A follower of this blog posted a comment earlier today asking for a little historic information on Jim and Cindy. He suggested that during our wait for eaglets to pip, hatch and finally stick their precious, fuzzy bobbleheads above the rim of the nest, it may be a good idea to recap some of the highlights (and lowlights) of past nesting seasons. I found that to be a wonderful idea. We have about 480 followers now and many of them have only been on this journey for a short time. So if you have been following our postings over the last 4 years, these bittersweet memories may have a familiar ring to you, but to many they are brand new.
I made a quick scan through several hundred images and selected a little more than a dozen to highlight Jim and Cindy’s babies and their stories. Let me caution you that some images may be disturbing. I was there when most of them were taken and they still bother me but I think that they are a very important part of the story and illustrate how fragile and wild life in the wild can be.
As always, the stars of our story are Jim and Cindy.
Our beloved Bald Eagle pair arrived in Dayton in the fall of 2008, shortly after the remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through town. The young adults were not very successful in their first two years of nesting. In 2009 they hatched an eaglet but it lived only a few days and in 2010 they incubated an egg but it failed to hatch. That was a sad scene as Cindy abandoned incubation after about 40 days but Jim stayed on the egg for several more days and was becoming visibly weak before he too finally gave up.
The story became a much more happy one in 2011 with the relocation to their current tree and the successful hatching and fledging of two eaglets. They had been named Spirit and Pride through a contest sponsored by The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
Unfortunately tragedy struck on Independence Day. Young Spirit was severely injured in a fail attempt to land on a wooden power pole. We believe Spirit caught his left wing on a wire and either impacted the pole or the ground at the base of the pole with enough force to blow out his right knee and crush the right side of his ribcage. We had seen his sister, Pride, sitting atop that pole for much of the day but had no idea that her sibling was lying in the tall grass at its base. Late in the afternoon of the next day we were summoned to the wellfield after a worker there had spotted the injured bird. We were heartbroken when we arrived within the fence and saw this.
Our local, Glen Helen Raptor Center recovered Spirit and after examination by a veterinarian it was determined that the injuries were too severe and the eaglet was euthanized at the age of 100 days.
This tragedy heightened or resolve to protect our eaglets from an unseen threat. The novice flyers saw the utility poles as an open perch unaware of the possibility of electrocution should they contact two of the bare-wire conductors.
You can see why we were concerned. The threat was real and potentially deadly. Jim and Cindy only perched in the neighboring trees but the inexperienced eaglets still had trouble landing through the branches and preferred the open poles. Conversations between the wellfield office and our local utility company led to the installation of devices to obstruct the crossbeams and to insulate the conductors at the poles. We were able to direct the utility crews to the poles most frequently used by the eaglets as well as the poles nearest the nest. Spirit would not die in vain. We believe that Pride is still with us. We have seen a large female fishing from The Great Miami River during the last two years and Jim and Cindy interact peacefully with her rather than chasing her off. They even allow her to eat fish from their river without stealing her food!
The 2012 nest was even more successful as Jim and Cindy fledged 3 eaglets that year!
But that season was not without a major scare or two. On June 30th, just a few days after the last eaglet had fledged from the nest, a straight-line wind raced through the area and blew most of the aerie out of the tree. We feared the worst but early the next morning we found all 3 eaglets and Jim and Cindy somewhat shocked, but otherwise well .
In 2013 Jim and Cindy fledged 2 eaglets from a new nest that they had begun building in September of 2012. The new nest was in the same fork of their Sycamore tree. Here is a look at those eaglets.
But shortly after their maiden flights there was yet another challenge. On July 1st a wellfield worker summoned us with the report of a downed eaglet. We found the youngster in the middle of a field of tall grass, apparently unable to get itself airborne again. Young, novice flyers sometimes have difficulty getting airborne from the ground without the aid of an elevated perch and gravity. We called the raptor center and as we waited we formed a large human ring around the field so the hopping eaglet would not get into the nearby thicket. As the raptor center personnel approached the bird it managed to fly about 10 feet but only rising a few feet above the ground before crashing down again. Upon examination the bird was found to be suffering from a mild wing injury and dehydration. During its week of rest and recuperation Cindy repeatedly patrolled the area apparently looking for her missing baby. The youngster healed rapidly and was released on July 7, 2013.
After initially landing in a tree, it flew again and was instantly joined by its very happy mother. We were thankful for a relatively peaceful nesting season.
Then last year we were blessed with 3 more eaglets. They were a very happy family.
On one visit we were surprised to see Jim carrying something new to the nest. He had caught a young beaver! We were accustomed to fish, ducks, turtles, squirrels and even a raccoon or an occasional groundhog but this was different! Even Cindy looked a bit surprised as he arrived.
But just after fledging, tragedy struck again. Another eaglet down, another eaglet lost. This time the eaglet had suffered a severe injury to its right wing damaging both muscle and bone.
We had no idea how long it had been injured. The youngster was taken to the raptor center where it died of its injuries within hours. Its two siblings are doing well as far as we know and are very likely two of the first year juveniles we have seen in the area this winter.
Of course there are many other babies in Jim and Cindy’s domain.
And this last picture always makes me laugh because it reminds me of an old west cowboy wearing chaps and ready for a shootout.
Life is a precious gift and like so many precious things, life is fragile. I say it often but life in the wild is wild. It is so important that we do all we can do to protect these majestic birds and their habitat. Our eagles are urban eagles so not only do they battle the elements they must contend with man-made threats as well. Power lines, automobiles, fencing, idiots with shotguns and so many more obstacles to their survival exist in this urban environment. But in cities across this continent the American Bald Eagle has one thing that its wilderness-dwelling relatives do not have, caring people to watch over them and intervene when necessary. Many of the readers of this blog are part of a group like that. Whether in the mountains of Tennessee, the coastal regions of Virginia, sunny Florida, the red clay hillsides of Georgia, Midwestern Iowa, along the Pacific coastline, north of our border in Canada or anywhere in between, there are eagle people. They are good, ordinary people overseeing and protecting the wellbeing of a local aerie and sharing the joys and pains of their own memories. They are bittersweet memories that bring both a smile and a tear as we spend some time together, quietly reminiscing.