Way Back

Once again we sit on the threshold of another year looking ahead with wonder and anticipation (and possibly a bit of dread) for what the new year may hold. Time is a funny thing. It creeps by so slowly and consistently that we barely notice its passing until we encounter someone or something that captures our attention and focuses our minds on the changes that time has brought. Then the evidence is hard to ignore. “Oh my! Where has the time gone?” we ask in startled musing. As a child the days leading up to Christmas, a birthday or summer vacation from school seem to drag on forever but as adults the years seem to fly by. (I wonder if that is where the expression “over the hill” originated. Once you reach a certain age time seems to speed up as you zip downhill after years of struggling to reach the summit.) Time hasn’t changed, our perspective has.

As we look back over the past, perspective is so very important. The reality of known facts, free from the temporary emotions of the moment, can refine that perspective. Once feared “monsters” that loomed so ominously on our horizons now look like little bumps in the road behind us. We discover that we wasted a lot of anguish and energy on challenges that proved not so challenging at all. Hindsight is 20/20 without the mental and emotional fog of the present.

As we pass through the fading end of 2016 lets look back, way back, and get a little better perspective on where we are today in the amazing world of Bald Eagles here in Dayton, Ohio and across the country.

My wife’s great, great, great…grandfather was born in 1737 in colonial America and eventually served as a colonel in The American Continental Army during The Revolutionary War. In his day there were more than 200,000 Bald Eagles that populated the American countryside, most of which was still pristine wilderness. Some estimates go as high as 500,000! Virtually every lake, river and large pond hosted a nesting pair of eagles and the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines were dotted with aeries as well. In the mid to late 1800s the population began to decline largely due to habitat loss, hunters, eagle bounties put up by mistaken farmers and ranchers and other human interference. With the added addition of chemical threats and electrical lines the Bald Eagle population had dwindled to less than 500 known nesting pairs in 1963. In the mid to late 20th century laws were enacted to protect the remaining Bald Eagles which were threatened to the point of nearing extinction and our national symbol was added on the Endangered Species List. Certain chemical compounds like DDT, a crop pesticide, were also banned and the resiliency of The American Bald Eagle was given the opportunity it needed to soar! A decade ago the Bald Eagle was delisted as population numbers climbed and now there are thousands of Bald Eagle aeries across the lower 48 states!

Our local history reflects the national story. Although Jim and Cindy were the first eagles to nest within Montgomery County in 70 years, their arrival in 2008 was just the beginning of the repopulation of territory that had been unclaimed for decades. Every county in the region now is home to at least one Bald Eagle nest! Skies that were once eagleless are now graced with these majestic birds once more. I have seen more eagles on our rivers and lakes in 2016 than ever before. In fact, at least during this time of year when young eagles wander, young adult eagles search for mates and young pair-bonded eagles look for territory, it is hard not to see an eagle if you spend a few hours by a lake or a river!

To reinforce this point and too further refine our perspectives, let me share one more amazing fact. Yesterday there were nine eagles soaring, playing and frolicking together over Eastwood Lake! NINE! What a thrill! What a blessing! There were seven juveniles of various ages along with Jim and Joy in the group. Later in the day Jim and Joy were seen flying high over the lake with a third adult. Every day for the last two weeks there have been three to six young eagles fishing and perching around Eastwood Lake. A decade ago there were none!

Here are a few images from the last few days of excitement.

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Of course, as I look back over 2016 I also remember the untimely loss of Cindy, the original queen of The Treetop Palace. In looking over the group of juveniles I have to wonder how many of them are Jim and Cindy’s offspring. Surely some must be. That thought makes me smile as I know that Cindy’s legacy and characteristics will live one for generations to come much as my wife’s distant grandfather lives on in our own children and grandchildren.

Time heals. Time sharpens our perspectives. The new year offers many opportunities to soar. Looking back allows us to see the many blessings of the past and encourages us to embrace hope for the future. I am thankful for my many blessings and that includes the ability to look way back to see that The American Bald Eagle is well on its way back too!

Published in: on December 29, 2016 at 6:17 pm  Comments (14)  

Oh There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays!

Christmas is a time for memories.

Memories of past holidays shared with loved ones flood our minds. Familiar aromas, traditions and decorations anchor our hearts to the glow of the past and long forgotten smiles find their ways to our lips once more. But as far too many of us know, the hardest Christmases are those following a loss of someone we held dear.

Elvis crooned, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”

Now, I know that the wildlife around us is driven by instincts but we have all seen love and devotion in the eyes and behavior of animals. The excited wagging of a dog’s tail as we enter the house at the end of the workday, a horse galloping across a meadow toward the sound of a familiar voice, or even a cat curling up on your lap as you read by the fireside. We bond with our domesticated animal companions and they bond with us.

In much of the same way, eagles bond with their mates for a lifetime. Those bonds are strong and quite observable to those who take the time to watch and are blessed enough to have the opportunity to do so. Dancing together across the sky, locking talons together in freefalling bliss, perching side by side on a favorite perch, bringing its mate a fish, tapping beaks…all driven by instinct but obviously bonded together in a very special way. So it only make sense to assume that an eagle suffers a real loss when those deep bonds are severed by death.

And so it has been with Jim. He has visited all of his familiar perches over the last few weeks but unfamiliarly alone.

 

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Jim is truly an urban eagle. As such there is always much activity to see as he sits in the cold winter air and watches the world around him. He sees joggers puffing down the bikeway like human locomotives, traffic snarled on the bridges, Canada geese fertilizing everything in sight… He spends some of his time fishing too. He even recently took time to voice his concerns to a passing Peregrine Falcon…

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who was busy showing off its diving speed while flushing pigeons from a nearby highway overpass.

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But mostly Jim just sat and watched the world go by.

But then there is another Christmas carol the begins, “Joy to the world!”

And for weeks now, Joy has never been far away from Jim’s world. Quietly and quite intentionally she has followed Jim like a distant shadow. But not too distant. If you could find Jim flying by, she was usually not too far behind.

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Sometimes she would perch just across the river or a few trees away, but always where Jim could see her. She made here presence and availability known but not in a pushy way. She gave him space. It reminded me of my own seasons of grief when I have needed space to mourn and adjust to a new reality but I also needed to know that others were nearby if I needed them. Occasionally she would venture into his tree where they would sit for hours.

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But  Jim never chased her away.

Then this week His behavior began to change. This week Jim began to follow Joy! He joined her in her favorite perch above a well field Great Blue Heron rookery. He circled above her as she fished from the unfrozen corner of Eastwood Lake. As Joy headed to the well field it was Jim who followed along. The pursuer has become the pursued. (I once heard a woman joke, “I chased my husband until he caught me.”) It is good to see Jim moving on with his life, driven by instincts backed by devotion.

Now, every morning, The Treetop Palace is undergoing nestorations once more.

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The palace may have a new queen.

Holding too tightly to a longing for what once was may cause us to miss the joy of  what might be. A house of sticks or bricks is just a house until love and devotion makes it a home and there is no place like home for the holidays!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us to all of you!

 

Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 2:02 pm  Comments (27)  

Joy Is On The Horizon

“It is hard to keep a good man down.”

I have heard that expression many times in my life and I have known many men who have proven its truthfulness. Now I can say that I have seen that truth exhibited in the life of a Bald Eagle as well.

This Bald Eagle.

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This is Jim as Roger found him visiting one of his favorite riverside perches yesterday. It has been quite a week for him since his tragic loss of his mate, Cindy. He has done a lot of perching and searching of the skies this week but that is nothing new. Eagles are always perching and searching the skies. They are willing and able to defend their territories from any and all threats. But knowing that eagles pair-bond for life and having seen the mutual strength and dedication of those bonds manifested in actions many times over the last eight years, I have to wonder if he searches of the skies with a slightly different focus this week.

But eagles are wild creatures driven by instincts and pair-bonding is a part of that instinctive motivation that serves their survival well. And in the wild it is always all about survival. Jim is a survivor in the truest sense of the word. Survivors do what is necessary to continue on, to succeed and to flourish!

We humans can easily get tangled up in our emotions. Loss and pain can become snares that trap us for years, decades and lifetimes. But those emotional and mental traps in the wild would spell certain doom. Although we project our feelings onto wild creatures, if those wild creatures were as deeply bound by emotions as we humans can be they would face a threat of a far greater nature.

But eagles were meant to soar.

Enter Joy.

“Joy” is what we are calling the unattached young adult female Bald Eagle that has been following Jim around for the last few days!

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She has been staying quietly near Jim, and roosting near the nest. She even has been seen in the nest with Jim adding and rearranging sticks. Now we cannot say if Joy is a possible new mate, an offspring from a past nesting season or both (which happens sometimes). Really, we can’t even say with absolute certainty that Joy is a female as her larger size suggests. But we can say that Joy is being tolerated by Jim who at least sees her as a companion. They are often found in each other’s company as the following image shows.

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But we can proclaim with complete certainty that Joy is on the horizon!

(I have never added a personal postscript to a blog posting before but this time I must. This week has been a bit challenging for me at times [Remember those “emotional challenges” I spoke of above?] and the outpouring of lovingly supportive comments from you, our blog family, has been overwhelming and comforting. Thank you all. Secondly, many of you have suggested over the years that I might consider writing a book or two. After Cindy’s terrible accident I thought that writing a book may be a way to generate some funds for some type of memorial to Cindy to mark her historic return to Dayton after a 7 decade Bald Eagle absence. I have written a short children’s book for young readers (possibly the first of a series) to share a part her story along with some embedded eagle facts with the hope of encouraging children to become more involved in wildlife, nature and the outdoors, as well as to build future support for Bald Eagles conservation. I have never attempted such an endeavor before and I have little idea how to proceed. Before I invest my limited personal funds self-publishing or seeking a publisher I was wondering if there was a “market” for such a book. I am guessing it would sell for $15.00 or so with a portion of the proceeds going toward the memorial [which also has to be worked out still]. Please drop me a comment below with your thoughts. Thank you again and keep looking up! Jim)

Published in: on December 8, 2016 at 10:49 am  Comments (63)  

The One I Never Wanted to Write

This one is hard.

This one is a post that I hoped that I would never have to write. But it must be done because it is such an important part of the story.

Today The Treetop Palace has lost its queen.

I have often said that “life in the wild is wild” and that was never more true than it was today. My emotions are churning and I have no idea if my fingers can even put into words the thoughts that are swirling around in my head.

The overlying purpose of this blog is to share the stories of Jim and Cindy’s adventures in a way that is both factual and entertaining. But just as important is our goal to educate our readers on the realities of life in the wild. Jim and Cindy have met challenge after challenge and they have overcome each one. But some challenges are just too big. Sometimes the challenges win.

I apologize if the following record of the days events are painful for you. They are for me as well. The images captured by various people today are graphic and may be disturbing but I owe it to Cindy and to you, our readers, to share this day’s happenings for they too are a part of the struggle for survival that goes on all around us. It would be unfair of me not to share these events with those who lovingly follow Jim and Cindy. Let me assure you that this is not the end of their story for Cindy will live on in the lives of her many offspring. Jim is young, healthy and has a well established territory. It will be difficult to watch him over the next several days and weeks as he waits for his mate’s return but eventually he will realize that she is not coming home this time. Every year more and more young adult female eagles pass through his domain looking for a mate to bond with and we will continue to share Jim’s adventures as they unfold.

But now for today’s tragic events as I understand them:

Life has a way of becoming ordinary, even to the point of being mundane. Every day we each follow familiar routines as we rush off to work, school or wherever. And so it was this morning. As the crews of The Mad River well field began their never ending duties of maintaining wells, servicing pumps, clearing away debris and such, Cindy was busy with her normal duties as well. She was on the hunt for yet another stick to add to the aerie in preparation for this winter’s eggs. She had found a nice long stick, one any eagle would have been proud of, and headed back to their sycamore tree. That is when tragedy struck. Apparently just around 9:00, the ends of that long stick made simultaneous contact with bare wire conductors that carry electricity through the well field. Now we all know that wood is a non-conductive material but water is an excellent conductor and this stick was quite water-laden. The electrical current flowed along the stick, into Cindy’s left foot, passed through her body and exited her right chest. She was gone in an instant. Work crews nearby heard the electrical buzz, lights flickered and breakers kicked off. Workers nearby rushed toward the direction of the flash and their worst fears were confirmed. There, on her back, on the barren ground, they found the lifeless body of Queen Cindy still clutching a portion of her prized stick. The following image is both poignant and sad.

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What a tragedy. What a loss.

Our local utility company has been pretty proactive in protecting our eagles by installing avian protection devices on many of the poles within the well field but the conductors between the poles are always an unseen threat to our eagles. I have often mentioned that the well field crews take the privacy and protection of their resident eagles very personally so I can only imagine the disappointment and the emotions that flooded their hearts as they realized that there was absolutely nothing that they could do. Grown men can cry too. Here before them on the cold ground lay the still form of unmeasurable beauty and grace. A “friend” they had cherished for over eight years. One whom they had encountered in summer’s heat and winter’s snow. One they had grown to admire and respect for her fortitude and resiliency. One many had even come to love.

Word of the tragedy spread rapidly across the well field as phone calls were made. Betty Ross and Rebecca Jaramillo, our dear friends at The Glen Helen Raptor Center were notified of their need and they responded at once. We have relied on their expertise often to recover injured juveniles from Jim and Cindy’s nest. Just a few years ago I stood here with Betty and others during the release of a rehabilitated fledgling and we had rejoiced together as Cindy appeared out of nowhere, swooped low under a tree and escorted her no-longer-missing youngster into the sky. Now tears flowed down the cheeks of many of those awaiting their arrival.

All stood in solemn silence as Rebecca quietly and respectfully placed Cindy on a towel and swaddled her snuggly.

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Later in the afternoon Roger and I made our way to the raptor center to say our last goodbyes to this wonderful creature that we had grown to admire so.

 

We had spent hours watching her from afar, recording her story in images and words and sharing it with others. We wanted to…no…we needed to finally hold her in our arms and show our appreciation for all that she had meant to us over the years, all that she still means. She had never failed to make us smile, never failed to encourage us to allow our hearts to soar. Many people think that it is funny to become so attached to a wild creature but there are so many folks in Virginia, Iowa, Florida and across the country that understand that allowing yourself to become attached to a wild eagle carries far more blessings than heartaches, far more joy than pain.

Cindy was truly the queen of her domain. The Bible says that God’s unseen attributes are clearly seen in what He has created. Cindy never failed to reflect God’s glory, power, majesty and grace to my heart. The memory of her beauty will bless my heart forever as it does now as I share a posting that I never wanted to write.

 

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Published in: on December 1, 2016 at 5:34 am  Comments (184)  

Blessings Upon Blessings

As you count your blessings tomorrow know that each of you are being counted among ours. We are truly grateful for all of our followers and visitors and for the blessing of being able to share Jim and Cindy’s adventures with all of you.

Most of you have read of how as a child I would lie on a hillside and search the summer skies for a glimpse of a passing eagle but there were none in the Dayton area to be seen. I still count it a marvelous blessing to be able to see them almost daily now! May we never grow so accustomed to the blessings that God sends our way to take them for granted and cease to be thankful.

May tomorrow be filled with love, laughter and smiles and may our every glimpse of an eagle remind us that God is watching over us.

From Jim and Cindy and all of the Eastwood Eagle Watchers, happy Thanksgiving and remember to keep looking up!

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Published in: on November 23, 2016 at 6:32 pm  Comments (7)  

The Necessity of Autumn Chores

Chores! Too many chores! Late autumn is full of them and they all need to be done.

We rush to take advantage of a few days of decent weather to prepare for the not-so-decent weather that is bound to hit us eventually. The patio furniture must be stored, the grill has to be covered, the wood pile should be prepared to make us cozy on chilly winter nights, storm windows must be installed, roofs prepared, furnaces inspected and readied, gutters cleaned, summer plants removed, vegetable gardens cleared, automobiles made ready for the frigid temperatures, slippery ice and sloppy slush… And don’t even mention the endless supply of leaves! All of these annual duties fall on top of the usual mopping, vacuuming, laundry, dishes… (I know that the word chores has six letters but it is really just a 4-letter word in disguise…WORK.)

All of those chores can easily get in the way of quiet walks in the wood, eagle watching by the lake and sharing the beauty of nature with friends. There are only so many decent days left in the year and it seems like such a shame to waste them on chores!

But chores are a necessity. Even for eagles. Jim and Cindy are laboring away at nestorations in preparation for the oncoming nesting season. Jim’s main job appears to be bringing home sticks for Cindy to place wherever she pleases. Sometimes he tries to offer a suggestion or two but our girl can be pretty strong-willed. After a brief tug-a-war Jim will fly off in search of yet another suitable construction timber.

But even while completing the list of autumn chores a person needs a break every now and then! That is when the fun begins as Jim and Cindy make a quick run to Eastwood to flirt with one another or to just rest.

 

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Just seeing Jim passing overhead inspecting his domain can be an exhilaratingly beautiful sight. The clarity of his focus and his almost effortless flight is inspiring if you happen to be blessed enough to witness his journey.

 

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Seeing Cindy landing in a nearby tree can be just as captivating. Her newly formed, pristine feathers glisten in the sunlight. She is at her best this time of year! Fall is a time for courting and she dresses to impress her mate. The damaged, soiled, worn out feathers that testified of the rigors of incubation, brooding and eaglet rearing now lay discarded on the ground somewhere, like a fading memory.

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But greater still is the thrill of seeing our duo together and watching as their bonds grow even stronger while they simply enjoy each other’s company. I could sit and watch them silently bond like this for hours. That would be a much better use of this beautiful mid-November day.

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But all too soon their brief break is over. First one and then the other takes wing, returning to The Treetop Palace to add a few more sticks to their already impressive fortress. Even majestic American Bald Eagles cannot escape the necessity of autumn chores.

 

 

Published in: on November 18, 2016 at 9:37 pm  Comments (12)  

Two by Two

One can be a very lonely number. In fact songwriters have claimed that one is the loneliest number. But a faithful friend can make all the difference. Just ask The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Jack and Jill or Batman and Robin. Life is just easier with a friend, especially if that friend is your own dependable and devoted mate, like in the case of Jim and Cindy!

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The deepest bonds dwell in friendships where communication is often wordless and real companionship grows by just spending hours together. True friendships are beautiful miracles and the truest friendships last a lifetime!

The rigorous demands of the nesting season, the hours of flight training and hunting demonstrations have slipped away like the summer heat. The arrival of autumn means quieter days of less activity and more freedom. Eagles relish these days of cool breezes and brisk, clear skies. This is the time of intentional bonding motivated by the will and not by the pressing demands of life. These are the days of spending time together not by necessity but by choice.

And not just for pair-bonded adults but for juveniles too. Young eagles love companionship and this year’s nest mates are no exception.

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Siblings can be very good friends. Spending time together along the lakeshore and just watching the world go by can be very bonding in its own way. Their companionship began blossoming during those 12 long weeks of passing time away in The Treetop Palace. But like all siblings, their relationship grows a bit competitive at times so quiet perching can lead to a bit of rivalry, roughhousing and horsing (or eagling) around.

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Not-so-young eagles also long for companionship…and home. The memories of family bonds and comforting surroundings can lure wandering eagles from previous nesting seasons back to their natal areas for autumn homecomings. The relaxed atmosphere of these shortening days creates the perfect opportunity to return to where it all began and to linger among the nostalgic memories of bygone days and familiar sights and sounds.

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Someone once said, “You can never go home again.” but at least for a brief period of time in this less hectic season, home may be the best place to be. “Home” and “childhood” are two more of those miraculous things that make life worth living and more enjoyable. Life passes through seasons just like this planet that we call home and every season has its miracles. As some feathered friends are returning to our area, others are leaving for warmer climes.

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Miracles come in all sizes but as Roger’s wonderful pictures have illustrated, every single one is a blessing. Whether one by one, two by two or in much greater numbers, every miracle is a wonderful gift, a gift for which we should be thankful. There is beauty all around us and we can see it reflected in the vastness of the heavens or in a simple, solitary drop of water.

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But miracles are best when shared by two.

Published in: on October 1, 2016 at 5:18 am  Comments (18)  

Never Fail to Smile

Smiling is contagious. Maybe it is not as contagious as a yawn (Are you yawning now?) but usually if you smile at someone they smile back at you. I have tested this observation often and on the rare occasions where my smile is not returned I often silently pray for the unsmiling one, for their burdens and trials must be heavy at that moment.

This world is full of things that make me smile. My dog peacefully asleep on the floor, the warm aroma of baking bread, an unexpected blessing or my grandchildren doing pretty much anything, are a just a few of the things that force the corners of my lips jump for joy.

Eagles also have that affect on me. Earlier this month I was able to enjoy a few minutes of watching Jim and Cindy’s young flyers in the sky over Eastwood. They were fairly high up, soaring together in wide circles. I was able to follow their dance for almost twenty minutes! One youngster gradually climbed higher and higher until it became almost impossible to spot it with the naked eye. Even my big camera lens could only bring it slightly closer but oh what a joy to see the young one soar so masterfully and effortlessly!

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Its sibling gradually dropped a bit lower while still maintaining a healthy altitude, allowing for a much better image as it passed overhead.

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I eventually completely lost track of the higher bird but after circling for a while, the lower juvenile drifted back over the well field, dropped its feet and went fishing in Eagle Lake!

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It was reassuring to see how well they have learned the skills necessary for survival in the wild. As I thought of the successfulness of Jim and Cindy’s breeding, brooding, fledging and teaching abilities I smiled again. But that is where we are in this annual cycle of the story of our eagles. For now The Treetop Palace is dormant and empty except for some smaller birds sheltering in its basement. Next month Jim and Cindy may visit it off and on and maybe rearrange a stick or two. Then, as the cooler air and shortening days of October and November arrive, they will grow increasingly more attracted to each other. The power of their lifelong bond will be openly displayed in December’s frigid winds. January and the new year will bring about focused nest rebuilding in preparation for mid-February’s eggs as the cycle continues.

(That is the how the cycle plays out here in southwestern Ohio but in the more southern areas of our country Bald Eagles are already returning to their nests in anticipation of this year’s eggs! Eagles are very hardy creatures, able to flourish in the harsh climate of Alaska or the temperate regions of Florida. These southern birds may be slightly smaller than those farther north but they are just as fascinating to watch as they devote themselves to each other, their offspring and to conquering the challenges that confront them.)

But here in Ohio tensions are a bit less than in the heart of nesting season. Adults with established territories are not quite as aggressive without eggs, eaglets and brooding mates to defend. One of the advantages of this more hospitable time is that offspring from the past nesting seasons might return home for a brief visit and not be immediately chased away. I have seen two young adults in the area over the past weeks. While hiking in Eastwood Park along the Mad River (without my camera) I flushed a large (possibly female) four-year-old eagle from a tree along the river. I had not seen it hidden behind the leaves and I was only about 20 feet from it when it flew so I was quite startled. It flew out over the river then back through the trees, about 10 feet above the ground, making a 100′ circle around me as it headed back into the well field across the road. Then yesterday I saw a smaller young adult Bald Eagle fly north from the well field. The path that it flew is a familiar one to me so I headed a few miles north to the area where Jim and Cindy have established a territorial boundary with a nesting Miami County pair, and that is where I found the young adult along the waters of The Great Miami River.

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The oppressive heat of summer will soon melt away and the brilliant hues of autumn will take command of the landscape. As the palette of nature explodes across the hillsides and the air grows crisp and refreshing with anticipation of rest and renewal, may you be blessed by the sight of an eagle on wing and may you never fail to smile.

Published in: on August 18, 2016 at 4:24 pm  Comments (16)  

Too Much Time Alone

I know that I say it a lot but eagle watching in Dayton, Ohio takes patience. A whole lot of patience. We only have a few eagles to watch and they have miles of territory where I’m not. Therefor I spend a lot of time alone in my car watching nothing at all.

Jim and Cindy are staying true to their past habits and are being very reclusive right now as they allow their juveniles to perfect their hunting skills. I have seen the babies flying about and the adults perching here and there but it is always at a distance. Once in a while one of the members of our eagle family will venture into the Eastwood Lake MetroPark but apparently not while I am around. Roger recently captured this image of Cindy atop their favorite dead tree in the northeast corner of the lake.

 

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Beautiful, isn’t she? A bit soiled from the pressing duties of motherhood but still beautiful.

I always check this tree when I enter the park. Last year half of the tree fell and the remaining trunk sways from the weight of the eagles as they land on its barren skeleton. But they love this perch. That is why I was excited today when I spotted a large bird perched high on that tree. My poor timing would once again prove itself reliable but I decided to post the images anyway. This one is for the children and for the young at heart.

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Days had passed without a good eagle sighting. OK, any eagle sighting is a good eagle sighting but I wanted to see one closer than 1/4 mile away. That is why my pulse quickened as I spotted a large, dark form high on their favorite tree, far across the lake from where I stood! I ran to my car and started driving toward the far end of the lake. As I got closer I could see the dark body and broad shoulders but it soon became obvious that this bird had no head. Well, not much of a head anyway.

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This wasn’t a Bald Eagle at all. It was a Turkey Vulture. I parked my car and approached the bird. “Who are you?” I shouted. “I’m an eagle!” the silly vulture proclaimed loudly.

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“An eagle!?” I asked, “Did you say that you’re an eagle?” “Yep.” he answered proudly, “That’s what I said. Just watch this!”

With that the vulture stood as tall as he could, stretched his wings out as high as he could, and struck a pose that looked surprisingly eagle-like. He held the pose for several minutes as he whispered to himself, “I’m an eagle. A regal eagle.” over and over again.

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Eventually his left foot began to cramp and he had to quit posing. As he stretched out his long toes he looked right at me and asked. “Well, what do you think now? Pretty impressive huh? I told you I was an eagle!”

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“Well,” I admitted, “that was a pretty impressive imitation but it was still just an imitation of an eagle.” That answer really ruffled his feathers and he turned away poutingly.

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“Why do you want to be an eagle?” I asked him. Then, in a moment of honesty he replied, “OK. My name is Virgil T. Vulture but I don’t really like being a vulture. I want to be admired and respected like an eagle. After all, I’m balder than they are. (He had me there.) Ever since the American colonists started saying, ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ the eagle has become the symbol of liberty and I have been a symbol of death. Everyone likes liberty but nobody likes death. (He had me there too.) I want to be important.”

“But Virgil,” I argued, “You are important. If it wasn’t for scavengers like you this world would be a very stinky and messy place full of diseases and all kinds of problems! You have a very important job! Every job is important, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. You should be proud to be a vulture and you should try to be the best vulture that you can be. I could never do what you do!” (That may have been one of the most truthful statements that I have ever uttered.)

With that Virgil’s mood lightened. He looked right at me with a blank expression on his face and said, “You know something? I have never thought about it like that before. You are right! I am important! I am Virgil T. Vulture and I am important! Thank you! Thank you very much!”

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As he flew off I could see the smile on his beak and I could hear him singing, “I am a vulture! A regal vulture!” over and over again.

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The End

You know, maybe I spend just a little too much time alone.

Published in: on July 29, 2016 at 6:34 am  Comments (21)  

Again and Again and Again

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “patterns”?

Many may instantly think of a quilt, a bolt of pretty fabric, an area rug or possibly some decorative wallpaper. If we think about it patterns exist all around us, and not all patterns are visible. As I type these words I can hear the consistent “tick-tock” of the grandfather clock that stands across the room and the repetitive song of a robin outside my window.

Patterns are often comforting like the sweet, soothing rhythms of the breathing of a sleeping baby cradled safely in your arms. Some patterns may be dangerously hypnotizing too. Most of us have personally experienced the dulling of the senses that overtakes the focus of road-wearied drivers as they slowly become mesmerized by the endless parade of passing lane lines on a darkened highway. Even in bright daylight patterns can be deceptive. In my former life in the field of traffic engineering there was a condition known as an”expectancy violation.” It referred to those situations where a roadway ran parallel to an object like a long fence (similar to those found around a military base or an airport). Studies showed that drivers were more likely to drive off the pavement when the roadway eventually curved but the roadside fence continued on in a straight line. Their minds had expected the road to continue along the fence line and when that expectation was violated accidents happened, even in dry, daylight conditions. Roadways meeting that criteria often need additional signage to alert and refocus the motorist.

Patterns. They are all around us. In life we sometimes refer to patterns as routines. Alarm clock buzzes, hit the snooze button, alarm clock buzzes, hit the off button, long sigh, feet on the floor, scratch whatever is itching, stumble and grumble to the bathroom… Patterns surround us each and every day and some are more welcomed than others.

Roger reminded me of this fact yesterday when he posted this image on Facebook.

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This is Jim sitting on one of his favorite perches keeping a protective eye on his domain. During the nesting season he is seldom seen here as he and Cindy are busy incubating, brooding, guarding, hunting and feeding the eaglets. Now that the youngsters are flying his pattern is changing. From this perch he can view the deep recesses of the well field where our eagle family spends most of its time each July, but he can also view Eagle Lake. This is the largest lake in the well field and is just across the fence from Ohio Route 4, east of Harshman Road. Eagle Lake is where the juveniles will hone their hunting skills over the next several weeks.

I find it reassuring to see this familiar transition to his new pattern taking place. The last several months have been demanding on Jim and Cindy. Any parent can relate to the demands of caring for infants and toddlers. But they are now entering a time when the young ones are growing in ability, self-reliance and independence (another pattern) which means less stress for Mom and Dad.

Lisa has even reported seeing both adults and at least one of the juveniles along Eagle Lake! Juveniles are much harder to spot especially from a passing car traveling at 60 miles per hour. Even though they are the same size as the adults and their distinctive, upright posture is hard to mistake if they are perched atop a tree, without the bright white head and tail feathers of Mom and Dad they blend into the background when they are perched somewhere lower.

Past patterns have proven that the juveniles will slowly begin to make more and more public appearances around Eagle Lake, eventually crossing Harshman Road to fish the waters of Eastwood. I hope to be able to post additional images of the youngsters soon as I keep you updated on Jim and Cindy’s unfolding adventure.

It is a challenge to relate their annually repetitive story in a new way each year. (Although bare statistics fascinate me, I have found that they bore most people.) That is one reason why I appreciate patterns. They add color, comfort and familiarity to our lives even when they are actually repeating the same thing over and over again and again and again.

Published in: on July 8, 2016 at 12:37 pm  Comments (6)