Keep Looking Up!

I often close correspondences with the phrase, “Keep looking up.” It is what you might call my motto.

Over the decades I have learned that looking up keeps me focused on God’s grace and not my problems. In looking up you see the wonders of this world and the amazing possibilities it holds. Looking up allows us to engage with the smiles of those we encounter day by day. Up is where the sun shines brightest and the burdens are lightest. Up is where we are restored and refreshed, where hope abides. Up is where eagles soar!

There are many pressures in life that can be overwhelming and weigh us down causing one’s chin to droop, one’s gaze to fall and one’s focus to be consumed by the trials of life. There is a reason that downcast and downhearted are negative terms. Gravity has a constant pull on bodies and likewise stress has a constant pull on our hearts and minds. Worry can be deadly but hope brings life.

That is why I am posting yet again today, for a third consecutive day instead of my usual monthly posting. Yesterday’s account of the attack on the Carillon Park nest was a bit disconcerting as the actual condition of the remaining eaglet was unknown.

As I promised, I was at the park as it opened today. Before entering the parking lot I encountered Roger and others watching the Great Miami River just outside the park. That is where Mom Carillon sat on one of her favorite perches, the stub of a submerged limb protruding from the water. She looked simply dazzling in the morning sun!

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Things were looking up already! With a quick scan of the treetops near the park entrance I spotted Dad Carillon perched in another favorite perch. He was gazing across the river at his mate and searching the bright sky for any threat.

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I smiled when I saw him but wondered who was watching the nest. Just as that concern flashed across my mind, Dad released his perch and headed towards home. After 10 minutes he returned and flew upstream. In another few minutes he flew back again carrying a large fish in his talons.

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As he flew past his mate he never even gave her a glance. She however watched him and the fish with great interest.

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He continued just a short distance downstream before landing on a log at the water’s edge. Before Dad had even settled down, Mom flew to his side.

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As she approached he appeared to be doing his best to hide his catch from her sight.

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After a few “words” were exchanged she flew farther down the log and there they sat for a few minutes watching a parade of geese pass by.

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By now the park had opened so I made my way into the parking lot eager to check on the eaglet. As I left Dad, still carrying his catch, left his perch and flew towards the nest almost hitting Mom in the head with the fish as he passed. Mom was not amused.

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By the time I had parked my car, entered the park and walked to the nest, Dad had delivered his fish.

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I was elated to see that the 49 day old eaglet looked perky and healthy! I watched it as it walked around the nest rim. The leaves seemed even more obstructive of the view than just yesterday but I could see no signs of injury to the youngster from Thursday’s tussle. It seemed very alert and curious as it watched us moving around below it.

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After dropping off the fish Dad had found a sentry post in the shadowy recesses of a nearby tree. He craned his neck at every movement. Perhaps he had learned from yesterday’s attack to stay closer to the nest.

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Eventually Mom also flew into the nest and joined her eaglet for lunch. She had finally gotten to enjoy Dad’s catch after all.

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She too seemed more alert and more suspicious of every little movement. As first time nesters, Mom and Dad Carillon are adding experience to instinct which will make them better parents. Live and learn.

It is similar to the process by which we humans educate ourselves. We call it “trial and error” but it is still experience that teaches us.

As I stood in the sunlight and talked about the eagles and their nest to preschoolers and seniors alike, I repeatedly pointed up so they could follow the angle of my finger in the direction of the nest or perched eagle. My own spirit was lifted today as sharing my admiration for eagles forced me to keep looking up!

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Published in: on June 16, 2018 at 2:04 am  Comments (22)  

In a Flash!

This is the first time that I have ever posted back to back updates, just one day apart, but today was different.

(Before I get to that story let me thank each and every one of you that read this blog. And let me again take time to thank each of you that follow this blog. What’s the difference between a reader and a follower you ask? A follower has clicked the “follow” button that is found on our blog homepage or near the end of each posting and afterwards they receive an email each time we post something new. This week we have passed the 1,000 follower mark! Now 1,000 isn’t a big deal in the internet world but every single one of you are a big deal to me. Thank you.)

Have you ever had a very good day that changes in a flash? I have. today was one of those days.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned my concerns about the small size of the Carillon nest and my concern that the Carillon adults had left the nest unattended too soon as the eaglets were still quite vulnerable. Well, the last few days it has appeared that perhaps there is only one eaglet left in the nest. There are about 6 to 10 of us who view the nest almost every day and none of us have seen more than one eaglet at a time for several days. Now there is a chance that when we see just one eaglet at a time we may be seeing both youngsters, just one at a time. But the babies are large enough that the odds of that being the case are rapidly decreasing. We have had some torrential rains over the last few weeks and some rather windy days and nights as well. It would not be unusual for a eaglet to fall from the nest and the underbrush on the heavily wooded hillside beneath the tree is frequented by raccoons and such. Now again, there may be a chance that both are up there but we really should be seeing two at once by now. I hope I am wrong in my growing apprehension. Life in the wild is wild and bad things happen.

Today was the first day in a long time where the weather was excellent. Yesterday was one of those downpour days and I only spent about 2 hours at the park. During that time I saw neither eaglet nor adult, just very soggy sticks. The rain made viewing the nest both unpleasant and difficult. So with today’s sunny forecast I was hoping to see more activity. Boy did I!

As I approached the viewing area there were already 4 of the regulars there. We chatted for a while and shared sightings stories. Dad Carillon was in the nest and the eaglet was somewhat active. That was about how things stayed for several hours. It was unusual that Dad was in the nest for that long and I quipped that Mom Carillon had told him that if he wanted a Fathers Day present, he needed to stay with the kid(s) while she went shopping for a special fish.

As the number of visitors in the park grew the number of photographers decreased as each had other things to do. Eventually it was just me and roving clusters of visitors. During the lulls in conversations with curious park patrons I took advantage of the sunlight and captured several images of the 48 day old eaglet and its proud father.

DSCN8306ets.jpg The blowing Cottonwood fibers, which seem particularly heavy this year, looked like snow at times but it was quite pretty in the sunlight. The time passed quickly as I talked to folks and snapped pictures.

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The youngster was very accommodating too. Just before my arrival Dad had brought in a squirrel that had apparently meet its doom on a nearby roadway as it was a bit flattened and stringy. I don’t like them scavenging roadkill but eagles seldom pass up a free meal.

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Throughout the morning the youngster would stir from its slumbering place and make its way to what was left of the unlucky mammal. There it would dine for a while before settling back down for another rest.

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Every now and then one of the resident Red Tailed Hawks would circle in the Cottonwood ladened sky above the nest. Dad always took notice of the approaching bird but there was never any interaction between them. The Red Tails pose less of a physical threat now that the eaglet is larger but a swooping, screaming hawk could easily cause a frightened eaglet to fall from the nest.

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I am sure that the eaglet noticed the passing hawk as well but with Dad nearby it seemed pretty content and made its way to the dinner table once more.

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Just before 3PM Dad left the nest and seemed to be concerned with something in the distance. After a few minutes of perching in a nearby tree he flew off towards the river.

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By now several people were standing with me an watched him as he flew. They were quite impressed by his size and grace. So was I. A group of about 20 preschoolers had just moved on after looking at my eagle pictures and viewing the nest. A young family and a mother and her adult daughter were sharing about their admiration for Bald Eagles as Dad flew away. This was a good day, a very good day.

Then, just after Dad’s departure, Mom came flying in with her talons full of grass. Eagles use grass to freshen up the nest and provide a more comfortable nursery floor for the eaglet. This was her first appearance of the day and those gathered near me oohed and aahed appropriately. She flew past the nest and circled behind the nearby flagpole before returning. On this pass she flew through the trees near the nest, circled again and passed overhead. This led to more oohs and aahs from the viewers but I found it rather odd behavior and not at all like her normal approach.

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When she finally made her way to the nest she immediately began screaming an alarm call! She dropped the grass on the rim of the nest and threw herself over the eaglet, mantling over it with her wings. At that same moment we all heard screaming overhead and we naturally looked up where we saw what we thought was Dad heading for the nest. But I soon realized that it was a third young adult Bald Eagle with Dad hot on its tail and screaming an alarm of his own!

In an instant all three adults were in the nest with the eaglet! The vocalizations were so loud that there were soon about twenty people staring up at the nest in disbelief. The commotion in the nest caused the nest to sway and a few sticks fell away from the rim. I watched through my camera searching for the eaglet amidst the flailing wings and flashing beaks.

DSCN8404esFor several minutes the chaos continued and the crowd below grew larger. Many were asking, “What’s going on?” and all I could say was, “A third adult is attacking the nest and possibly the eaglet and the parents are defending both!” And the ruckus continued. The intruder seemed to be a four year old male. He can be identified in the following image by his dark edged tail feathers.

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Without any way of knowing the fate of the young eaglet, the minutes seemed to crawl by at a snail’s pace as the melee went on.

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When I was able to catch a glimpse of the eaglet it was not comforting as the youngster was caught up in a mass of clashing beaks and flaring talons.

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At one point there was a pause in the action as the intruder flew of followed closely by Dad while the eaglet tried to compose itself.

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But the reprieve was short-lived as the intruder returned and the action intensified once again. The foliage made it hard to keep track of who was whom.

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Finally the intruder flew through the trees followed closely by both Dad and Mom, disappearing over Calvary Cemetery that lies beyond the hillside. In less than a minute Mom returned to check on her startled, confused eaglet.

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Mom once more assumed a defensive position and sounded an alarm call as the intruder returned yet again.

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The eaglet appeared to hide behind Mom at the sound of her alarm call. The intruder flew in from behind the nest this time with Dad still in hot pursuit.

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Another few long minutes of calamitous chaos followed. The small nest seemed even tinier as the battle went on. Flapping wings were everywhere. The intruder just would not give up the fight.

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There were moments when all three adult eagles were spread-eagle across the top of the nest. I assume that there was a lot of action taking place beneath their massive wings. I felt totally helpless watching all of this unfold in the treetop. I shot short periods of video trying to better capture the intensity of the fray and the constant vocalizations but by now several people around me were expressing their concern with vocalizations of their own which I choose not to post here. I was all very frustrating.

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At last the action was over and the vanquished intruder departed with Dad escorting him from close behind. As things calmed down I again searched for the eaglet. Mom was in the nest and behind her I could just see the youngster’s head peering up from behind some sticks. It had retreated to its favorite slumbering spot for safety, perhaps removing itself from the battlefield in the center of the nest. It was moving and seemed upright.

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Here is a closer look at that last image with an arrow showing the youngster’s hiding place.

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I had never witnessed such a battle in person before and it was all quite unsettling. The grass that Mom had clutched in her talons and which she had dropped on the rim of the nest as she mantled her baby with her protective wings, was somehow still laying where she had dropped it. For a split second I had thought that the third adult eagle may have been Jim or Hope from the Eastwood nest and that this may have been a territorial dispute but the intruder was much too young. It is my guess that Mom Carillon had caught the eye of the young male as she was near the river and he had followed her back to the nest. I have seen Jim chase off many unwanted male suitors over the years. I am hoping that the young intruder was just wandering by and after today’s events he will keep on moving. Tomorrow I will be at the park as it opens to check on our young eagle family.

The day was a perfect day of sunlight, nice people and eagles but with the unpredictability of the wildness of wildlife, it all changed in a flash!

 

Published in: on June 15, 2018 at 12:39 am  Comments (44)  

Walking on the Wild Side

Often, maybe too often, we find ourselves isolated because we choose to live in what has come to be called our “comfort zones” where the familiar faces and places of life surround us. Comfort zones offer a sense of peace and security, free from threats and the unknown. The problem with a comfort zone is that it also isolates us from new discoveries and adventure. Comfort zones eventually prove to be warm but rather boring places to live.

But, as I stated, life in a comfort zone is a choice. There are alternatives. One of those alternatives is to step out of our comfort zones and into the wild side! Now let me assure you that I’m not talking about brawling and mischief but the more natural wild side of nature and wonder. By exposing ourselves to the unscripted mysteries that surround us we can become a part of the adventure and discover a different sense of peace and security created to touch our hearts in a way that nothing else can. There we become engulfed in the ageless beauty, aromas and feelings of creation. We find that there are epic stories unfolding in the treetops, the meadows, the woodlands, the waterways and even in the open skies above us and that can make us feel small and insignificant at times. While walking on the wild side a place of quietude can suddenly burst forth in joyous revelation through the rustling of leaves or the melodic voice of a singing bird. Simple pleasure yes, but deeply moving and refreshing, overwhelming one’s senses and refreshing one’s soul.

That is where the beauty of nature takes me as I walk on the wild side of life.

And I have learned to expect the unexpected with each step along the trail.

Unexpected blessings abound there, like a floating ice crystals enhancing a glittering, frosty sunrise on a frigid winter morning or the appearance of a promising rainbow as sunbeams dance in a downpour adding color to the aroma of the freshly fallen rain. Each a wonder, each a momentary treasure.

As I have embraced the excitement of the expected, unexpected reality of a second eagle’s nest in Dayton, I have watched these two young adult Bald Eagles add experience to instinct. They are novices this year. They started the task of nest building much too late in the season resulting in a much too small nest. The nest itself seemed poorly located, too far out on the limb of their sycamore, but yet it stands strong today. Dad Carillon seemed rather young to be able to reproduce but their small nest became an egg basket just before Easter. The late start and the pesky, territorial Red Tailed Hawks made incubation a challenge for the young pair but by late April they were feeding eaglets. The young and inexperienced parents diligently defended their nest and protected their nestlings from screaming hawks and from inclement weather.

Concern after concern in my educated mind was met with a sigh of contentment and relief as time moved on. Yet I find that I still worry like an overconcerned father on prom night. “What if something goes wrong?” lies hauntingly in the back of my mind. I know that many first nests fail. Inexperienced parents with instinctive drives sometimes make mistakes that leads to heartbreak. That thought flashes through my mind every time the young parents leave the nest unattended. The eaglets are larger and more mobile now but still unable to defend themselves from the aggressive hawks. Unable to fly, a blow from a hawk might send them tumbling to the ground or just stepping on a loose stick along the rim of the nest might lead to the same fate. There are so many possible threats to their safety and wellbeing that I find it hard not to worry.

Mom and Dad have been spending more time feeding their young, growing family.

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Fish is the usual entrée but a turtle or two keeps things interesting, unless the turtle makes a daring escape at the last possible moment.

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And they have also been spending more time away from the nest, either perched in trees

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or hanging out at the river.

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But even in torrential downpours, the eaglets come first!

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And then there is the issue of those irritated Red Tails!

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All in all the young parents are doing well and the eaglets are steadily growing in size and appetite.

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And so the feeding frenzy continues.

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The eaglets are getting more brave…

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and more bored.

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I may sound like a broken record but life in the wild is wild. These vulnerable young ones face threats from the hawks above and from gravity below. Mom and Dad are instinctively doing their best but we would be wise to remember that first nests often fail. That is all part of the adventure when you leave your comfort zone to go walking on the wild side.

Published in: on June 12, 2018 at 8:47 pm  Comments (10)  

Fleeting Blessings

Life is full of blessings that come in all shapes and sizes. Many blessings take us totally by surprise like the sudden appearance of a rainbow, while others are long anticipated events like the birth of a child. Some blessings last a lifetime but some, perhaps most, are fleeting blessings that are ours for an instant, a few moments or a brief season of life.

We cherish every blessing that captures our hearts and our attention. But far too often we may become so busy that we fail to notice the blessing at all. That is especially tragic when the blessing is a fleeting one, for once the moment is passed the blessing is gone forever and with it flees the chance to embrace its wonder and beauty.

One of the deepest secrets of life is the joy of not only counting our blessings but making time to embrace them and to acknowledge our gratitude for each and every one that comes our way.

This spring has been a season of abundant blessings for me, full of amazement and wonder as I have been granted a life-long wish to watch a Bald Eagle family develop and thrive in an up close and personal way. I do so in the full awareness that life in the wild is wild and that there are no guarantees. Setbacks and tragedy may be just around the corner but that just adds to the thrill of every single success along the way. I am thankful.

For 10 years I have followed Jim and his mates as their adventures have unfolded. Page after page, chapter after chapter, I have been carried along by their triumphs and their heartbreaks. But that story has always been viewed from a distance. It continues that way today. Their month-and-a-half old eaglets are growing and prospering as seen from a distance. Their challenges are seen and met from a distance. Hours of watching have been rewarded with an occasional closer encounter but most of my observations are from a distance. Almost always that distance is a half mile.

But this year is oh so different!

Dayton’s second eagle’s nest in Carillon Park is a much, much closer adventure! The resident male and female are young and healthy and they are adding experience to instinct as they go. I have watched their bonding to one another grow deeper and their abilities increase. I have witnessed their first nesting season begin as they placed the first sticks in their nesting tree. I witnessed their mating and the beginning of incubation. I have counted down those 35 days with anticipation and watched as the young parents inspected the hatching egg exactly on schedule. I have waited to see bobble-headed eaglets peeking over the rim of the nest. And it has been my joy and privilege to share their story day after day with literally hundreds of wide eyed school children and smiling adults as the eagles fly overhead. I am thankful.

So let me fill you all in on their progress.

On April 26th, 35 days after we saw incubation behavior first exhibited by the adults,  The Colonel and Miss Edith (OK, I have to call them something other than “male” and “female” and since Colonel Edward Deeds and his wife Edith founded the park, I will call them by those names unless the park comes up with more official names for them.) began inspecting the eggs as if one was pipping. The oldest eaglet is now 19 days old and its nest mate is a day or two younger. They are now big enough and agile enough to be seen from the ground. There are rumors of a third, smaller sibling but I cannot confirm those reports at this time. The nest is rather small by eagle standards so a third eaglet would add to what is sure to be overcrowding up there.

We have taken hundreds of pictures over the past few weeks of the eagles flying, bathing, perching, preening, hunting, feeding and doing other “eagle things” like defending their nest and young from agitated Red-Tail Hawks. I have waited to update the blog until I could include an image of the eaglets and I finally captured that image today.

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Miss Edith enjoying a cool bath on a hot day.

 

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The Colonel on the hunt.

 

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Scanning The Great Miami River for lunch.

 

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Prey in sight!

 

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Success!

 

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A preening Miss Edith.

 

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Down by the riverside.

 

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The Colonel spots an approaching Red-Tail.

 

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The Red-Tail’s spiraling descent.

 

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Defending the nest.

 

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Fending off still another attack!

 

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Touchdown!

 

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Miss Edith goes off to stretch her wings.

 

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Dad on guard.

 

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The Colonel perched in the sun.

 

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Feeding eaglets that are too small to be seen.

 

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Yet another fish comes home for dinner.

 

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Battle stations again!

 

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“Well it’s about time!”

 

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Momma’s turn to hunt.

 

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Guarding their precious eaglets.

 

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The Colonel up close at sunrise.

 

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Protective mother with children underfoot.

 

In this last image you can see the two eaglets at Miss Edith’s feet. That has been how this story has progressed, not at a distance but up close and personal. And for this particular life-long eagle admirer, very personal. I am thankful. I am thankful for every single day, every new friendship I have made as the park’s eagle expert, every single smile on the face of a child and every single gasp of amazement as someone sees a wild eagle for the first time. I am thankful for each and every blessing for there are no guarantees in the wild world of wildlife. Hopefully The Colonel and Miss Edith will be actively nesting Carillon Park for decades but I am fully embracing each blessing, never knowing which blessings will prove to be fleeting blessings.

Published in: on May 16, 2018 at 12:34 am  Comments (40)  

The Discarded Pages of Life

When I was a schoolboy classrooms were fairly low tech places where students learned necessary facts and developed necessary skills from dedicated teachers. In those days little effort was made to entertain us or to capture our imagination unless that motivation came from the heart of those dedicated teachers.

Corporately each classroom was pretty much the same. Every room carried the aroma of stale paper and chalk dust. (My favorite classroom aroma will always be the sweet smell that came from that little plastic cylinder of white paste with the applicator built into the lid.) Some rooms were “decorated” with an age-appropriate paper border of block or cursive letters that I am sure were purchased from the teacher’s private funds. There were no TVs in the classrooms, no smartboards on the walls, no computer monitors and no docking stations. The plain, glossy block walls and scarred wooden floors proved to be amplifying echo chambers for noisy children during the occasional momentary absence of the teacher. Each room contained the basic needs for education in that era. A large, well-worn blackboard dominated one wall, not far from the teacher’s equally worn wooden desk. The long narrow tray on the bottom of the blackboard held various sized stubs of white or yellow chalk. Rectangular black eraser slept silently here and there in the tray’s chalky bed waiting to be awakened to smear the board in the teacher’s hand or to become a missile in the hand of a mischievous child . There was always a large, round clock on the wall that ticked much too slowly for both student and teacher. A supply closet of some type was in each classroom as well as a large, hand cranked pencil sharpener that could consume a new No. 2 pencil in no time flat! Also hanging somewhere in the room was a stern looking picture of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. (I remember wondering why none of the other presidents ever wanted their picture taken.) One other standard feature of every classroom was a thick, square pad of paper hanging on the wall. On each sheet, printed in bold, black print, was the month and the date. Each morning the teacher (or perhaps an exceptionally well behaved student) would rip off yesterday’s page and reveal a new day full of potential and possibility. The old page would then be unceremoniously discarded in the green, metal waste can beside the teacher’s desk.

Those discarded pages of life were easily forgotten but they had seen adventures and wonders. Each page held budding friendships and broken hearts, moments of recognition and comprehension, valiant scholastic victories and crushing defeats, for every student within that room was a living story still being written.

Over the past few weeks it has been my privilege to talk to hundreds of school children, teachers and parents as they have passed through Carillon Historical Park. As the park’s new “eagle expert” I have seen the excitement in the eyes of many children and adults as they catch their first glimpse of a Bald Eagle’s nest. But the real excitement comes when an eagle passes overhead! (Apparently “Awesome!” and “Cool!” have not gone the way of “Groovy!” and “Far out!”)

Our Eastwood eagles, Jim and Hope, began feeding eaglets around Good Friday so their brood is about 3 weeks old now. I have not been able to get any publishable images due to our current sprinter weather. (Sprinter is my term for this transitional season of spring one day and winter the next.) I have seen Jim and Hope simultaneously feeding eaglets which means that they have at least two this year!

The Carillon Park pair is doing well in their incubation duties and their eaglet(s) should begin pipping in about a week. First year nests sometimes fail so we are keeping our fingers and toes crossed. Having their nest within the park does have its photographic advantages though, so here is a sampling of what we have been seeing and why we hear “Awesome!” and “Cool!” so often.

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Every day is a blessing. Whether this day holds a valiant victory or a crushing defeat, just like the fresh ink of the story being written in the lives of schoolchildren, we older “kids” are still an adventure in progress too. The remaining pages of our wall calendars may be fewer in number than they once were but there are more “Awesome!” and “Cool!” moments to come. May we all live each day, including this day, in anticipation and appreciation of the blessing that lie ahead and may we forever cherish the memories recorded on the discarded pages of life.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 18, 2018 at 8:33 am  Comments (26)  

Wound Just a Bit Too Tightly

Spring has sprung in Dayton, Ohio!

Or at least that is what the calendar claims. I love the aroma of spring grass sprouting and hyacinth in bloom. The encouragement that dances on the colorful, delicate petals of tulips and daffodils refreshes my winter-weary heart and the warm breezes of springtime inflate not only my lungs, but my hopes and dreams as well. Spring is an explosion of promise!

So I eagerly arose from my bed on this first full day of spring, flung open the back door of the house and breathed in a deep, refreshing breath of… ice crystals! Really? This does not look like spring to me.

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And the only bird I saw was a silent Cooper’s Hawk concealed deep in the snow-laden brush along the creek.

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Perhaps this particular spring was wound just a bit too tightly.

So, since today looks like a good day to stay indoors in hopes of a warmer (and greener) tomorrow, grab a jacket and join me on a virtual trip through the last few weeks of eagle activity here in Dayton!

Soft music from the car’s radio envelopes us as we make our way together down Route 4. The daily pressures of life can be tiresome and we both need a break. This is a day for relaxation and adventure, of stepping back in time and forward into the future. As we cruise past Eagle Lake on our left we see either Jim or Hope perched high atop a well field tree and we smile. We know that if one of the pair is standing guard then the other is in the Treetop Mansion faithfully incubating an egg or two (or three?). We make a quick exit onto Harshman Road and swing by Eastwood only to see basically the same sight. We can barely see the eagle in the nest. You comment that at least Jim and Hope know that we are still checking on them. I chuckle, but I do feel like I am somehow neglecting them this year after faithfully reporting on Jim and his mates’ activities for more than a decade. But they are no longer the only eagles in town and they were the ones who had made the choice to nest 1/2 mile from public view, not me. As we head back onto southbound 4 we calculate that Jim and Hope should be feeding eaglets by Good Friday, just over a week away!

As we exit Route 4 onto southbound I-75 we quickly scan the treetops near Deeds Point hoping to spot a juvenile Bald Eagle or two, but the trees are barren of foliage and eagles. In two minutes we have exited I-75 and are now southbound on Patterson Boulevard, which parallels The Great Miami River on the right. With my eyes on the road and yours on the river, we still see no eagles. In another few minutes we are approaching the iconic Deeds Carillon bell tower, standing proud and true like a musical sentinel guarding the southern edge of Dayton.

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Just as we turn into the driveway of Carillon Historical Park the tower chimes out 9:30 AM. “Perfect Timing!” you opine, “The park just opened.”

We park in a convenient spot and glance towards the nest. We cannot make out any eagles from here so we gather our cameras and leave the car. “Look!” you exclaim, pointing above me. I look up just as the male Carillon eagle zips by carrying a branch in his talons. “Missed him!” I lament. He was just too close and too fast for any chance of snapping a picture. “And I’m the guy who always says, ‘Keep looking up.'” I mutter to myself. Now it is your turn to chuckle while adding, “Well at least we know where he was heading with that stick.”

We make our way through the big doors of the Kettering Family Educational Center and head to the reception desk in the lobby. We are met by a friendly smile of the young receptionist while we are still 20 feet away. “Good morning! Welcome back! I hear that they are pretty active out there this morning.” “That’s why we’re here.” we say together, both chuckling as we hand her our membership cards. “Good luck out there! Let me know what you see.” she adds as she hands us our adhesive visitor stickers. We apply the stickers to our coats and greet the gift shop cashier as we head for the back doors. “Good luck today” she exclaims with a smile.

Opening the back doors and stepping into The Green is like stepping back in time. The spotless grounds before us are dotted with historical structures and volunteers in period dress. The enticing aroma of a wood fire draws us towards the Morris House but our focus is on the distant treetops behind Wright Hall. Even from the Family Educational Center porch we can see a white head reflecting the sunlight and our pace quickens. As we approach the edge of the porch I pause to snap a quick picture, capturing both Newcom Tavern and the nest in the image.

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I realize that we are a bit far away but we have no guarantee that the eagle will not fly in the next few seconds. (Do you, dear reader, see the eagle in the above image? Look carefully before reading on as I will zoom in a bit closer in the picture below.)

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(Do you see him now sitting in the nest? Not yet? Well let’s get a little closer still.)

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(Well, if you still can’t find the eagle in the nest, maybe I should point him out to you.)

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(Yep! There he is! Now just for fun, let me show you what my camera saw zoomed all the way in on that nest from the same spot on that porch.)

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(How about that! This last image may help you understand how Roger and I can capture some of our images. Roger’s images dwarf mine in quality and detail, and I quit competing with his lens and giftedness long ago but a powerful zoom sure makes nature photography a lot of fun! Now, where was I? Oh, right! We were on our way to the nest!)

As we scurry past Newcom Tavern, the Morris House, the Newcom House, Deed’s barn (where the automobile electric starter was invented) and the Sugar Camp cabin (where the Nazi code breaking machine was invented during WWII) we are keeping our eyes on the nest. Finally, in front of the building that houses a huge Corliss engine we pause to photograph the nest and to catch our breath. Of course, we immediately lose our breath again as the female flies overhead carrying a new stick to the nest.

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They are certainly determined! We find our usual seat on the little bench in front of the old print shop and next to the tiny Sunoco station. The sunlight is a welcome plus on this rather nippy day and we settle in for an hour or (hopefully) more of eagle watching. Stick after stick is delivered and carefully added to the walls of the nest. As we sit we chat with passing park visitors, many of whom are surprised to learn of the eagles’ presence. We hear little girls scream with excitement (and a few grandpas scream like little girls) as the eagles pass overhead. Extremely friendly park volunteers and staff pass by and pause to enjoy the aerial show while homeschool groups are full of questions and enthusiasm. But mostly we take pictures like these:

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It takes a lot of coming and going, harvesting and arranging to build a Bald Eagle aerie. They have to harvest grass from the riverside to intermittently line the floor and to carpet the nest bowl. They even have to deal with the pesky Red Tailed Hawks that still think that they own the place.

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All of that work makes an eagle tired and a bit sleepy. During a well deserved break for a little preening, a warm sunbeam and a gently swaying branch lull the female to sleep.

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As we watch her sleep, we can’t help but laugh at her, but apparently she was not amused.

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Eventually I decided that she was really just winking at me and then I felt flattered.

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A stiff breeze whipped up the coolness again and it was time to get back to work. She shook off her sleepiness and set her mind to the tasks at hand with marked determination.

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After a brief stop at a nearby tree to gather her thoughts in front of a sliver of moon, she was off!

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There was more grass to gather from the nearby river,

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more sticks to be found

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and more hay to be made

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before the approaching night.

All in all, we had an exciting time today as we walked through the historical exhibits at Carillon Historical Park. Quite frankly, our day at Carillon was a walk in the park. History isn’t all dates and times and past events. History is also here and now. We made history today and we witnessed history being made above us. Now, as we make our way back home we are a slightly physically tired but much more relaxed than we were when we started our day. Stepping back into time and stepping out into nature is a good way to spend the day when life leaves you wound just a bit too tightly.

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 6:26 pm  Comments (22)  

Egg-sighting Times Are Here Again!

Most of you already know where this post is heading. But after writing this blog for almost a decade and constantly searching for new ways to share the repetitive cycle each year, I am grateful when this annual story takes on new twists and turns. In our last post I mentioned a few of those twists, but this story resembles a pretzel more and more each day.

This was actually our first year in which Jim and his current mate, Hope, shared the entire courting season together as Hope came on the scene in January of 2017, a month after the loss of our beloved Cindy. (For those of you who are newer followers of our blog, let me encourage you to view past posts to learn some of the amazing history of our original Queen of Eastwood!) Hope, we learned, has a mind of her own. As I mentioned in the last post, our new queen is full of surprises and the first few twists were all hers. To recap, twist number 1 occurred when she returned to Eastwood from the annual vacation quite a while after Jim. She had us worried for some time. Then we were surprised when she abandoned the Treetop Palace which had served as a nursery for 15 eaglets over the last 7 years and began constructing a new nest. That was twist number 2. Now she has thrown us a new twist. On Wednesday, in a steady rain, we spotted this:

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Hope was incubating eggs in the new nest! Twist number 3 was that she actually did something we were expecting, just a few days later than in previous years. The 35 days of incubation will take us to around March 28th for pipping and hatching!

However, by far, the biggest twist came when those young, pair-bonded Bald Eagles began building a nest in Carillon Historical Park above the building that houses the original 1905 Wright Flyer III. Their arrival has led to my favorite twist of the season. Over the past 10 years we have had to view Jim and Cindy’s Treetop Palace (and now Jim and Hope’s new Treetop Mansion) from about 1/2 mile away making our only photo opportunities a bit few and far between. We have needed either near perfect weather conditions or one of the eagles to venture our way. Not so with the new  Carillon Park nest! Daily the eagles pass over the historical exhibits as they gather nesting materials allowing our telephoto lenses to capture the action with much greater detail even on overcast days and in misty drizzle! (And I really, really appreciate having heated bathrooms nearby!) I have been impressed at how their new nest is growing but I still wish that it was twice its present size. They are young and learning and initial nesting seasons are often difficult for young Bald Eagle pairs but only time will tell. The following series of images illustrate how diligently they have been working but although the nest is getting taller, it is not getting much wider. When both adults are in the nest there is little room left and even a single eaglet will need room to grow and move about. The viability of a nesting attempt relies on many factors from the internal status of reproduction systems of the parents and the strength of their developed instincts to multiple external conditions like weather, nest foundational support and the nest itself. But these two seem determined to pull it off. Now for those images.

 

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Female at lift off.

 

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Male with framing lumber.

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Female adjusting her cargo in flight.

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Outgoing and incoming builders.

 

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Perched in mid-air.

 

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One…. more…. stick.

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And yet another.

 

 

 

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Decisions, decisions.

 

 

 

 

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This one will do nicely.

 

 

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Togetherness.

 

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Isn’t she something?

 

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The plunge.

 

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Not a lot of room to spare.

The above images were all taken under cloudy skies between showers. Imagine the fun we would have in sunshine! As you could see by the images the male is somewhat younger than his mate so I do wonder if he is physically mature enough to reproduce and that nest could really be bigger, but only time will tell. They are definitely trying to do all they can to succeed though.

Carillon Historical Park opens at 9:30 daily and is a series of historic Dayton area homes and other structures that are easily accessible to all. Half way through your casual stroll past the outdoor exhibits you will find the eagles’ nest high above Wright Hall. Adult admission is only $8.00 and various annual memberships are available as well. Even parking is free. Since there is no guarantee how this pair will do this season, their presence in the park may be brief this year, but if they successfully produce an egg or two and all goes well, they will be here every day through June!

I cannot imagine a more comfortable setting from which to view wild eagles in Dayton, nor a more cordial group of volunteers and staff with whom to spend the day. As spring approaches park activities will increase providing even more opportunities for an enjoyable day. You can even enjoy beautiful music from the most famous bells in Dayton, ringing through the air from the iconic Deeds’ Carillon Tower. Even the eagles pause to enjoy the music!

 

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That’s the bell tower on the right and the eagle on the left.

There is history in the making at Carillon Historical Park, music drifting on the breeze, promise in the treetops and wonders in the sky over Dayton once more! (And did I mention heated bathrooms?)

 

Egg-sighting times are here again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 24, 2018 at 12:18 am  Comments (17)  

For Crying Out Loud!

We are entering the 10th nesting season since Bald Eagles first made their return to Dayton, Ohio after that 7 decade absence. You know, watching a process repeat itself over and over again that many times teaches you what to expect next, but this year has had more twist and turns than a crumpled up Smoky Mountain road map!

Once Hope finally returned to the area we were looking forward to new nestoration activity and less anxiety, but Hope had other plans. After 7 successful years of fledging a total of 15 eaglets from The Treetop Palace, Hope decided that it was time for a change. So she invaded a neighboring Great Blue Heron Rookery, claiming it for her own. You could almost hear Jim lament as he sat alone in his faithful abode watching his bride pass by with yet another stick, “For crying out loud! What’s wrong with this place?” But Hope just ignored his complaints and gave him the silent treatment. (We men are defenseless against the silent treatment. Over time we have learned that somehow we have probably done something wrong and it is best to just admit we are licked and go along with it.) Before long Jim joined  in on the construction, just occasionally stopping by the old place to shake his head. Well, the last week has seen amazing progress and when the heron begin returning to their heronry next month they will find a new development has been constructed and they will most likely face forced evictions. Can you guess which nest is NOT a heron’s nest?

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I am sure the heron will scream, “For crying out loud!”

Jim and Hope are in full courting mode, patrolling their domain each morning to look for any claim jumpers and acting all lovey-dovey during their idle hours. (Finally, something I was expecting to see.) Typically Valentine’s week is egg laying time, but this year, who knows! I caught them taking a well deserved break yesterday after a busy morning of construction.

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They were perched about mid way between the old Treetop Palace and the new Treetop Mansion, which is visible through the trees on the right.

Then there was that other twist. We were expecting that the annual juvenile gathering at the west end of Eastwood Lake would draw more eagles again this year, as has been the pattern. Pattern, shmattern! It failed to happen at all! Whether weather, ice, ice-fisherman or something else was the cause for little activity on the lake, the transient eagles we encountered this winter were all along the rivers. I shared several images of these wanderers in our last post and most of that group disappeared soon after it was posted. But one male and female stayed behind and were causing a bit of a stir themselves. This lone Great Blue Heron had his own, “For crying out loud!” moment when the fish he had been slowly approaching was suddenly snatched away!

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Looked pretty filling too. The young pair-bonded couple looked intent on staying put along the Great Miami River near the southern edge of Jim and Hope’s domain. And the female looks to be a pretty good sized bird.

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We found her one early morning looking quite annoyed that the passing traffic was disturbing her sunrise solitude. She sat there on her lofty perch, quietly watching the sunlight twinkle softly on “her” river and enjoying the peaceful serenity of the moment until the humming traffic turned too noisy and interrupted her quiet time!

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“For crying out loud!” she chided, “Why are you noisy humans always in such a hurry?” (I have to admit that she asked a pretty good question.)

But the biggest “For crying out loud!” moment came when this female and her mate decided to move in, permanently!

Last month I shared this image of a distant eagle flying pass the landmark Deed’s Carillon Tower.

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Well, if you know Dayton at all then you know that this iconic structure is on the grounds of the Carillon Historical Park on the southern edge of Dayton. Our city has been the home of many inventors over the years, by far the most famous of which were Wilbur and Orville Wright. Carillon Historical Park is dedicated to preserving Dayton’s history and its inventions. In addition to the airplane, many common items like the step ladder, the cash register and the automobile electrical self-starter were invented by the very uncommon minds of past Daytonians. The pristine grounds of the park apparently looked quite attractive to this young Bald Eagle couple, so they decided to move in without even paying admission! And I find it very appropriate that they chose a sycamore tree that towers over Wright Hall, an attractive brick structure that houses the original 1905 Wright Flyer III.

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Now, this young couple is very late getting started and that small nest may not be on the most supportive limb but watching them work has been exciting.

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I have met several wonderfully friendly volunteer workers and staff at the park over the last few days and, for crying out loud, this may be Dayton’s second eagle’s nest! The park staff is ecstatic with their new living exhibit but the resident Red Tailed Hawks have not been so welcoming.

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Now I am quite certain that this young pair-bonded couple may not be successful in nesting this year. In fact, they may likely abandon the nest soon. The male looks quite young and bodily systems take some time to develop fully and instincts too begin in sputtering jumps, but just like the automobile electrical self-starter made hand turning a crank obsolete, these feathered self-starters are on the ‘Wright’ track and hopefully, whether this year or next, their nomadic ways will become obsolete and history may be made in the treetops of Carillon Historical Park! And, for crying out loud, Dayton may have two active eagle’s nests!

By the way, Bryce, the 12-year-old young photographer that I introduced to all of you a few months ago, is still at it and honing his skill with his big lens in a most impressive way. I will close this post with one of his recent images. Not only does it personify the title of this post, when I first saw it I said, “For crying out loud!”

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Published in: on February 13, 2018 at 9:11 pm  Comments (22)  

Winter Wonderland

No, I’m not talking about ringing sleigh bells and glistening lanes. This winter wonderland is much more exciting than that!

Last winter I wrote about the gathering of a dozen or more eagles of various ages around the west end of Eastwood Lake and I fully expected that scenario to repeat itself this year. Well, I was wrong. This year’s weather was quite a bit different. Where last winter was fairly snowless and warm, this January brought below zero temperatures and several inches of the white stuff. The cold made the calm surface waters of Eastwood Lake and other local lakes freeze solid making local ice fishermen happy but making it impossible for Bald Eagles to access their refrigerators. This meant that the flowing waters of our Dayton rivers were the only open buffets for our feathered friends. The Mad River, the Stillwater River and even the much smaller Wolf Creek all flow into The Great Miami River in downtown Dayton and the turbulent waters where rivers meet or cascade over low dams and rocky riverscapes make the formation of ice even more difficult. Our winter wonderland is a world of trees, rocks and riverbanks where eagles perch and dine.

Since things are running a bit behind schedule for Jim and Hope I have decided to share a few river adventures with you featuring a couple of dozen images of the transient eagles that have been fishing those rivers over the past few weeks. The easiest time to find them is in the early daylight when hungry eagles look for breakfast but if you sit by a river for an hour or so you are likely to see at least one. Keep in mind that all of this is rather new for us as eagles had been missing from our city from 1938 to late in 2008. That is 70 years! Many Daytonians have never seen a wild eagle and even now, nearly 10 years after their return I regularly meet folks who have no idea that they are here. They think I’m crazy until I share a picture or two or an eagle flies over us as we speak. (Some people just need to slow down and look up more often.)

Now it is time for those images.

That 1938 nest was just across the river from where a large sycamore now stands. This sycamore.

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Please understand that this tree stands alongside a busy thoroughfare aptly named Riverside Drive and 4 eagles are pretty hard to miss but apparently people do just that.

One morning as I was trolling for eagles along The Great Miami River right in downtown Dayton, I stopped at a red traffic signal and noticed this tree right out my driver’s side window.

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I snapped this picture just before the signal turned green. After circling the block to get a better picture of the trio I ended up waiting at the same signal but from the opposite direction. As I waited I saw a Five River MetroParks employee park near the tree and emerge from her truck to pick up some nearby litter. With her attention focused on the litter on the ground she had failed to notice the three eagles in the nearby tree, the lowest of which was perched just 10 feet above the ground. As she approached the litter under the tree the two older eagles flushed when she was about 20 feet away. She jumped (Who wouldn’t?) and continued to move towards the litter as she watched the two eagles glide low over the river. The traffic signal finally turned green and as I drove forward I rolled down the passenger window of my car and shouted, “There is a third eagle in the tree!” She was now just 10 feet or so from the lower eagle and as she looked up it flew. She jumped again! Looking at me she caught her breath, laughed and exclaimed, “Thanks!”  At least she noticed we have eagles in Dayton again.

These two were just 50 feet from the busy I-75. How can anyone miss that?

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This one was flying over a newly installed enhancement to The Great Miami River downtown near the Daytonview Bridge. What appears to be blue sky behind the eagle is actually river water and the dark horizontal line is a ripple above the flowing water between the rocks. The mixture of textures adds even more beauty to the image.

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At times they seemed to be everywhere, right here in Dayton, Ohio! The single digit temperatures and occasional brisk winds made photography a bit of a challenge but this opportunity will not last long. Once the lakes thaw the eagles will be harder to find and fairly soon Jim may chase these visitors away as the new nesting season begins, even if some of the visitors happen to be his own offspring.

If you are familiar with Dayton at all you probably know that the Dayton Art Institute and The Masonic Temple stand side by side just across the river from our central business district. One morning I found an eagle perched in the shady side of a tree near there. The golden rays of the rising sun were just beginning to filter through the large limbs of the stately old tree. Slowly the sunbeams found the otherwise shadowy eagle’s face resulting in this image.

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But those are just a few of my pictures. Roger has been very busy too and his images are beyond words. Enjoy a few of the images he captured in this winter wonderland!

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He managed to capture many pictures of eagles on successful fishing expeditions, good for the eagle but not so much for the fish.

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We both captured images of eagles near Dayton landmarks like the Masonic Temple,

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the Dayton Art Institute,

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Colonel Edward Deeds Carillon Park,

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and high in the trees near the iconic Island Park band shell.

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On one frigid day I found 5 eagles in the treetops of Island Park which was motivation enough for me to take a short hike in the 4 degree weather (Let me emphasis that it was a short hike.) where I snapped several dozen images including these two.

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Even in 4 degree temperatures you just can’t pass up an opportunity like that!

And then there were the patriotic opportunities, like these.

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We soon had discovered the favorite perches of these transient eagles. This enabled us to park (in our nice warm cars) and wait for the big birds to come to us. By being there first we were just a part of the scenery for the eagles and that allowed us to capture some beautiful close up images like these.

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But being there first does have its dangers. This eagle landed a little too directly overhead. This is not the best place to be around an eagle, especially just before they fly, unless there is a car wash or a change of clothing nearby.

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But even with all the hundreds of images that we were able to capture this past week, they cannot capture the thrill of seeing a wild eagle in person and this window of opportunity will close soon. If you are near Dayton treat yourself to a sack lunch down by the river side. If you work downtown maybe take a walk on your lunch break. You just never can tell who might be watching you as you are walking in a winter wonderland!

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Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 11:37 am  Comments (38)  

Thresholds

Webster’s Dictionary defines a threshold as “an entry point, a place of beginning.”

We cross over thresholds every day as we enter a building or just passing from room to room within our homes. Those doorway thresholds are indeed entry points and places of new beginnings as we see past the walls that have been obstructing our views and encounter the things, and (more importantly) the people within that space. Thresholds can bring smiles or tears.

Many reveled last night as we crossed over the threshold of a new year while others spent that time in prayer and solitude. The threshold of a new year is perhaps the most superficial threshold of all for it is factually just the turning of one more calendar page, but we easily embrace it as a fresh start, a new beginning in life. 2017 is now a memory, the room we have just left behind us with its happiness and sadness, victories and losses, smiles and tears. The new room before us is a space for future investigation full of unknown possibilities and unexpected surprises. The mysteries that 2018 holds are yet to be explored.

Eagle nests have thresholds as well and their thresholds stretch 360 degrees! An eagle passing over his or her threshold may encounter a cascading river, a dense forest, a meadow of wildflowers, a farm field, a peaceful lake, a noisy roadway or any number of other sights depending on which direction it chooses as it leaves its nest. With that thought in mind I recently visited a few eagle’s nests in neighboring Ohio counties. Here are two of them.

This first nest is atop a tree in Hamilton County.

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The resident eagles here may pass over this river, the field beyond, roadways, a busy railroad track or even a large industrial complex as they leave their home.

Below is a nest in neighboring Clark County.

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The resident eagles here will find trees, cattle and farms just beyond their circular threshold but a mile or so to the west is a dam and large reservoir, a state park with camping, cabins and a sandy, swimmer’s beach. If these eagles venture south they will pass over a busy interstate highway.

Returning back to Eastwood I found Jim and Hope seemingly contemplating their options as well.

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As we begin 2018 we have to wonder what the new year may hold for us all. We, just like these eagle families, will likely face many issues that are simply beyond our control. There lies the mystery and excitement of 2018. But much of what we encounter in this new year will be determined by what direction we choose to go as we cross its many thresholds.

Published in: on January 1, 2018 at 12:07 pm  Comments (8)