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.
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!