Eggsactly as Eggspected

Expectations are powerful things.

Expectations can be positive or negative but are almost always impactful. A dental appointment may fill our hearts and minds with images of long, sharp needles and the whirring of drills, expected fears that may or may not come to pass. An approaching vacation may be so full of expected joys and adventure that the days before its arrival seem to crawl by at a snail’s pace.

Expectations can be large or small like welcoming a new baby into the family or a hot pizza from your favorite pizzeria.

Positive or negative, large or small, expectations bombard our days and our dreams leaving an impact on the hopes and fears that color life in an explosion of possibilities! Even something as mundane as clicking on today’s blog carried expectations your way.

In our last few postings we talked of the anticipation of the nesting season and the expectations it carried. On our recent ‘ride along’ posting we considered specific and general expectations in both the mood and the behavior of our eagles, the visible smoke as it were, that would reveal the unseen fire. We knew we were approaching the Valentines Day holiday which falls in the center of the usual egg-laying window for southwestern Ohio’s nesting eagles. Expectations filled the air like fireworks on the fourth of July!

Last Wednesday, February 19th, things unfolded exactly as expected! For several days Willa had been spending time in the nest but that morning she was so low in the nest that she was hard to see, in fact impossible to see except from a few vantage points. As I was about to pull into the parking lot of Carillon Park I received a call stating that a meteorologist/reporter from our local NBC television station wanted to do an interview about the current egg-laying window. As we met near the nest I explained that I thought the first egg of 2020 may have arrived that very morning. As the reporter peppered me with questions she asked how we would know that there actually was an egg since we could not see the nest’s floor. I explained the ‘smoke and fire’ analogy ending with a statement that final confirmation would come if Orv came flying in and Willa would immediately leave as Orv then carefully settle down, low in the nest. As those words left my mouth Orv came into sight from west of the nest. The reporter rotated her camera and focused on Orv as he flew to the nest. She recorded Orv’s arrival. She recorded Willa’s immediate departure. She recorded Orv’s careful disappearance deep into the nest. Her first word was, “Wow!” quickly followed by, “How did you do that?” Then we both laughed. Sometimes events unfold beyond our wildest expectations!

Early that afternoon our local CBS television station arrived to record the breaking news. This anchor/reporter is a true eagle enthusiast and I always enjoy our times together. I had texted her that we had an egg and she responded, “I’ll be there at 1:15!” As we walked to the nest she expressed her excitement and filled her cameraman in on a bit of Orv and Willa’s history. (She could have interviewed herself.) We talked for quite some time before she ventured up to the roadway just outside the park to interview some of the local eagle watchers. The day was full of excitement and expectations.

As the news of the first egg’s arrival spread through the park and the entire Dayton community, expectations erupted in the minds and hearts of many. The visitors in the park, park volunteers and staff, the media and fellow eagle watchers were all caught up in the excitement and full of questions. Expectations will do that too.

So let’s get to some pictures! (You were expecting them after all.)

This is Orv in the nest incubating the egg or eggs. (We hope there are at least two by now. Two eggs per year is the most common count but only one and maybe three are fairly common totals as well. The white object near the upper, right corner of the image is a plastic bag that has become entangled above and just outside of the nest.)

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This image shows both Orv and Willa in the nest during a quick changing of the guard.

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This is the red-tailed hawks’ nest. It has been here for around a decade and is only a couple of hundred feet from where Orv and Willa set up housekeeping in 2018.

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The hawks are frequently attacking our eagles in an ongoing territorial dispute. They will swoop down from above the eagles, hitting their backs forcing the eagle to flip over in flight to present its talons to the aggressive hawk.

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When Orv 0r Willa return to the nest for their turn incubating the eggs they often carry a bit of nesting material back with them. The softer grasses are used to cushion the eggs as well as providing a bit more insulation to protect the precious eggs from the cold.

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All of these behaviors are expected manifestations of the nesting season.

During the course of this nesting season’s approach and the many questions and interviews a funny realization crossed my mind. From about five years of age and up, I have been fascinated with bald eagles. Over the decades I have read so many books and articles about them, I have written multiple school papers and reports on these majestic birds and I have even authored a book about Orv and Willa. That knowledge is now a part of my DNA and it is so natural to me that sometimes I lose conscious awareness of the fact that many folks don’t possess that knowledge. I recently asked a question on Facebook wondering if anyone would be interested in learning a bit more about bald eagles, and specifically Dayton’s eagles, via the presentation that I give to local school and civic groups. To my surprise and amazement over 100 people responded that they would be interested in learning more. Therefore I have scheduled an event that will be hosted by Carillon Park on Saturday, April 4th, to share that presentation. Park admission fees will apply but Orv and Willa will be out and about as they feed young eaglets.

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Each session can accommodate about 40 people and will be approximately an hour long which includes plenty of question and answer time. I will repeat the program throughout the day at 10 and 11 in the morning as well as 1, 2 and 3 in the afternoon. It will be a great opportunity to meet other eagle watchers and photographers. If you are interested in such an event, please join us. I would love to meet you and hear about your eagle adventures as well. I expect a good turn out and beautiful spring weather. While standing near the nest you may very likely look up to see this image passing directly overhead!

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If nobody shows, there will be proverbial egg on my face, but so far the year is passing eggsactly as eggspected!

Published in: on February 24, 2020 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Frigid Day of Promise

(Many readers of this blog are no longer able to venture out into the wild because of personal physical limitations. Others are unable to watch wild eagles because they live in an area to which the eagles have not yet returned. My awareness of these situations moves me to offer these cherished readers an opportunity to ride along with me as we search together for today’s adventure as it unfolds in the treetops. Therefor, grab your coat, hat and gloves and I will pick you up in a minute as we travel through a frigid day of promise.)

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The skies are heavily overcast and the thermometer reads 26° as I pull up and open the car door. You are rubbing your hands together as you slide into your seat. “Boy! It is freezing out there! They say the temperature will fall all day and the next few days will be even colder and snowy. I can feel it coming already.” you say as you pull on your gloves. We decide that our first stop will be for hot drinks at the nearest drive-through restaurant.

In five minutes we pull up to a drive-through’s menu board. You order your drink and I order a black coffee. The voice from the speaker quips, “Sir, all of our coffee is black.” We chuckle. At the window we pay for our drinks and explain to our drive-through comedian, “Sorry I specified black coffee, but I noticed that your hamburgers were beef and not actually ham so I wanted to be sure the coffee was black.” He is not amused.

As we drive on toward Carillon Park we discuss the fact that we are right in the heart of the annual egg laying window. Valentine’s Day is the day after tomorrow and Orv and Willa seem to be right on schedule this year. Wild animals might follow an annual schedule but there are often unexpected twists and turns along the way.

We turn onto Carillon Boulevard and slowly pass the park entrance searching the usual perches but seeing no eagles. “I wonder where they….” My statement is cut short as we see an eagle rapidly approaching us from across the river! I quickly pull the car to the side of the road and grab my camera! By the time I remove the lens cap and press the power button the eagle is passing over the roadway. It is Willa and she is carrying something in her talons. I snap a single image as she passes over the fence and into the park.

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We watch as she lands on a tree limb about 60 feet inside the park. There she perches and we see her search the area for any threat before beginning to dine on the pigeon she had been holding in her talons. It is hard not to appreciate Willa’s size in comparison to the unlucky pigeon. Although the majority of a bald eagle’s diet is fish, they are very opportunistic and if a pigeon is in the wrong place at the wrong time it might be invited to dinner.

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It seems to take forever for her to pluck feathers from her prey. We begin to wonder whether there will be anything left worth eating after the feathers are gone. Within 3 minutes of her arrival four other cars have paused to watch her dine. You comment, “Wow! She really draws a crowd.” And that is true. Why wouldn’t she? She is hard to miss with that 7′ wingspan and she has developed quite a following. Three of the cars belong to fellow eagle watchers who are now watching her through long lenses. The fourth car belongs to a gentleman that happened to be passing by and was curious about all the cameras. Willa has found a lot of followers over the last 25 months as folks have wondered what was so photo-worthy in the treetops around town.

Before long she has finished her squab snack and flies off toward the nest. As the other photographers climb into their cars and turn up their heaters we head into the park. The nest is where the action is so that is where we need to be as well. Once the eagles welcome 2020’s eggs they will always be in and near the nest until the eaglets fledge in late June.

As we pass through the lobby, Rachael greets us and smiles as she says, “I was just out there and they are both in the nest.”  That is just what we were hoping to hear from the friendly staff at Carillon. They keep tabs on the eagle’s activity almost as much as the eagle watchers do, at least while the eagles are in the park.

As we exit the back doors of the building and enter the park we can see Willa in the nest and Orv perched nearby. Our pace quickens as the air bites at our cheeks and anticipation pulls us forward. We are still a few hundred feet away as Orv passes overhead. He has harvested a stick from that tree and is carrying it back to the nest.

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As he flies he exhibits a behavior that is indicative of nesting season. Rather than flying directly to the nest he circles past it to announce his approach before arcing into the nest. Over the years I have surmised that this behavior may be a way to avoid startling the incubating bird in the nest so that the eggs go undamaged. We watch as Willa rises and together they place the stick exactly where she wants it to go.

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That is another behavior we have come to expect, and Orv has come to accept. Willa rules the roost. Although they share almost all duties associated with nesting, Willa has the last word on practically everything.

As we are watching the activity in the nest more eagle watchers begin to arrive. Greg approaches toting his massive lens and a tripod. Roy pops in from another direction ready to catch the action. And then Trish emerges bundled up in an attempt to stay warm in the cooling air. After I introduce you to the group we all turn our attention to the nest because Orv has stepped up onto the ‘front porch’ and appears to be ready to take flight. As he launches our camera shutters sing.

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He is as impressive as his mate! We watch as he circles to his right and disappears over the treelined hillside behind the nest. We hope that he will return shortly with more sticks. As we wait we try to watch Willa as she sits low in the nest. She is acting like she may be laying the first egg of the year at anytime but it still may be a few days away. Only she knows for sure. We are able to observe that the walls of the nest will be better able to conceal them this year as the structure seems to be somewhat taller and a bit more solid than in the past. As we discuss this challenge Orv is seen approaching through the trees. This time he holds not sticks in his talons but soft nesting material, grasses he has harvested from somewhere.

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This too is a good sign as soft material is used to line the nest floor to cushion and help insulate the eggs. It also helps to keep down odors and parasitical activity within the nest.

As we talk with the small group gathered there, four more women approach our viewing point. They are visitors to the park and had heard that the eagles were out and about so they had decided to brave the cold, damp air in hopes of catching a glimpse of our celebrated eagles. They had witnessed Orv’s most recent flight and were instantly enamored.  They have a few questions that need answers and although they are beginning to shiver a bit, they are wanting to see just one more flight before seeking warmth and comfort. Orv must have heard their request.

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At that moment he is off again! This time he leaves the nest with a vengeance! He is noticeably disturbed with his head down and a definite determination in his wingbeats. He leaves the nest, makes a sharp left turn and rushes to the west. A few hundred feet from the nest he intercepts an approaching red-tailed hawk. We watch as each bird flips and turns before the hawk changes its flight path to a direction away from the nest. Orv circles wide again and returns to a tree not far from the nest where he finds a spot from which he can watch for other threats as he catches his breath.

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As we watch Orv we can’t help but to be impressed once again. Orv is the guardian of his domain. This behavior too is a sign of the onset of nesting season as both red-tail and bald eagle become more aggressively territorial. As we look back to the nest we find Willa unperplexed and casually readjusting sticks in the wall of the nest.

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By now our coats have been zippered more tightly about our necks and our hoods have been raised. My camera shutter finger is a bit numb and our faces are red from the cold wind. We are a bit envious of the eagles’ 7,200 insulating feathers. We make our way back through the building and are once again greeted by some friendly volunteers and staff, all wanting an update on Orv and Willa’s activities. After a few minutes of warm conversations in the heated building we exit the front doors to see Orv once again on the move, carrying more material to the nest as he passes the iconic Carillon tower.

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Soon we are warm and toasty as we head home in my car. This pattern may repeat itself for several days before Willa actually lays the first egg of 2020 but eventually she will do just that. When she does, the crowd of admirers within the park will grow and another chapter of the adventure will begin. Every sign that we have seen today was a positive sign that that chapter will soon be written. And we have seen the page beginning to turn on a frigid day of promise.

Published in: on February 12, 2020 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where There’s Smoke…

…there’s fire.

We have heard that colloquial adage for years but we all understand that it is seldom a reason to call 911. Fire is generally not the byproduct of smoke but rather smoke is a biproduct of fire. The statement is simply a creative way of saying that if we see evidence of an activity, emotion or other event, that event is likely happening.

That is how we deduce when eggs arrive in our local eagles’ nests. By carefully observing the actions of the adults (smoke) we can make an educated guess as to what is happening in the nest and out of view (fire). We are about 3 to 4 weeks from the first egg of 2020 but already the smoke is rising!

Both Willa and Orv are wearing their best outfits right now. Their pristine apparel will become stained and tattered through the rigors of nesting over the months ahead but currently whether flying, perching or even feeding, they are absolutely beautiful!

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Not only have we seen a few aggressive territorial scuffles between Orv, Willa and other local birds of prey, our resident eagles are spending more hours perched together as they strengthen their bond through mutual presence.

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Mating activity has been increasing as well. Willa is frequently the one initiating such action my landing near Orv after looping around him or strutting past him while they are on the ground.

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But then they do have their moments of apparent discord as well.

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In 13 days we will begin our annual ‘egg watch’, a process we have enjoyed for the past 11 years. Watching adult behavior was always difficult with Eastwood’s Jim and Cindy because their nest is 1/2 mile from any public area. Even strong binoculars and scopes offer limited help in judging nesting activity. Jim and Hope are currently spending a lot of time preparing their Treetop Palace so things look promising for the Eastwood eagles. Even from 1/2 mile away and through the crystalized snowfall the palace looks pretty impressive!

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Carillon Park’s Orv and Willa are much, much more easily observed as their nest is extremely public and they are extremely accustomed to human activity in the park. We are currently checking off box after box on the list of expected and anticipated activity. So what is the smoke for which we search? (I am glad you asked!) I have already alluded to two signs. As nesting time draws near the resident adults become more territorial, aggressively chasing off any potential threat to their success. Those potential threats usually come in the form of other eagles that happen to stray too close for comfort. (The red-tailed hawks are also exhibiting that behavior as their own nesting season will begin soon, and they are not at all intimidated by the eagle’s much larger size as they make their disapproval known!)

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Of course mating is an absolute must. We see that activity almost daily now and it is likely occurring multiple time each day, mostly without any witnesses. The females are not quite physically ready to reproduce but they are receptive. Other activities include increased time nest building which has also been observed, even from outside of the park.

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There are intermittent layers of soft material like river grasses, evergreen boughs, cornfield scraps and such built into the nest but before the eggs arrive we will see a more active carpeting of the nursery floor. That is where Willa will prepare a small divot to cushion and cradle the eggs and enhance the warmth of incubation. We will see Willa spend more time deep in the nest as she prepares to lay. But by far, the most promising and positive sign will be when Willa rises from the nest and departs as Orv immediately settles into her spot. That is smoke that cannot be denied! The only reason the male would take that action is for incubation duties. That is when we will begin the 35 day countdown to hatching. Willa will likely lay 2 eggs, a day or two apart and they will hatch in the order in which the were deposited in the nest, a day or two apart. Even the way the adults sit in the nest is a clue. The biggest challenge may be the nest itself. Eagles add to the previous year’s nest so the 2020 renovated nest may have walls too high or a floor to deep to allow much observation from the ground. If that proves to be the case, we will need to use our high powered lenses to be able to spot some gaps in the sticks of the nest wall through which we can (hopefully) see in-nest activities with better clarity.

Some eagle nests farther south than Ohio, where the nesting season began in November or December, have already suffered tragic losses. We are deeply saddened by those reports and offer our condolences. But those losses present a good opportunity to offer a bit  advice based on personal experience. When following the adventure of a wild eagle family whether online or in person, you cannot avoid becoming emotionally attached to both the adults and the juveniles. That attachment greatly enhances the joy of the experience. But please be aware of what I probably say too often, life in the wild is wild. Tragedy is just one injury, one fish hook, one tumble or one peck away. Please prepare your hearts for that possibility. I have too often shared the pain of this loss with others and it is easy to be hurt deeply by an unwanted turn of events. One other reminder and warning for those who follow a local nest: Please respect the eagles’ need for solitude. The success of the nesting season depends on the adults and their nesting sites remaining undisturbed. Just a few minutes of exposure to the elements can be fatal for the embryonic eaglet or for a newly hatched eaglet. Until they have developed the ability to self-thermoregulate their small bodies, they are extremely vulnerable to cold and must completely rely on Mom and Dad to keep them safe and warm. If your local nest is isolated in a field, along a river or anywhere where human activity is uncommon, your presence may be seen as a threat and encroaching upon an active nest is a violation of federal law. One of the three pillars of the Eastwood Eagle Watchers founding is to protect our local eagles and their nesting areas. As much as I love to tell their story and to educate folks about our eagles I am first and foremost their advocate. That is why I encourage the curious that if you want to view nesting activity up close, join me in Carillon Park where Orv and Willa view people as deer below them. I would personally encourage you to consider purchasing an annual membership so you can have unlimited visits to the nest throughout the February-through-July window of nesting activity. There you might have eagles passing 50 feet overhead or perched low in a tree. (And for me, after years of field observations, having heated restrooms nearby is a real plus as well!) Even without admission you can witness Orv and Willa hunting from the Great Miami River just outside the park or gathering sticks and grass. During nesting season their presence is all but guaranteed. I’ll even have them keep an eye out for you!

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One more note before I close, if you want to learn more about our eagles or meet me in person to answer any questions you may have, I will be speaking at a public event on Tuesday, January 28th at the Ohio Masonic Home in Springfield. It will start at 1PM in the Festival Green Clubhouse on their campus. I will also be at the Woodbourne Library in Centerville on the afternoon of Monday, February 10th from 1:00 to 3:00.

As the 2020 nesting season dawns things are really heating up. Things will be smokin’ hot soon and where there’s smoke…

Published in: on January 19, 2020 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hush, Rest and Renewal

Amazing, isn’t it?

As the winter solstice approaches the hushed silence is deafening. Can you hear it? It is there behind the clashing clamor of the holiday shopping frenzy, almost secreting itself just beyond the clatter of Christmas preparations. Hiding amid the glaring lights and the soon forgotten wrappings and trappings of hurried celebrations, it quietly whispers to be heard, to be noticed, to be found by those who long for the security and peace it carries in its arms. How I hope and pray that you do not miss its sweet song of restoration and peace. May you find the time, may you make the time, to slow down and bask in the warmth of the promise of renewal. God knows we need it, today more than ever.

All of nature senses its presence and embraces its approach. The naked arms of lofty trees reach skyward, open in a welcoming embrace. The meadows and prairies are barren and tranquil in deep respect for this solemn season of stillness. Even the ever-flowing rivers appear more calm and peaceful as it approaches. The bear in her den sleeps safely in its annual visit, awaiting the new life that will surround her in springtime. All wildlife rejoices in this much needed time of rest. The entire region seems cozy and reposed under a soft, heavy blanket of snow. The shortest day of the year. That seems so appropriate for a time of less activity and more hush, rest and renewal. What a wonderous time when all is calm and all is bright. It is the calmness of peace and the brightness of hope that fills the long nights of promise.

Even our majestic eagles are embracing its coming. They are spending so much more time together as the crescendo of stillness builds.

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Finding peace in the presence of one another.

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Strengthening bonds that will last throughout their remaining lifetimes. Resting, trusting and enjoying the tranquility of short wintery days and long wintery nights. Parting only when necessary.

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Separating only long enough to hunt and to scout their territory for any threat to their solitude.

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Flying what are now well known paths above the rivers… their rivers.

As we watch their adventure unfolding in the skies above us we are drawn into the story, captured by the events as they transpire around us and sometimes directly above us.

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The barren limbs are revealing their own secrets as reports of newly discovered nests trickle in from areas throughout southwestern Ohio. I smile at every report because my decades of longing to see wild eagles in our skies once more is being met in ways that surpass my wildest dreams.

More nests equals more  eagles! Juveniles, immatures, sub-adults and adult bald eagles are roaming the rivers, some just to socialize and hunt while others seek a nesting site of their own. One extremely large (likely) female has been lingering in the area.

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The Wegerzyn Garden Center, a Five Rive Metro Parks facility near the north edge of town, has been a beehive of activity for wandering eagles over the last few weeks. More than a dozen tornadoes passed through the area last Memorial Day and snapped off the tops of hundreds of trees around Dayton creating perfect riverside perches for eagles. And I anticipate that this winter will bring many more eagles through the area. All of this activity has kept Orv’s head spinning as he watches for any intruders.

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But even with all the needed scouting scrutiny, he always manages to find his way home where nest preparations continue in their sycamore tree, high above Wright Hall and the original 1905 Wright Flyer III.

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There, visitors to Carillon Historical Park can watch the activity overhead without adding stress to the eagle’s lives. There the adventure is based. There the story will unfold as new eggs arrive in mid February. There we will gather and share the adventure together and greet hundreds of people who share our love and admiration or perhaps unexpectedly stumble upon the story and become captured by its mesmerizing majesty. There Orv and Willa will perch together, watch the watchers and perhaps share a laugh or two!

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Wherever you are as this winter reveals its secrets, may you find the days filled with happy encounters with friends and family and overflowing with love and joy. And as the new year begins may you be amazingly refreshed by this period of hush, rest and renewal.

Published in: on December 17, 2019 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Attitude of Gratitude

My parents repeatedly told me that although I cannot control what happens to me, I can always control my reaction. As I grew older with my 5 siblings, something was always happening to me (and to them) and I found Mom and Dad’s admonishment to be true. Some folks waste days, weeks and even years laden by the heavy burdens of disappointment, grief, regret and unforgiveness that eat away at their souls and consume their joy. Although my parents have been gone for almost 30 years now, I still appreciate their persistent lessons on self-management of my perspective.

Perspective controls so much of our reactions in life. We have all suffered the sudden backlash of being misunderstood when our thoughts or actions were unexpectedly perceived in an unintended way. Those moments sting. And the memory of their pain can linger. But as the initial blow passes we have the opportunity to control our response and that is a powerful blessing! I am reminded of a story I once heard of a native American elder telling his young grandson that two wolves live in every heart, one vicious and evil, the other gentle and loving. He told the boy that the two wolves are in a constant struggle for control. “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” the troubled boy asked. The wise elder replied, “The one that you feed.”

As we approach Thanksgiving it is only fitting that an attitude of gratitude should be fed.

As I look over the past, I am grateful for so much. Having lost two brothers in the last 13 months I am grateful for our love for one another and for the lives we shared. I am grateful for the people who fill my life, friends and family alike. I am grateful for the open doors that God has provided to author a book, talk about eagles in classrooms, speak to civic groups, share the adventure with literally thousands of folks (from toddlers to some in their 90s) in Carillon Park, to witness the excitement and enchantment in the eyes of people as they see a wild bald eagle for the very first time and to feel that thrill again and again in my own heart. Who would have thought that the seed of admiration and respect for these majestic birds that was planted deep in my preschool heart many decades ago, a seed that would lie in the parched, barren soil of eagleless skies while being watered by years of eagle-focused school reports, art projects, reading and studying… would bear fruit so late in life? How can I not be grateful as a life-long yearning is being so miraculously fulfilled every day?

In our last post I shared about autumn’s explosion of color and adventure. The day after that posting we found Orv and Willa in a setting that wonderfully illustrated that brief moment of fall splendor!

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This is autumn at its peak! I point out in jest that although female eagles are larger, Orv positioned himself higher up the branch for a little additional stature. But I really think he was just trying to be near his mate because her impressive beauty is so alluring.

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And how alluringly impressive she is!

But Orv and Willa are not the only eagles in town. Now that the leaves have mostly fallen, it has become a bit easier to spot other eagles that are around Dayton. Jim and Hope’s nest is beginning to emerge from its leafy hiding place making that 1/2 mile distance to the nest less of an aggravation for photographers. I hope to have some images of their Treetop Palace to share with you in our December posting.

There are also a few wandering eagles along the rivers. These numbers will increase next month as colder temperatures draw the eagles to the flowing rivers and away from ice-covered lakes and ponds. Several juveniles and immatures have passed by and one, apparently unattached adult has been hanging out north of downtown Dayton.

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These images show a very healthy looking bird who appears to be either looking for a first mate or perhaps a replacement for a lost mate for it is never accompanied by another eagle. Orv and Willa are aware of its presence in the area and make daily trips north to  insure it doesn’t become too comfortable. This image of Orv shows him diligently searching the skies.

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As for Carillon’s king and queen, they are also more easily spotted now, either sharing a duckling meal at their favorite riverside table at The Great Miami Bistro…

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working on nestoration projects at home…

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or hanging out together in the trees near Carillon.

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Speaking of Carillon, the 65 acre park gets its name from the iconic 151-foot bell tower that was built in 1942 and currently houses 57 bells. This past week saw the annual lighting of Orv and Willa’s nightlight, which is how I refer to the Christmas tree of lights that will adorn the tower through December as musical groups, carolers, train rides, tasty goodies and, of course, Santa draw hundreds to the park each night! The interior of the park and the outdoor exhibits are adorned with beautiful lights and aromas!

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That brings me to one more announcement. (Insert trumpet fanfare here.)  Hopefully if all goes right, by clicking on the following link …   https://eastwoodeaglewatchers.wordpress.com/jim-weller-merchandise/ …a new page will magically appear from which you can purchase my book or prints directly from me. I introduce this new feature with mixed feelings because, as you may already know, I have always donated my time, work and any talent I might have and it is somewhat awkward to see prices attached to my work. Although I know nothing about marketing a product, the book seems to be doing well and I have received many, many enthusiastic reviews from grandparents and grandchildren alike! Several folks have asked about prints of images and things as well so with a little gentle nudging (ahem, arm twisting) from my wife and the help of my eldest daughter, this new page is being launched.

I am so grateful to so many friends: to my wife and family; to Roger and the other eagle watchers and photographers; to Brady Kress and the staff at Carillon Historical Park; to Rebecca Jaramillo, Betty Ross and the good folks at the Glen Helen Raptor Center; to Al Cecere for his encouragement and years of dedication to the eagle cause and the work of the American Eagle Foundation; to all of those who continue to spread the wonder of the adventure through running nest cams across the country, working at recovery centers or the giving of my book and others to children and grandchildren for future momentum and success; and to all of you dear readers, our blog family. You are each a vital part of the backbone of this adventure and ongoing recovery! You are the ones sharing the load, the love and the wonders of majestic wings soaring above families bonding more tightly together. In big and small ways we all work to carry the load, to tell the tale and to embrace the joys and heartaches. And I thank God for that seed He lovingly planted and the growth He has brought forth. With all these blessings, how can I not have an attitude of gratitude?

Published in: on November 23, 2019 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Autumn’s Explosion

Oppressive heat is, well, oppressive. It can drain your strength and stamina and leave you longing for cooler days. That was most of October here in Dayton as we endured many days when the high temperatures reached the 90 degree mark! Since autumn is one of my favorite seasons I really appreciated the few days of more seasonal temperatures that passed our way. Then on Halloween night we were treated to a trick as the winds howled like banshees and the thermometer donned the costume of a popsicle. The children at our door seeking Beggar’s Night sweets all seemed to be dressed as Sir Edmund Hillary rather than Disney princesses and cowboys. Windchill temperatures in the low 20s meant that even the heartiest pirates found gloves and parkas to be necessary gear before setting sail on their door to door adventures.

But cooler weather is only part of the magic of autumn. The much anticipated annual explosion of color sets the stage for breathtaking landscapes! The deciduous trees of Orv and Willa’s Carillon Park have not disappointed us!

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It seemed as if many trees changed overnight providing a colorful backdrop for local eagle photographers.

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But autumn is more than just brilliant hues and azure blue. Autumn is a time for rest, relaxation and bonding in preparation for the upcoming nesting season. It is a time when pair-bonded eagles begin nestorations. Orv is no exception. He helps by bringing building supplies to the nest where Willa supervises the placement of all new furnishings.

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Together they labor, together they dine,

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and together they bathe.

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Almost always together.

And they are not the only ones who gather in this season of gathering. One of the greatest joys of watching Orv and Willa and Jim and Cindy, our Dayton eagles, is meeting so many others who have a common admiration for these majestic birds! Where the eagles gather, so do those enthralled by their presence. While observations are shared casual conversations grow into budding friendships and those friendships grow into a deeper bonding of their own kind.

(It was that interaction that led to the publication of Orv and Willa Find a Home and the book will lead to another gathering for a book signing event in The Museum Store at Carillon Park on Saturday, November 9th from 9:30AM to 1:00PM. I am hoping to be able to meet many of you as I sign copies of the book. If you already have a copy bring it along and if you want to purchase a copy for yourself or for a child you love, there will be copies available at the park. This is all a new adventure for me and a learning experience as well. I am really hoping some folks actually do show up.)

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The profusion of colors will be short lived as the winds blow and the leaves fall. But with the departure of the leaves the area nests will become increasingly more visible, as will the perching eagles! Just like the explosive colors of midsummer fireworks, the oohs and aahs are just beginning. During the winter months the eagles will continue to bring exclamations of excitement as we pass beyond this autumn’s explosion.

Published in: on November 3, 2019 at 11:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Acclimation

Our language is saturated with words that appear to be designed to frustrate and confuse fourth grade students in English class. Some words can be classified as nouns, verbs or even adjectives depending on the context of their use. Sometimes that context can be of immediately vital importance. Even a single word sentence can have different meanings although there may be no associated context at all! The intended meaning might be ascertained from other clues such as the emphasis of the statement. For instance, if you are walking along a serene, wooded path by a beautiful river and your companion points upward and says, “Duck.” you might elevate your gaze to see a beautiful wood duck drake sitting on the limb of a stately tree. But, if a moment later your companion points upward and says, “Duck!” you might elevate your gaze to see that beautiful wood duck drake flying away as the limb of that stately tree plummets towards your noggin! Same word, different emphasis, different punctuation, direly different consequences.

Then we have those confusing words we call homonyms. Those little devils sound just alike but have totally different meanings! (Why do we do this to ourselves?) Take the words acclamate and acclimate. The former means to acclaim, praise or applaud while the latter means to adjust, adapt or to become accustomed to. Hmmm? How do I illustrate the two different definitions? Let’s say that you are back on that serene, wooded path along a beautiful river and your companion points upward in utter silence and you elevate your gaze to see this!

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That feeling that floods over you in that moment is acclamation! Acclamation is what I felt as I found Orv and Willa perched side by side as they watched the morning sun slowly rise last Friday. Acclamation is what I feel as I realize that they are strengthening their bond by spending time together throughout the day and that the comfort they find in each other’s company is inspirational.

Now to illustrate acclimation we need only to wander a bit further north on that path. There, just a few minutes later in the day you notice Orv and Willa again. But now they are in the river! The setting is breathtaking! The still rising sun projects its beams over your shoulder and onto the eagles. The angle of the glittering light makes the water appear deep blue and accentuates each droplet splashed upward by a playfully pouncing Willa.

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The adjacent riverbank is singing with the hint of early autumn colors as the Orv flies to her side and the bright sunlight is almost too much for your unfiltered camera lens to handle.

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The crisp air has all but lost its bite as you sit on the levee and drink in the peacefulness of the moment. As you focus on the eagles wading along the distant riverbank it seems almost too perfect to be true!

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And it is.

Just beyond the majestic birds the realities of their environment begin to invade the fantasy. There you notice the rusting remains of a carelessly discarded grocery cart. (Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to them?)

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And then, elevating your gaze once more you grasp a bit more of the reality of the urban domain of Orv and Willa. The roar of heavy equipment, the odor of diesel fuel and dust in the air just beyond the watching eagles brings you back from what could be to what is.

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This is acclimation. As eagles return to more urban setting they must adjust and adapt to survive. The wilderness of the past is continually consumed by man’s “progress”. Wildlife has an amazing ability to make use of what is.

Life is never stagnant. All of us pass through challenges at times. Even positive changes can be challenging. My own new life as a published author has presented challenges of its own. I admit that I know nothing about marketing a book. Knowing that many of you have asked me to write a book I will provide a link to Amazon.com here.

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Clicking on the above link will take you to where you can purchase the book should you desire to do so. It is also available online at other major book sellers.

I have always drawn great inspiration from the majesty and fortitude of the American bald eagle. May we all be as resilient and determined as we face our own periods of acclimation.

 

Published in: on October 20, 2019 at 7:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Interlude

Interludes are mostly things of the past.

In fact, it may be that a few of the readers of this blog may have no memories of interludes and may be scratching their heads in wonder.

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Well, before you hurt yourself scratching allow me to explain. Interludes are short breaks in a longer production. They are distant cousins to commercials in that they allowed a theater-goer to empty their bladder, purchase a beverage or just stretch their legs without missing any of the action on stage or on screen. (In today’s DVR/digital media world, I wonder how folks would handle such necessities without the option to pause the action when needed.) Often the interlude would feature music and lobby lights would flash a few minutes before restarting the feature signaling time to zip or sip and scurry back to your seat.

Nature passes through interludes as well, breaks in the intensity of child rearing, hyper-protective territorial defenses and other stresses. You can almost hear the peaceful chords of gentle music in the air. Our eagles are in that “Why can’t we all just get along?” season right now. This is the chance for them to relax and enjoy each other, to reinforce the bonds that carry them through the trials that wait just beyond the flashing lights signaling the beginning of more drama.

The brief lack of action allows our human minds to rest and drift as well as we watch the slower paced activity along the river. True to past annual routines, Orv and Willa are staying close together but wandering along The Great Miami River. They have been passing many of the rather warm days in the broken trees of the Wegerzyn Garden Center in north Dayton where the Memorial Day tornadoes left jagged perches and barren limbs. They  will gradually stay closer to Carillon, occasionally adding a stick or two to the nest before more earnestly working on it this winter.

Today, Roger found them along the river, near the park “sharing” breakfast. My wandering mind saw his images and began to see a familiar scene play out. Have you ever been in that situation where there is but one remaining slice of cake or piece of pie and you try to share it with someone? That was what I saw in Roger’s image of Willa.

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The single fish was rather small but tasty. Orv had noticed it too and wondered if he might have a bite. “Won’t hurt to ask.” he thought so he sauntered on over.

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“May I please have a little taste?” he politely asked his mate. “Well, I guess one bite might be OK.” Willa conceded.

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So Orv nibbled at one end while Willa nibbled at the other. “You know, this is kind of tasty!” Orv muttered through his full mouth. Then he very impolitely decided to take it all for himself!

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“What? I’ve never seen such terrible manners! I said ONE bite!” Willa protested. Now she really had her feathers ruffled as she stomped off in disgust.

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She paused briefly, hoping Orv would redeem himself by returning the fish but like that last piece of pie or cake, it was just too good share. So Willa flew off with a frown on her face, determined to find an even larger and tastier fish and this time it would be all hers.

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The action continues at a much slower pace, even during the interlude.

By the way, after years of prodding and multiple requests from you, our readers, I am finally a published author! My first children’s book, Orv and Willa Find a Home, went on sale at Amazon.com on October 1st and will hopefully be available in bookstores soon. It is the true story of Carillon Park’s eagles’ first month in Dayton condensed into a single day’s adventure. As the child reads the story (or hears it read to them) they will learn many eagle facts through Orv and Willa’s dialogue as it follows the images that tell the story. Questions at the end of the book are intended to test their knowledge and encourage them to learn more. I hope the book intrigues many youngsters to put aside their electronic devices and venture outdoors to enjoy the wonders of nature that surround us. Maybe reading about Orv and Willa will help fill the time before the lights flash signaling an end to this current interlude.

 

Published in: on October 2, 2019 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  

The Winds of Change

Life is never truly stagnant.

There may be periods of struggle and challenge that seem to drag on forever but those are just moments when our focus is on isolated issues that demand our attention. That narrow focus can cause us to miss seeing the changes that surround us. The babies we once held in our arms soon have babies of their own. Cherished blooms of carefree childhood freedoms slowly become distant memories as adult responsibilities sprout. The ever-sticky, chubby hands of toddlers too soon become arthritic and gnarled as the decades of life rush by. Golden curls of inexperienced youth somehow morph into brittle, gray strands of wisdom (or disappear all together).

We often capture the persistent changes of life in the expression, “Time flies.”

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Now that Prairie and Aero are able to hunt and feed on their own, they have ventured off into life. We will likely see them again this winter as they mix in with other juvenile eagles hunting and playing together along the river, perhaps even joining up with Jim and Hope’s 2019 eaglet. Orv and Willa, Jim and Hope and the other area adults will spend the next several weeks bonding more deeply in their relationships with their mates. Those bonds will carry each pair through the bitter winter months and into the promise of new life in spring. Even our eagles experience the challenges of change.

Change is constant.

That thought crossed my mind recently as I was watching Willa scratch her head. I was mesmerized by a solitary white feather that had become released from its moorings. Slowly it began to drift away on the gentle breeze. Its course was more horizontal than vertical and it seemed to sway and dance with its newfound independence. After 30 or 40 seconds of graceful descent it was caught up in a small thermal of air and climbed high above the river. I was able to watch its unpredictable path for quite some time before it vanished from my sight. When I turned back to Willa she seemed to be watching it too.

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Life can often seem like that feather. We are unexpectedly released into currents that we do not know. They may carry us gently at first but then we are snatched away in a new direction leaving us unsure of our destination. It seems that we are like feathers in the wind, at the mercy of the unknown as we pass over turbulent waters that threaten to sweep us away. What joy and comfort comes from the knowledge that there is One who controls the winds of our lives and that He will bring us safely to a distant shore. That assurance gives us the courage and strength to release our tethering burdens and launch with confidence into each new day.

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Trusting in One who doesn’t change, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, enables us to soar upon the inevitable winds of change.

Published in: on September 6, 2019 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Unexpected But Necessary Delays

Life is full of them. As much as we try to expect the unexpected and to be aware of the possibilities, we are often surprised by the events that challenge our schedules and change our plans.

Over the last several weeks I have experienced many of these unexpected but necessary delays in my own life that have stymied my ability to keep you all posted on recent events with our eagles. Having put our home of 26 years on the market, we were pleased but rather unprepared, when it sold quickly. That quick sale made it necessary for us to move all of our furniture and belongings into several storage units and to relocate to temporary housing as we searched for our new home. That process also went fairly quickly but then things s-l-o-w-e-d way down. Once we took possession of the new place we had to move in. With the help of family, a host of very gracious volunteers and a few U-Haul trucks, in just a few weeks we had made a some needed updates and relocated all the furniture and more than 70 large, cardboard boxes of stuff from the storage units to the new house! Another delay came in the long process of unboxing all that stuff. (Along the way I learned a few good lessons like to never pack the grass trimmer, its rechargeable battery and its charger in three separate boxes! Grass grows fast in the summer and the lawn of the new house will make having all 3 components necessary.) Another delay came in scheduling the installation of internet service and then finding the time to update everyone on this blog while still opening mountains of boxes. But as they say, all that is behind us now, well mostly anyway. The garage is still full of boxes.

When I last posted here, young Prairie was experiencing an unexpected delay of his own. His 12 day rehab stay in the Glen Helen Raptor Center had done wonders for his health, his abilities and his confidence. On July 23rd we gathered in the preopening hours at Carillon Park to share in the excitement of his return to the wild!

The day went something like this:

After careful planning and coordination it was decided that the best chance for a successful release would be early morning on a day with good weather and few distractions. Willa, Orv and Aero roost in the park at night so early morning would likely find them somewhere nearby. Releasing Prairie well before the 9:30 AM opening would allow the family to reunite before visitors arrived and should something unexpected occur, we might need the additional time to handle that situation.

Arriving before 7 AM I found quite a few photographers already outside the park’s fence and Aero landing in a tree nearby.

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Due to Orv and Willa’s growing popularity I had notified the local news media of the pending release and they soon arrived as well. Just at 7:00 the guest of honor arrived in a chauffeured vehicle. Once safely inside the park the Glen Helen folks worked on finding the most advantageous, unobstructed flightpath through the trees. Then a large (and I might add, overly heavy) picnic table was relocated to serve as a launchpad of sorts. When all was ready, the media and those of us in the park took our positions while those outside of the park found their best angles to view the release.

The large, covered crate was removed from the vehicle and placed on the table. As Rebecca Jaramillo, the director of the raptor center, removed the cover, young Prairie sensed the excitement as well.

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Rebecca opened the door and Prairie stepped out into freedom! Now often the released eagle will launch without hesitation but young Prairie is a true gentleman. He politely paused near the end of the table to look back at Rebecca in gratitude. Eagle watcher Greg Hemker caught the moment with his camera.

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Rebecca smiled and pointed towards the trees. “It’s OK. That way, away from the roadway.” she reassured him. And with that warm farewell he was off!

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The flight was strong and steady, gaining altitude as he flew!

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Onward and upward eventually passing over a large limb in perhaps a missed perching attempt, the young flier nailed the next shaded branch in a perfect landing as we all smiled and cheered!

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For 20 minutes he sat quietly and gathered himself. Then he released that perch and made a large, graceful circle passing close to the front of the nest before landing in another nearby tree which he had shown a fondness for in the days prior to his capture on July 11th. Young Prairie was truly home and he knew it!

A short time later he left that tree and winged his way to a tree near the park’s edge where his sister Aero was perched a few branches away.

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Aero seemed unimpressed by her brother’s sudden return and the aggression she had once shown to her younger sibling was now absent. The stronger, more confident Prairie was not going to be as easily bullied by his older and more dominant nestmate.

Orv and Willa were half a mile upstream during the release. I found them together atop a tree watching the river flowing by and relaxing in the morning glow.

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Within an hour of the release Orv made his way back to the park and found both youngsters perched together! Willa soon followed and the reunion was complete! Orv solidified the reunion by bringing a fish to the prodigal Prairie. We could not have hoped for a more perfect reunion.

Over the past few weeks our Carillon Eagle family has thrilled hundreds of onlookers. The youngsters are growing in grace and abilities and are frequently seen together along the river.

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There are occasional tussles between them and the larger Aero is still the more dominant of the two but that is to be expected. In reality those agitated disagreements are all part of the socializing behavior that is necessary for survival in the wild. They have even had an encounter or two with other juveniles passing along the Great Miami River highway.

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And when all else fails they pause long enough to practice free throws which is really appropriate since UD Arena, home of the University of Dayton Flyers, is directly across the river from Carillon Park.

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I am forever grateful to Rebecca and her staff for doing what they do so well. This move to a new home has isolated me from much of the adventure so I will try to remember that if we move again in another 26 years, not to do it when young eagles are flying. Life already has enough unexpected but necessary delays.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on August 12, 2019 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment