractions, annoyances and schedules that keep us from being anything but neighborly. Many people spend so much time in the virtual world of video games, television and online interaction that actually meeting and greeting other people can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience.

Nature has a way of calming that noise, lowering one’s blood pressure, soothing one’s pulse and slowing us down. That is part of nature’s design. Nature is where we belong. Nature is… well, natural.

I love being in a green oasis. The aroma of fresh pine on a drifting breeze, the music of birdsong, the warmth of sunshine all blend together in a restorative stream of relaxation and rejuvenation. Sometimes you can share these moments with enchanting faces like this one.
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Sometimes, but not very often, you may even see a face like this one!

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But sometimes those particular faces are a bit hard to find. Especially during August around Eastwood Lake in Dayton, Ohio. Now that the eaglets have fledged and have learned the basic survival skills of flight, landing and hunting, we are passing through our annual season of almost eagle-less skies. Jim and Hope are taking a well deserved break and the two youngsters are off somewhere, most likely together, quite possibly with Mom, more likely with Dad. I have always imagined that the ability to fly can be quite liberating and with a whole new world to explore curious young eagles do a lot of exploring. But the season of eagle-less skies will soon pass and a season of returning juveniles is just around the corner!

In this lull in activity I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the people in my neighborhood. Over the years I have met many wonderful people while eagle watching. Nature, wildlife watching, bird watching and especially eagle watching are best appreciated when shared with someone special. There is a bond that builds between people when you experience the wonders of nature together. One of those people was a sweet lady who was very excited to share her love for eagles with her young grandsons so I agreed to meet her at the lake to point them in the right direction. The morning that I met her and the boys I stepped out of my car and stepped 5 decades back in time. This is my friend Bryce.

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Bryce instantly reminded me of the young boy of my own childhood. He was full of enthusiasm, expectation and a wealth of knowledge about avian life that was well beyond his years. He emerged from his grandmother’s car full of questions and a determination to capture an image of a wild eagle with the small camera that he held in his hand. I was impressed by his politeness and his longing to learn. As we stood by the lake hoping for Jim or Cindy to pass by, we talked about eagles and birds of prey in general. My mind kept flashing back decades as I recognized the familiarity of a young heart’s love for eagles and I was thankful that all these years later, this boy actually had the opportunity to see wild eagles gracing the skies of Dayton. As we chatted one of our adult eagles decided to give him his chance! I believe I said, “Look there.” and Bryce was instantly a child in pursuit of a dream. Tracking a flying bird with a smaller, handheld camera is no easy task but that fact doesn’t stop one from trying when the opportunity presents itself. When the moment had passed I remember him commenting that he needed to get a better camera, which, as the above picture shows, he did. I have since met Bryce’s mother and father and it is very apparent where this young man’s politeness, curiosity, security, enthusiasm, determination and faith have been encouraged and nurtured. Bryce has now visited many local Bald Eagle nests and his images keep improving. Those images now look more like this.

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I wonder where his love for God’s wonders will take him in the years to come.

During my years in the eagle watching neighborhood there have been so many people that have touched my life. From World War II veterans and retired school teachers to new parents and young children, each one is special, each one is precious. All share in a love for this amazing world that we call home. You just never know who you will see out there. Some make you think. Some make you wonder. Some make you remember. And some just make you smile.

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Who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day?

 

 

Published in: on August 18, 2017 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Milestones

Because large stones are heavy and therefor extremely hard to move, they have always been used to indicate distances and boundaries. Property boundaries were commonly marked by large stones placed at the corners of a parcel of land as a permanent indication of where one owner’s property ended and a neighbor’s property began. Travelers along roadways were able to judge the length of their journey as they passed large stones placed along the roadside at various intervals to indicate distance. These markers became known as “milestones”.

Markers are necessary to gauge our progress along a road or on our journey through life. Although milestones have now been replaced by reflective signage we often refer to important events in our lives as milestones and it is a good practice to pause and reflect on those events that have marked our journeys thus far, and to be thankful for our progress.

Milestones can mark great accomplishments like a marriage, a birth, a new diploma, a new job, a new home or a retirement. Milestones can also seem small and quite usual at the time like learning the alphabet, learning to write, learning to drive or a first date that turns into a lifetime bond. One of the earliest milestones in our lives is learning to walk… or fly!

Jim and Hope’s eaglets have passed that milestone with flying colors! Literally!

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This milestone means that The Treetop Palace has seen 15 eaglets successfully take their first flights in the last 7 nesting seasons! Considering that during the previous 72 years there had been no eaglets fledged from aeries in Dayton, Ohio (mostly because there were no nesting eagles in the entire Montgomery County area) that is quite a milestone indeed!

The first flight is always a bit of a challenge, but the first landing is even more critical. Hollow bones, 6-foot wingspans and a lack of experience can be a dangerous combination. Jim and Hope make it look pretty easy since they have had years of practice, but their youngsters have conquered that challenge. True to the pattern of past years, Jim and Hope led the novice flyers deeper into the protective confines of the well field where the youngsters have been perfecting their skills. Another challenge they seem to have mastered is getting airborne from the ground. Flying from the ground requires more muscle strength than dropping into the air from a higher perch and some grounded eaglets struggle to accomplish this feat. Our two eaglets seem to be doing just fine at that milestone too. But even when they are resting together along the lake they are still impressive sights!

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They really seem to enjoy each other’s company and now that they are more mobile and are working on mastering their hunting skills, we should be seeing them more frequently around the Eastwood area. I have also seen a second-year juvenile in the area that is quite possibly our 2016 eaglet. The fact that Jim has not chased the one-year-old away indicates his satisfaction with the new fledglings’ progress and no longer views the older bird as a threat. This also bodes well for this fall and winter’s juvenile eagle convention on Eastwood Lake!

An added bonus for the approaching cooler weather is the expected completion of the new Harshman Road bridge spanning The Mad River. The 2-year project, now in the final phase, has added a walkway/bicycle path which finally allows for safe passage for pedestrians between the two sections of the Eastwood MetroPark complex, yet another milestone.

This nesting season is now complete. It began with a lot of unknowns as Jim had taken a new mate after Cindy’s tragic, accidental death. Life in the wild is wild, but as I look back over the last 6 months I find myself smiling. It is good to take the time to pause and to be grateful for our blessings as we look back over life’s milestones.

Published in: on July 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now

“Now”… Now that is an interesting word. By the time you have uttered its single syllable, that “now” has passed and another “now” has arrived.

Webster’s dictionary defines “now” as “at the present time or moment” and moments pass in a fleeting parade of instants, never to be seen again. They are more numerous than the grains of sand on a seashore and they can slip through our fingers just as easily. Moments can only be truly captured within our memories where those captured moments are cherished by our hearts forever, whether they invoke smiles or tears. Maybe that is why the precious moments of “now” are referred to as “the present” because they truly are a present, a blessing, a treasured gift from God.

Many times “now” walks with a partner who is not like “now” at all…”then”. People often say “every now and then” this or that happens. The two words are in many ways polar opposites. As tiny as “now” is, its companion “then” is anything but! “Then” is massive! “Then is everything that is not “now”! In fact, as “now” flees away it becomes another part of “then”!

Every now and then I make myself pause to count my blessings, and my “nows” are full of them. Recently, on one such occasion, I was reminded of what a privilege it is to be able to watch our local Bald Eagles work and play around me and I was challenged in my heart to never lose sight of that wonder. As I have come to know more and more about eagles I find that at times I can become so engrossed in that knowledge that I lose sight of their grandeur. This is a trap that comes with adulthood.

Let me illustrate it this way: Close your eyes and drift back in your mind to a different “now”… a moment in time when you were a seven year old child filled with curiosity and wonder. Every flower was a wonder-filled marvel of beauty and fragrance! A dandelion was not a weed in the lawn but a thousand fairies awaiting to be freed by a puff of your breath. A sundrenched field or grassy hillside was not a place of labor but a playground for exploration, discovery and an opportunity to bask in the warmth and amazement of it all! Picture yourself lying on that hillside intentionally breathing deeply to capture the aroma of life, engulfed in the carefree world of childhood and innocence. As you glance at a lone, wispy cloud floating by you notice a majestic eagle dancing on the sunbeams and you are instantly captivated by its gracefulness. Slowly its mesmerizing circles carry your imagination aloft, higher and higher into the heavens and you long for the ability to fly. Remember the joys of that long ago “now” and allow yourself to relax in the tranquility and security of that moment.

Every now and then I am encouraged to put down the camera and just watch an eagle soar.

Our eaglets are ready to fly. Now is the time. They are almost impossible to see from Eastwood while they are branched out onto nearby shady boughs. Their wings are strong and fully feathered. Jim and Hope are seldom in the nest as they allow the youngsters to grow hungry and lonely for their companionship in an effort to encourage them to take that first step into freedom.

It has become a tradition that each year I post this little poem that I penned a few years back while impatiently waiting for Jim and Cindy’s first eaglets to fledge. This year the familiar impatience has returned as I watch Jim and Hope’s youngsters. It is my tribute to this annual moment when young wings do what they were designed to do. The “now” when a young eagle experiences a thrill that I still long to know.

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Two Little Eaglets

By Jim Weller (June 16, 2011)

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,

Do you even know that you can fly?

Your wings will stand the test.

 

Do you even 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!’ “

Published in: on June 20, 2017 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Waiting and Watching

Waiting and watching. Two simple words that can mean so many different things to so many different people and it all depends on what they are waiting and watching for.

Life is full of periods of waiting and watching. I can vividly remember those days decades ago where as a young student I sat waiting and watching a classroom clock struggling to reach 3 PM. I still smile as I remember a day 42 years past as I stood expectantly waiting at the altar of a small church watching for my beautiful bride to enter the sanctuary. I remember the nervousness of watching and waiting during the last few days of pregnancies. A tear still comes as I recall the time of waiting and keeping watch while praying and pacing outside my dear mother’s hospital room. Periods of waiting and watching are necessary for life. Time and expectation are precious commodities.

The leafy boughs of the giant sycamore have all but concealed Jim and Hope’s Treetop Palace as viewed from our vantage point at Eastwood Lake where we watch and wait. The two eaglets within the palace’s open cradle are watching and waiting too. Mostly they watch and wait for food… a lot of food. Their aquatic diet provides nutrition and almost all of their water needs as the eaglets grow in both size and impatience. Mom and Dad are giving the young ones more space these days. We are only a month from fledging time and young muscles need to be exercised and strengthened making more space a real necessity.

Watching and waiting does not mean idle and bored though. Wildlife stories are playing out all around the park as animals watch and wait for future events. This young buck has sprouted new velvet in anticipation of establishing his place in the Whitetail herd.

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An Eastwood Pileated Woodpecker nest has revealed at least 3 young (2 females and a male) watching and waiting for their parents’ frequent food delivery service. Dad Pileated feeds the hungry babies while watching and waiting for a well deserved break. Mom Pileated was watching and waiting for more tasty morsels to crawl her way.

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Some animals, like this raccoon, are just watching and waiting for nightfall, fun and mischief.

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During this season of watching and waiting there are other changes afoot. The construction of the new Harshman Road bridge over the Mad River that flows through the greater Eastwood complex is almost complete. The new span will provide both vehicular and pedestrian passage. I was able to attend a public input session that Five River MetroParks hosted focusing on the future of the Eastwood complex. The current plans call for closing the entrance road to the lake after another new bridge is built across The Mad River within the park. Also included in the plans are a 5K path around the lake, new restroom facilities, new children and adult activity areas, new hiking trails, rerouting the bikeway through the park, dredging and cleaning the lagoons, an increase emphasis on kayaking opportunities and training, dock improvements and other enhancements. As Jim and Hope’s representative I encouraged the MetroParks staff to respect and protect the western shoreline of the lake where as many as a dozen juvenile Bald Eagles roosted last December and we discussed the possible inclusion of an elevated platform to allow Treetop Palace viewing over the Harshman Road traffic.

As the warm, wet days of springtime give way to the hot, humid days of summer our eaglets will find new freedom, Jim and Hope will find more time to soar and eagle-watchers and their cameras will find more excitement from the hours spent watching and waiting.

Published in: on May 22, 2017 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Make It Count!

I love springtime!

Springtime is a time of new beginnings and burgeoning promises. Not only are the days growing longer and warmer but the buds on trees and bushes are literally exploding into leaves and blossoms that carry within them the promise of shady shelters, fresh fruit and new seedlings.

This time of year I spend more and more hours wandering the winding trails of our local Five Rivers MetroParks, (mostly Eastwood) breathing in the fresh aromas of nature and witnessing the promise of new life in the arbor of boughs above me and the tangle of brush beside the path. Red-winged Blackbirds serenade the sunrise hoping to attract a mate. Song Sparrows sing lustily from the bushes. Yellow Warblers, Yellow-Rumped Warblers and male Goldfinches add brief flashes of yellow to the bright green foliage. Chattering Belted Kingfishers flit from tree to tree along the lakeshore. American Robins hop here and there hunting for worms. Bright red Northern Cardinals search through the freshly mown grass looking for scattered seeds beneath a nearby pine tree. A beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk, perches in a tree intently searching for any movement on the ground behind the mower that slowly passes back and forth in yet another grassy field. (I even saw Turkey Vultures mating in a tree at Eastwood last week. That was a first for me.) This week I have discovered the nesting holes of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Carolina Wren and I have watched a pair of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers as they were constructing their delicate nest. Just yesterday I spotted my first Eastern Meadowlark of the year and Roger told me that Bubba, his male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird friend, has returned to his yard so they will soon be dancing among the wildflowers! Promise upon promise! Smile after smile!

And that is just a few of  my encounters with wild creatures with feathers. Other wildlife like deer, foxes, groundhogs, opossum, beavers… everyone is out there enjoying the wonders of springtime!

But nothing in the wild makes my spirit soar like the sighting of an American Bald Eagle.

Monday, as I was viewing the Treetop Palace a woman walking her dog passed by and wondered what I was looking at. When I told her about Jim and Hope she was ecstatic and thrilled to learn that there were eagles nesting nearby. That afternoon I was walking along the lake and I paused to talk to a gentleman who had heard about the eagles and wanted to know from where he could best view them. I always smile when someone approaches me and asks, “Excuse me. Do you know anything about the eagles that are supposed to be around here?” As we conversed I interjected, “If you really want to see a wild Bald Eagle, look up!” and I pointed to Hope as she circled overhead. On Tuesday I was at the nearby Wright Brothers’ Memorial National Park with about 40 other people waiting for a group of WWII era, B-25 Mitchell bombers to fly by as they commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Dolittle Raiders’ bombing of Tokyo that took place in April of 1942, just 4 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As we waited at the memorial which sits atop a high bluff overlooking Huffman Prairie where Wilbur and Orville Wright perfected their flying machines, we spotted Jim circling over Huffman Dam. The droning B-25s were classy and the roaring B-1 bombers that flashed overhead to close the ceremonies were thrilling, but neither were as classy or as thrilling as the sight of that lone eagle silently and effortlessly circling in the sky.

Speaking of the thrills of eagle watching, in our last post I mentioned that Jim and Hope seemed to be feeding at least two eaglets in the palace nursery. The number of trips to the lakes and the visible activity at the nest certainly appeared to indicate a duo of eaglets but we could only see one bobblehead at a time. (Any parent of twins will tell you that when one baby sleeps the other demands to be fed so we were never sure if we were seeing the same eaglet every time.) Until yesterday when I captured a series of images that clearly show two eaglets!

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The images were taken from that 1/2 mile distance so they are what they are quality-wise, but you can clearly see two eaglets enjoying the spring warmth under Mother Hope’s watchful and very protective eye.

Two hungry mouths call for a lot of fish so that series of images started with this image…

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Jim brings them in, drops them off, catches his breath and then flies off for more. Oh, the joys of parenthood. They can make even the best parents wonder, “What were we thinking?” before they find a place to sit and mutter quietly to themselves for a while.

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Springtime is indeed a great time to be outdoors, but springtime always leads to the heat and humidity of summer. Let me encourage you to visit a local park soon. You don’t even need hiking boots to enjoy the wildlife. Just bring along a comfy folding chair and a good book and sit under a tree or by a lake and let the wildlife come to you. You can’t truly experience it if you are not there but if your health or other issues limit your opportunity to join us, we will continue to try to bring the story to you by words and pictures because every season is a new chapter and every day is a new page and this story is worth sharing!

Springtime is short so make it count! (At least make it count to two, as in eaglets!)

Published in: on April 20, 2017 at 9:29 pm  Comments (10)  

Annual Tasks

A task is something that must be accomplished. It is work. It is usually necessary and quite often not all that fun to do.

Every year my wife and I try to accomplish one major project around our home. Those projects are usually fairly expensive. New garage doors, replacement windows, remodeling a bathroom or the kitchen… the list of recent projects seems endless. When I decide to do the work myself it becomes a task… a long, arduous, time-consuming, multiple-trips-to-the-home improvement store task.

This year our annual task was refreshing the family room. That meant new carpet, new paint, new wainscoting, new laminate flooring, new woodwork, minor electrical upgrades and the purchase of new furniture. Although I did almost all of the work myself the project did take a lot of time and money and I still need to build a new oak mantle for the fireplace. (That project has consumed my time and delayed my blog posting as well.)

I was thinking about annual tasks on my last visit to Eastwood where Jim and Hope are now actively feeding eaglets!

Eaglet feeding is a time-consuming task as well. Jim will often deliver fresh food to the nest where he and Hope will each feed someone… (We believe that there are at least two bobbleheads up there!)

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but soon he is off again on another grocery run!

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Once in a while he will venture over to Eastwood where he will make a quick scan of the trees looking for wandering eagles before catching one more fish for the young’uns.

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Now like many of you, we have raised our own children so I know how challenging the childrearing task can be. That thought was flashing through my mind as I watched Jim and Hope at work until a more frightening thought chased the first thought away: “Eagles have to do that task every single year!” Can you imagine having new babies every spring? I shuddered at the thought. I mean, I love my daughters and all but new babies every single year seems like an impossible task! The whole idea gave me an even deeper admiration for the strength and fortitude of these amazing avian wonders.

All over Eastwood and the well field wild creatures are beginning the task of rearing offspring. Wobbly legged White-Tailed Deer fawns are finding the strength to frolic behind Mom after spending the daylight hours bedded down in the tall grass. Coyote pups are pouncing on littermates under Mother’s watchful eye. Fuzzy kits scamper from their secluded den while Mother Red Fox keeps tabs of her babies. Mama groundhog leads a parade of babies as they forage together in the grass. The Great Blue Heron rookeries will soon be a din of noise and a flutter of activity as incubated eggs produce hungry young, and Mother beaver will lead her babies through their underwater doorway and out for their first swim.

My back and my knees tell me that remodeling our family room was a tiring task but the world around us is full of animals accomplishing far greater tasks of far more importance than my own. I admire them all and I am very grateful that more human childrearing is nowhere on my list of future annual tasks.

Published in: on April 4, 2017 at 6:35 pm  Comments (18)  

Eggstremely, Eggseedingly Eggsiting News!

Jim and Hope have some news to share with all of you! Can you guess what it is?

Boy! You’re sharp!

It has been an eggstraordinarily eggsasperating week because things did not happen eggsactly as we had eggspected, but now we are eggsuberant!

(Help! I can’t stop!…Deep breath…Ahhhhhhh!)

Whew!

All last week Jim and Hope were looking very much like egg laying was drawing near. Knowing that Cindy seemed to favor the 15th to 17th of February we were hoping that Hope would do the same. Hope is an unknown quantity in this year’s adventure. Unknown for now anyway. Over the years we will get to know her better.

Repeatedly she went to the nest and remained low in the nursery. She would sit there for hours and then she would fly off, leaving the nest unattended. We know that Hope is at least 5 years old but she may be somewhat older. Had she too lost her pair-bonded mate or is Jim her first beau? Young adult eagles sometimes have difficulties successfully breeding, incubating or brooding eaglets. Although the entire process is driven by instinct, there is an art to doing even instinctive things successfully.

So, after several days of teasing us we are now confident that there is at least one egg in the nest. Hope has been staying in the nest and Jim has been standing guard in the nearby trees or in their sycamore tree, perched directly above the nest.

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Let me take this opportunity to illustrate a reality about the location of Jim and Hope’s nest that many people visiting Eastwood Lake are surprised to discover. The above image was taken from a distance of 1/2 mile from the nest (as are most of our nest shots) in hazy lighting which is why it is so misty looking. Adding to the poor image quality is the fact that I was not using my tripod but holding the camera in my hand which adds to the distortion. (If you are not a photographer this “distortion factor” is easily visualized if you picture a large cone, 1/2 mile tall and laying on its side. The tip of the cone is the camera lens and the bottom of the cone is around the nest. Any movement of the camera, even breathing or compressing the shutter button, may seem insignificant at the tip of the cone but that tiny movement is greatly multiplied 1/2 mile away. As the ambient light decreases the shutter within the camera must stay open longer to capture the image so it also captures more movement and greater distortion.) Now you may be asking, “Why the photography 101 lesson?” Well, I simply want you all to better comprehend the challenges should you bring a camera to Eastwood during the next several months as Jim and Hope are nesting. I also want to help you better understand my appreciation for the amazing images that Roger captures of the Treetop Palace. I probably mention that 1/2 mile distance too often in my postings but I hate to meet people at the lake who are disappointed that the nest is so far away. To illustrate just how far that 1/2 mile really is, look at the following image that I captured from the same spot as the image above, and see if you can spot the nest.

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Do you see it? It is right there in the distant treetops, as are both eagles. Look really, really close. Still no luck? Focus your eyes on the trees between the orange barrel and the wooden utility pole. Can you see it now? Let me zoom you in a little closer.

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Oh! There it is!

Now consider these additional factors in photographing their not-so-humble abode. That orange barrel is sitting on Harshman Road, which is higher that the roadway at the lake. (Look at that second picture again.) Harshman Road has 4 lanes of traffic so you often have to shoot between cars and that elevated asphalt road adds heat-distortion to the images as well. And Roger seldom uses a tripod. The man is just gifted and his images are eggseptional!

Well that brought me back to the point of this post. I care about you, our readers, so as we look forward to the completion of the 35 days of incubation and about 3 more months until the eaglet(s) fledge, let me add one cautionary note. Eagle watchers easily get emotionally attached to our favorite eagles and their offspring. Every nesting season is an uncertainty and having a new female in the nest just adds more questions to the potential success or failure of this year’s nest. I trust that Jim and Hope will be successful but I enter this season in full acknowledgment that that may not be the case and I encourage you to embrace the next few weeks with the same mindset. Some things are in hands far greater than our own.We may rejoice together or we may hurt together but nature must take its course and man can only intervene when it is proper to do so.

But there is absolutely no reason to assume the worst! So like expectant parents (or grandparents) let’s look forward to what lies ahead! Jim and Hope are right on schedule and seem to be doing everything right and that indeed is eggtremely, eggseedingly eggsiting news!

Published in: on February 24, 2017 at 10:28 am  Comments (31)  

Make a Difference

Every now and then we are given an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Those opportunities seldom seem like monumental moments of great accomplishments. The truth be told, they rarely seem significant at all but, to the one who needs encouragement or assistance, they can have an extraordinary impact.

As I was thinking about that truth an ice cream soda came to mind.

My wife was raised by her grandmother. Her grandmother loved ice cream sodas. While she was in her eighties and nineties we would often pop in unannounced and bring her a simple Dairy Queen ice cream soda. Judging by her reaction you would have thought we had presented her with a priceless jewel. That lady really loved ice cream sodas! (And we really loved that lady.)

I thank God that Grandma was there for a neglected four year old girl after her parents’ messy divorce. I thank God that there are wonderful, caring people in this world who see a need and take action. They get involved. They intervene.

Such an intervention occurred on January 8, 2017 in the life of a young, transient female Bald Eagle. This Bald Eagle.

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Late one evening, in early January, our good friends at the Glen Helen Raptor Center received a call about a Bald Eagle that someone had spotted earlier in the day. The bird had been seen in the vicinity of Huffman Dam and it appeared to be unable to fly. Due to the lateness of the hour and the approaching darkness, the decision was made to try to locate the eagle early the next day. When the rescue team arrived that next morning they had no luck in locating the eagle. (Although eagles are large birds, they are awfully good at becoming inconspicuous when they are grounded. Hungry predators prowl the darkness and shadows become places of concealment and protection. An eagle on the ground that is healthy enough to put up a fight will do just that but without the ability to fly it cannot escape the threat posed by a hungry coyote. Without the ability to fly starvation, illness, dehydration and even parasites will eventually take their toll.) Unable to find the eagle the team returned to the nature center, disappointed and empty-handed.

Perhaps the bird was just temporarily stunned. That is not an uncommon condition in the avian world. Perhaps it had just been feeding on something.  But perhaps, by now, something else was feeding on it. (Unanswered questions can be reassuring or frightening. It is disheartening to leave on a rescue mission with great anticipation and then return without success.) The only option for the team at this point was to await another report and to hope for the best.

Then several days later, there was another sighting of the injured bird!  A Five Rivers MetroParks officer had spotted a grounded eagle near the top of Huffman Dam. Contact was made with Glen Helen and our Eastwood Eagle Watchers group. (As I was in Florida for the week my calls went to voice mail, but thankfully Roger was available. Huffman Dam is just less than a mile east of The Treetop Palace and there was concern that the downed eagle may have been one of our own.) Upon arrival at the dam the bird was still sitting in the grass just behind the guardrail that runs along either side of the bikeway that spans the large earthen structure.

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A plan was quickly formulated as to how best to approach the eagle. As the team moved toward the bird she became weary of the gloved, net-bearing, blanket-toting humans and glided down the hillside to the field below where she landed in the snowy grass. (The glide down the hill instantly gave the rescuers a few clues. 1. She was strong enough to be feisty.  2. She could glide.  3. She did not flap her wings so there may be an issue there. 4. This not going to be as easy as they had hoped.)

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The team slowly worked their way down the slippery slope where they were able to surround the bird successfully capture it without inflicting any further injury.

(Now I know that many of you have already wondered if this injured female could possibly have been Joy, the young lady that Jim had been seeing in December. Well we wondered that too. This bird appears to be the same age as Joy so the coloration is similar. She seems to be the same size as Joy. She was found just east of Jim’s nest. She was found about the same time that Joy disappeared and Hope arrived. But Jim and Joy had been seen together many times during the days just after this injured eagle had first been spotted. To settle our curiosity a close comparison was made between close-up images of Joy and this young female and there were distinct differences in the coloration of their beaks and head feathers therefore we concluded that this bird was not Joy.)

Examination of the eagle showed that she had suffered a fractured cortoid which had already begun to heal. This bone, similar to a human clavicle, is a needed skeletal structure for a bird to raise, lower and rotate their wings in flight. The fact that it was already healing showed that the injury had happened some time ago and reassured the Glen Helen staff that this was the bird that had been seen on the ground days earlier. For the next several weeks the bird was treated, hydrated, nourished and monitored at the raptor center where she responded well to the care.

This past week she had recovered sufficiently to be released back into the wild! The Glen Helen staff decided that Caesar’s Creek State Park was the best place for the release. Usually eagles are released as close as possible to where they were rescued if that area is practical for their survival. With Huffman Dam being so close to The Treetop Palace and Jim and Hope being close to nesting, releasing the female there may have led to an eagle to eagle confrontation. The Caesar’s Creek reservoir, some 30 miles southeast of Dayton, is a large lake within the state park. Although eagles are often seen on the lake, there are no known active nests in the immediate area. Arrangements were made with the park and last Wednesday, February 15th, several of us gathered for a short caravan to the release site. Knowing that few people are able to participate in such an activity, grab a jacket and ride along with me!

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The air is brisk and biting as we make our way to the car. This promises to be an exciting day and our enthusiasm overpowers the chill in the air! We have started off on this adventure early enough to allow for a quick swing by Eastwood Lake to check on Jim and Hope. As we turn into the park we see that we are almost the only vehicle around. In fact, ours is the only car except for that familiar black Jeep at the other end of the entrance road. That Jeep tells us that Roger has beaten us here again. We make a quick stop to view The Treetop Palace where we find Jim and Hope tugging on sticks. On our way west, back on the entrance road, we pass Roger who reminds us that he will not be able to make it to the release but his “better-half”, Marcia, will be there. At the western end of the lake we find one lone juvenile perched atop a dead tree enjoying a fishy breakfast. As we pass he glances our way and then turns his attention back to his morning meal.

As we exit the park to begin our 35 mile drive to Caesar’s Creek we begin a wandering conversation about the growing eagle population in southwest Ohio and how blessed we are to witness it all. As we skirt around Xenia, Ohio we see a number of Red-Tailed Hawks hunting from perches along the roadside. There was a time when Red Tails seemed large to us but now they don’t seem quite so large as they once had. Perspective changes things and the recent upsurge in the eagle population has given us a different opinion of what “large” looks like. Making our way south on 42 we pass near Sugarcreek and comment on the eagle nest there. On the outskirts of the little town of Waynesville we notice a dozen or so White-tailed Deer in a farm field to the east of the roadway, foraging through the stubble of last year’s crop. As we turn east onto 73 and pass the first sign for Caesar’s Creek our anticipation grows. The sky is a crystal blue and the few clouds floating by look like puffs of cotton drifting in the wind.

We have arrived a bit early so we drive on past the visitor center, our designated meeting area, to check out the dam. There I spot a solitary adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree overhanging the lakeshore. “Do you see him?” I ask.

 

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It takes a few seconds but soon you too can see the eagle as he sits quietly in the morning stillness adding to the solemn solitude of the scene.

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The parking lot of the visitor’s center is filled with pickup trucks labeled ODNR Wildlife Officer. Apparently there is some type of meeting here this morning. We circle the lot and find a place to park. Soon we hear a familiar voice. Deanna, another eagle watcher, has pulled into the adjacent parking space. She is a Five River MetroParks Officer and was instrumental in the rescue of the injured eagle. As we chat we see Marcia’s pickup pull in. We greet each other briefly before retreating to the heated interiors of our vehicles. All eyes are on the driveway as we wait for the arrival of the feathered guest of honor!

Soon a familiar Subaru pulls in. Through the hatchback’s rear window we see a large travel crate covered with a blanket! Our pulses quicken for we know of the treasure hidden within it. The whole group now files into the visitor center where we are greeted by a friendly staff and introductions are exchanged. A short conversation follows, maps are laid out and an exact location for the release is agreed upon. Back in the cars we begin to form a small caravan led by a Caesar’s Creek van, then the Subaru with the precious cargo safely secreted inside.

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The frostiness of the air is enhanced by the moisture of the nearby lake and the roadway is as barren as the leafless trees, except for our little caravan. Near the dam a hinged section of the guardrail is unlocked and the caravan ventures off road onto an old river levee where we find a suitable place to park. We step out into the chilly air and notice that there is a pretty stiff breeze blowing. All in all it is pretty nice weather for a mid-February day in Ohio, but it is chilly none the less. As Glen Helen staffers remove the crate we ready our cameras.

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Another brief discussion begins as to how to best position the crate in the wind. By now almost everyone has produced some kind of camera, even if it just a cellphone. Employees, volunteers, eagle watchers all want to capture the moment when freedom is returned to one so perfectly designed to embrace freedom.dscn3317es

Now there is a bit of art and necessity built into this part of the process that causes things to move rather rapidly. As soon as the blanket is pulled back the apprehensive eagle within the crate will sense freedom. She will need a moment to acclimate herself to the surroundings and to face the doorway, but too much delay may allow her to injure herself. Human fingers are also in danger as the door is unlatched and opened. The eagle inside usually does not stay around to say “Thank you.” to her rehabbers but they understand. Their goal has always been to provide the proper care for her restoration with minimal contact, looking forward to this very moment! This is it! The blanket is pulled back. The eagle stirs and moves to the door. The door is opened. The eagle rapidly steps out of confinement. One or two more steps may be taken as wings are unfolded and takeoff is achieved. A few strong flaps and the eagle disappears back into the wild where it belongs. In the few glorious seconds that are about to pass we will witness something that few are privileged to see. The anticipation is almost unbearable. Rebecca, the director of The Glen Helen Raptor Center will have the honor of setting the captive free!

And then it happens! Just…like….this!

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We watch as strong, capable wings gracefully carry the young eagle higher into the air, up and over the nearby treetops. We may never see this particular eagle again but we will remember her forever. Grateful hearts are happy hearts and as we turn the cars around, pass back through the guardrail and onto the roads that will take us home, we are grateful that this young eagle is now home where she belongs. Home in the wild. She is home because of the many loving hearts that were willing to make a difference.

 

Published in: on February 21, 2017 at 11:59 am  Comments (33)  

It’s Impossible

Perry Como crooned a song by that title. It was a song about a certain man’s inability to live without a certain woman’s love. The lyrics mentioned a number of things that were impossible (or in some cases requests that were impossible to be fulfilled): “tell the sun to leave the sky; ask a baby not to cry; for the ocean to keep from rushing to the shore…”

For me however, it’s impossible to not be inspired when I see an eagle fly!

Eagles move me. Their grace and beauty, power and strength, focus and determination are unmatched in the animal kingdom. They are the epitome of freedom and liberty. They challenge me to be more faithful, resilient and appreciative of the many blessing I have as an American and as a human being. They dare me to let go of the petty cares and concerns that preoccupy my mind and tether me to the ground and to allow myself to soar.

This week I have had the privilege of watching Jim and Hope as they all but finished the preparation for this year’s eggs. After completing their daily work on the nest they danced their way across the sky in wide, independent circles that intersected with flips and twirls where they reached out for one another, talon to talon. As I watched those wide circles seamlessly merged into a singular arc of two eagles flying side by side, wingtip to wingtip. My human ears cannot comprehend the silent melody to which they dance but they embrace the age-old refrains with complete ecstasy, becoming totally enraptured in one another’s presence. Simply amazing! Eloquently breathtaking! Purely inspirational!

On one of those occasions I grabbed a bank deposit slip from my car’s console and scribbled down these words.

Together

Way up high in a cloudless sky a love story unfolds,

On gracious wings where two hearts sing despite the winter’s cold.

A majestic eagle and his mate frolic in the air,

Enraptured by each other’s form, they dance without a care.

Each movement brings them closer and strengthens lifelong bonds

That will see them through tomorrow, the next day and beyond.

The bonds that they are forming will be tested day by day,

But through testing they’ll grow stronger

While they strive to find their way.

Together the will conquer!

Together they will cope!

Together they’re victorious!

Together they have hope!

High across the heavens they dance on outstretched wings

While, here below, I stand in awe as my spirit soars and sings!

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If you have never been captivated by the sight of courting eagles consumed not by their fight for survival but by their devotion to one another, put it on your bucket list. Find the time, make the time to see something so beautiful and so spectacular that it may take your breath away. The love, beauty and majesty of The Creator is reflected in every chord of the silent melody that is heard not with the ear but with the heart and embraced through the eye as we watch the dancers slowly dissolve into the gentle, azure skies.

Can someone watch the dance and yet miss the inspiration that uplifts massive wings,  carrying them higher in the sky and deeper into the human heart? I suppose so, but for me it’s impossible.

 

 

Published in: on February 11, 2017 at 5:47 pm  Comments (42)