Some of Which Even Have Wings

I am a “middle of the road” eagle watcher.

I don’t particularly mean that I stand in the middle of a road to watch eagles (although on some occasions I have done just that) but rather I mean that the opportunities to see these magnificent creatures here in Dayton, Ohio are better than in some places but far worse than in other places. In most of the country encountering a wild eagle is still an extremely rare experience while many other areas are enjoying a repopulation of nesting eagles along nearby lakes and rivers, with some of those areas now having several established nests. We have just two eagles here…for now. But I am extremely grateful for those two! Therefore when I get the chance to share about a special encounter with one of our eagles, I cannot wait to do so. Many, if not most, of the followers of this blog have rather limited opportunities to go wild eagle watching and since it has been a while since I have taken all of you along for the trip, grab a jacket, climb into my car and join me on a recent ride. But be aware of the fact that there are now more than 530 followers of this blog so my car may be a little crowded and we may all have to share seatbelts, but it will be worth the inconvenience!

It is the day after my last posting and as we approach the area of Eastwood Lake the noise and activity at the bridge construction site is in full swing. The massive cranes have already placed two of the four huge concrete beams on the supports and the third beam is just about to be pulled into position for unloading. The misty drizzle blurs the flashing yellow lights on the construction vehicles but they seem to sparkle even more brightly under the brooding overcast skies.

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As we enter the park we find the entrance road is damp and the green grass is wearing what looks to be a glistening coat of heavy dew. A dozen or more rain-soaked robins hunt for soggy worms as we idle slowly by. The local Whitetail Deer must be bedded down within the seclusion of the newly leafed underbrush for they are nowhere in sight. As we turn towards the lake a lone Great Blue Heron glides effortlessly above the water surface and lands on the shore nearby. Great Blues never seem to mind the rain. I reach for my camera and realize that it is still locked in the car’s trunk where I had placed it during a short stop for coffee on our way to the lake. I consider leaving it there but the heron is posing so beautifully that I begrudgingly zip up my jacket and step out into the cold, moist air. As I retrieve the camera and slip back into the driver seat the heron flies off laughing loudly as it heads to the far side of the lake. “What a dirty trick!” I sigh as I wipe the water from my glasses. But I am not at all surprised. It has been like that a lot lately. The windy, wet and unseasonably cold weather combined with the clutter and clatter of the bridge construction project has made picture taking difficult. Today’s dismal light conditions will require slower shutter speeds and any moving object will appear fuzzy anyway. It may not even be worth the effort to try to take pictures today. I put the car back in gear and we once again begin idling along the lake.

Then it happens!

Far ahead, beyond the distant guardrail of Harshman Road and just visible above the barricade of construction trailers, there is a flash of movement! As our eyes focus on the object we instantly recognize the strong, steady, determined wingbeats of an American Bald Eagle! Before you can say, “WOW!” my foot has already depressed the accelerator and we lurch forward. As we rush a few hundred feet further east all eyes are on the majestic bird. It momentarily dips low and out of sight, far behind the row of parked trailers but then it reemerges closer than before. We smile with the realization that it is headed directly towards us! My driver’s window comes down as I turn right and quickly park the car in the grass with the driver’s side facing the approaching eagle. Various questions flash through my mind in the instant it takes to grab and ready the camera. Is the eagle going to circle back into the well field? Will it turn and fly north along Harshman Road vanishing into the northern haze? Will it slowly gain altitude by circling over Eagle Lake? All of these scenarios are way too common as of late but the urgency of the moment drives those questions from my thoughts. And the eagle just keeps coming!

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The bird is clearly visible now as it gains altitude to pass over the power lines that parallel  Harshman Road. Judging by the size of those wings we are almost certain that this is our Cindy! “Every new mother needs to stretch her wings once in a while.” I muse. We cannot help but be impressed by the power she displays. Surely the drivers carefully maneuvering their cars though the orange barrels have to see this beauty passing just overhead! Surely the busy construction workers must be watching in amazement! But we will never know for our eyes are locked on this approaching wonder. As she clears the power lines I refocus the camera and continue snapping images.

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I find it rather difficult to focus on an eagle flying straight at me at around 30 miles per hour. Maybe that difficulty is a result of my lack of skill or a quickened pulse from the adrenalin rush (or quite possibly it is a combination of both) but I do my best to keep her in focus. Onward she comes! She clears the roadway! She is over the park now!

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My shutter is singing as she passes almost overhead. I even have to back off on the zoom to keep all of her in frame! While she passes about 50 feet away she glances in my direction and the telltale notch in her head feathers confirms the identification as she smiles down at us. (OK, maybe I just imagined that she smiled, but I was smiling big enough for both of us!)

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Then she turns her focus to the lake as she flies on.

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I start the car and we head after her hoping that she will fly back towards us. She circles a few times over the center of Eastwood Lake…

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before she turns north, leaving the lake and the park and eventually dissolving into the northern haze.

As we sit and attempt to regain our composure, we rejoice in appreciation of what we have just seen. It has been months since we have had a close encounter of a personal kind with one of our eagles. Somehow the cold, damp weather is a bit brighter, as are our moods. Hours of waiting and watching have finally proven to be fruitful. The middle of the road is not a bad place to be when the right type of traffic is passing by. As we look through the images securely captured within the camera it dawns on me that I had entered the park not expecting much to happen. In fact I would have missed the entire opportunity if it hadn’t been for that laughing Great Blue Heron that had tricked me into retrieving my camera from car’s trunk. I took its laughing as if it was mocking me while it flew off but perhaps it was laughing for me in anticipation of what was about to happen. As I think about that heron and Cindy’s short visit I am grateful for my life full of so many blessings, some of which even have wings!

Published in: on April 11, 2016 at 6:43 am  Comments (22)  

New Challenges

Well, let me start by apologizing for the delay in announcing that Jim and Cindy are feeding at least one eaglet in The Treetop Palace. And then let me announce Jim and Cindy are feeding at least one eaglet in The Treetop Palace!

The reason for the delay is that I was hoping to share some decent pictures within this posting but the images that I will have to use will illustrate some of the new challenges that we will have to endure for the 2016 nesting season.

We are constantly reminded that Jim and Cindy are truly urban eagles. As I mentioned 2 years ago, the deteriorated Harshman Road bridge over The Mad River was scheduled for demolition and replacement. Then last year I announced that the project was beginning in earnest. The finished bridge will be better able to meet the current traffic demands on the roadway and provide two much-needed new features as well. It will have sidewalks and a left turn lane for vehicles trying to enter the Eastwood Lake MetroPark. That project is the source of our temporary challenges, and here are the previously mentioned illustrative images.

This is one of the massive concrete beams being delivered to the job site.

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This image shows the actual construction area.

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Jim and Cindy’s nest tree is about 1/4 mile to the east (left) of this bridge. You can see the line of semi trailers still carrying the massive beams lined up on the hillside in the background (The National Museum of The United States Air Force is just over that hill.) and the rusted bridge railing and the damaged concrete deck of the old bridge is on the right side of this picture. That tiny 2-foot wide broken concrete walk was all that separated pedestrians from the 45 miles per hour traffic and that bridge railing is less than waist-high. Whenever I walked across this bridge I was keenly aware of the 30-foot drop to the river below. The entrance road to Eastwood Lake is just to the right of where I was standing to take the picture and that traffic signal is at the entrance to Eastwood Park. The large crane on the left will work with another crane that is positioned just off the image to set those beams on the recently installed bridge supports. Eventually traffic will be moved to the new bridge while the second half of the old bridge is demolished and replaced. The whole thing will be finished in 2017. Meanwhile stockpiles of materials and trailers for those cranes are stored just north of the project which happens to be the very area from which we view our eagles’ nest. So, for now, we have to view the nest through the parked trailers (You can see it through the gap under the red tool bin.) and through the flowing traffic!

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But view it we do! And what we see is a welcomed sight. We see Jim and Cindy taking turns brooding their eaglet(s) and we are just starting to see an uptick in the number of food runs. The babies are now over a week old and we all know that that means they are growing in size and in appetite. For whatever reason (perhaps it is the constant noise and construction) Jim and Cindy are not fishing from Eastwood Lake as frequently as in years past. They are instead relying more heavily on the resources of Eagle Lake on their side of Harshman Road.

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Even if we have to contort ourselves to find a window through which to view the 2016 chapter of the adventure and even though the peaceful distant drumming of woodpeckers is being drowned out by the noisy pounding of jackhammers, we are thrilled to watch the story unfolding before us. After all, a few short years ago we had no eagles in the area to watch. So just like Jim and Cindy, we will find a way to do what must be done when we are confronted with new challenges.

Published in: on April 7, 2016 at 1:14 am  Comments (18)  

The Wearin’ O’ The Green

Tis St. Patty’s Day it is! It be the time for the wearin’ o’ the green and this fine lad from Eastwood twas sure agoin’ with the flow!

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As I pass the hours watching Jim and Cindy’s Treetop Palace marking the days of incubation, it is becoming hard to miss the fact that all around Eastwood nature is joining in the emerald celebration. Like a secret smile from a very old friend, here and there you can catch a glimpse of the growing joy!

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Like a whisper that is more seen than heard the message of promise is perceived.

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That green promise of hope and new life is hidden everywhere. It can be found deep in the recesses of a barren woodland, bobbing peacefully atop the water or even under the glassy surface of a babbling brook.

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And all around us our feathered friends are joining in the merriment!

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But it’s not all green. Fresh feathers of every hue flash from tree to tree and adorn the barren branches with splashes of color that explode in the stillness.

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Even the drab fences and overhead wires that scar the beauty of the countryside hold colorful reminders that the stark days of another winter are rapidly fading into the past and something new and fresh is on the horizon.

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The brilliant palette of spring is overflowing onto the canvas of life! It is welcomed. It is  warming. It is enchanting. It is a brief but much-needed interlude in the Song of the Wild, a song that is restorative and encouraging as we listen with our eyes. Can you see the melody?

As we pass through the next 11 days or so awaiting the pipping of new life in our nest, the profusion of colorful notes will steadily swell in spectacular grandeur. I hope you too will be carried away by the beautiful strains of adventure as this new season unfolds. And it all begins with a quiet overture arising from the solitude through the wearin’ o’ the green!

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Published in: on March 17, 2016 at 2:05 pm  Comments (20)  

A Different Eagle Overhead

This posting is a bit different from any of my previous posts. I almost didn’t post it but after seeing some recent news reports and interviews I was moved to send it out there.

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I never can tell what I may see as I sit and wait for the only two eagles residing in Montgomery County, Ohio to do something…or to even do nothing someplace where I can see them not doing it. Watching is a lot more fun when there is something to watch. So as I wait for Jim and Cindy to honor me with their presence I pass the time by watching other things like songbirds, groundhogs, deer, coyotes, water fowl… If it passes nearby, I watch it. And then I take a few pictures of it. (Let’s just say that if I ever start a groundhog watching group, I’m all set.) As a Christian I admire the uniqueness and beauty of each creature that I encounter and as an American I hold an even greater admiration for the American Bald Eagle. But once in a while something extraordinary will pass by that can be beautiful, somewhat frightening and yet thought-provoking all at the same time.

A few days ago I saw a different eagle passing through the skies above Eastwood…this one:

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Dayton Ohio was the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright and is still the home of the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. In fact, Huffman Prairie where Will and Orv perfected their flying machines in the years following their historic 1903 success at Kitty Hawk, is now part of the massive base’s acreage. Wright Patt (as it is commonly called) also maintains various systems on the presidential airplane that (when the president is onboard) is known as Air Force One. This means that several times each year our fleet of giant C-17 cargo planes have to yield the skies to this most famous of all 747s. I always snap a few images as she passes nearby, glistening in the sunlight and purring like a kitten.

Now frankly, I am not at all a big fan of aircraft passing through Jim and Cindy’s airspace. Planes have tragically proven to be deadly hazards to Bald Eagles, as have automobiles and other manmade inventions, but the threat that those inventions pose are a part of the current reality of life in the wild. As I watched this shining behemoth circle overhead, a question flashed across my mind.

Why do so many eagles seem to choose nesting sites near airports?

Airports by necessity are wide open spaces with vast grasslands that are plentiful sources of prey. The cleared airport grounds are usually surrounded by large trees suitable for supporting large nests. A bird of prey may find nesting on the edge of the open field an advantage for ingress and egress from their nest tree. The winds passing unobstructed above the grassland may provide assistance for becoming airborne and the sundrenched, flat ground and paved runways may help create the thermals necessary for soaring. Most airports are just outside of developed urban areas that were settled more than a century ago along the banks of a river and having water nearby is a basic requirement for prime Bald Eagle nesting territory. If I were an eagle I would know these answers but for now I will have to settle for educated guesses. (Of course, if I were an eagle, typing on this keyboard with my talons would be very difficult and I suspect that eagles are notoriously poor spellers.) Whatever the reason, the presence of aircraft near Jim and Cindy’s domain is a fact that I have learned to live with.

As I looked at the seal adorning the side of Air Force One I was reminded of how in 1782, after 6 years of debate, The American Bald Eagle was made our national symbol and that seal was born. There have been various representations of The Seal with some minor adaptations over the last 234 years but I believe our Founders were onto something. The Bald Eagle is a true North American native. It embodies power, strength, intelligence and gracefulness along with many other admirable attributes. (I know old Ben Franklin preferred the wild turkey but who wants to eat eagle for Thanksgiving dinner?) The eagle on the official seal has an olive branch in its strong right foot and a bundle of arrows in its weaker left foot. The olive branch symbolizes peace while the arrows represent might. The eagle’s head is turned to its right preferring peace when possible. There is a lot of wisdom in that design. The shield on the eagle’s chest has 13 stripes, alternating red and white in color, upholding a star-spangled field of blue. This shield symbolizes the purity of vision and the blood of sacrifice of the original 13 states underpinning the institution of the federal government. Many other symbols appear on the seal but these spoke to me.

As I thought about these features of the seal I felt gratefulness for the freedoms that we so easily take for granted and at the same time challenged to pray for our leaders. In this divisive, politically-charged climate we can lose sight of the unity of our union. “E Pluribus Unum” (from many, one) is a precious commodity in these troubled times. Whomever occupies The Oval Office and Air Force One, now or in the future, needs our prayerful support. The President of The United States of America needs a clear vision to govern and the wisdom to make life-changing decisions. The Founders noted that we as Americans “are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights” and we are mandated in The Bible to pray to that Creator for those in authority over us.

As Air Force One passed above Jim and Cindy’s Treetop Palace I was reminded that this world is a perilous place.

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As it passed once more over their mighty sycamore I began to pray in gratitude for my liberty as an American as well as in gratefulness for the Bald Eagle population recovery I am so blessed to witness.

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Then, on its final pass, a lone juvenile Bald Eagle emerged from the treetops

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and I was shocked by the reality of the dangers that exist in our changing world and the coming struggles that my own children and grandchildren may witness. I was also struck with the truth that this nation itself, with all of her faults and blemishes, is a fragile gift from God.

Being the child of two WWII veterans, my country has a special place in my heart, so I was grateful that on this day I was reminded of my blessings and duties as an American as I looked upon a different eagle overhead.

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Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 2:02 pm  Comments (16)  

An Old Canine Friend

This winter has been pretty much like a old dog. Most of the time it just lied there. It didn’t have much pep and sometimes you had to step over it to get somewhere. At other times it could not quite make up its mind where it wanted to be, but for the most part it was mild-mannered and sleepy. And also like an old dog, once in a while it could bite.

Mild winters seem to delay Jim and Cindy’s routine a bit. Their first successful nesting season started on February 15, 2011 and almost every year since then the first egg has arrived on that date. The latest date for the awaited arrival of a first egg was on a February 17th, also after a warm winter. They are pretty consistent in most of their actions which adds a bit of predictability to eagle watching.

So on this Valentine’s Day I was happy to see them carrying soft material to the nest to carpet the nursery. During the completion of their nestorations they had added enough materials to the nest walls that they now virtually disappear if they sit in the bowl. We knew that this deeper recess would make incubation behavior in the nest more difficult to see so we spent a little extra time that week watching for other telltale signs. The 15th came and went with still more fidgeting with sticks. Both eagles were seen near the river or perched together on the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th… Two eagles out of the nest means no eggs in the nest. I began to think that maybe they knew it was a leap-year and they were assuring themselves that the additional day would not cause the eaglet to pip too early in the spring.

On Monday I found both eagles dancing high in the sky, their large, lazy circles intersecting at times when Jim would take the opportunity to lower his legs and swoop playfully at Cindy! I was hoping that he would flip and reach out for her feet but he seemed content to just teasingly pass near her. Sometimes they would fly side by side or just above each other as they danced ever higher in the heavens. (I love to watch The Dance. You can almost hear the music’s sweet notes.) After fifteen minutes the two tiny specks drifted slowly to the north and dissolved into the misty blue haze.

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Monday night things changed.

As the sun was setting Roger captured this amazing image of Jim fishing the waters of Eastwood Lake!

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Twilight Delight

 

Much to the chagrin of the local gulls who were trying to settle down for the evening, Jim was looking for a late day snack. But this following image shows the change of which I was speaking! This is Jim leaving the lake with his catch and carrying it directly to the Treetop Palace!

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Takin’ it home to Momma.

 

Eagle’s nests have little allure for their builders after the eaglets have fledged, that is until new eggs arrive. The fact that Jim took food back to the nest in the twilight’s glow hopefully meant that Cindy was in the nest with the first egg of 2016!

 

Early Tuesday morning I returned to our Eastwood Lake observation point, 1/2 mile from the nest, and found Jim sitting in a familiar guard position high above the nest, another good sign.

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Jim on guard.

Before long I could see Cindy stand up in the bowl  and stir around a bit before settling back down with just the top of her white head visible in the sunlight. Eventually Jim flew down to a lower perch, out of sight from my position at  the lake. An hour or so later Jim reappeared at the nest. Cindy again arose and the two of them stood on opposite sides of the nest before Cindy flew off and Jim disappeared into the bowl. Later that afternoon there was a similar exchange as Jim flew in and Cindy immediately departed, making a few low circles over Eagle Lake before she returned to the nest.

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Cindy stretching her wings.

 

All of this activity makes me think that Jim and Cindy’s first egg of 2016 arrived some time on Monday, February 22. That means that the first eaglet of 2016 should hatch out around March 28th! Allowing time for the exhausted hatchling to recover from the ordeal of escaping the egg and for its sibling(s) to do the same, the annual feeding frenzy should be gaining steam by the first week of April!

Here is a better picture of the 2016 Treetop Palace with the royal couple inspecting the nestoration. Quite an impressive abode if I do say so myself!

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2016 Treetop Palace

 

One last observation on old dogs. Over the years you develop a mutual relationship with them. Just the simple act of you taking a seat can trigger a reaction that is as comforting as it is welcomed as the dog saunters over to place its head on your knee for a friendly scratch behind the ears. That scratch is soothing for each of you. As this winter fades away, it does so with a hope in the treetops that has become as comforting to my heart as the contented presence of an old canine friend.

Published in: on February 25, 2016 at 2:36 am  Comments (19)  

A Door and Window Scenario

Everyone has heard the old adage that says, “When God closes a door He opens a window.” Well a door closed this week as I was notified that our eagle-cam project has been permanently discontinued. Although our setup was not as advanced as many of the nest cameras out there, it was our nest and we will miss being able to go online to see how the aerie has weathered a storm or to watch the comings and goings of Jim and Cindy and their family. We are grateful for all of our partners in that project during the few years that the cameras were running and I personally will miss hearing from the teachers and students of the classrooms that followed the cams as part of their science lessons.

Now the window part.

The annual “window of opportunity” for egg-laying has opened! In each of the last 5 years Cindy has laid the first egg of the season between the 15th and 17th of February so we are expecting her to do the same this year, although it would not surprise me if the warm winter weather delays the process by a day or two. But all is ready. The nest has been prepared and the nursery bowl carpeted. As you have seen in our recent posts, Jim and Cindy have been spending much of their time together which is a necessary prelude to egg-laying.

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Just after a “kiss”.

Since many of our new blog followers may be heading into their first nesting season let me recap the basics. Eagles typically lay 1 to 3 eggs per year with the average being 2. The eggs arrive a day or two apart and will hatch in that same order after each egg has been incubated for around 35 days. During that time either Mom or Dad will be in the nest with the other perched nearby, standing guard, or off on a very short hunting trip. Often, the non-incubating adult will bring food back to its mate in the nest.

And so we wait in anticipation of the beginning of a 35-day waiting period before we wait around another 84 days to see the eaglets fledge. There seems to be a lot of waiting in these door and window scenarios.

Published in: on February 9, 2016 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Together

Together they labor

stick by stick.

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Minute by minute

they add to their home.

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Hour by hour

they prepare for the future.

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Day by day

their palace grows

as does their bond to one another.

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Together the work goes on.

Together each new challenge is met.

Together they share life’s burdens and insure success.

Devotion grows as time is spent side by side; laboring, preparing, dreaming and simply being

together.

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Published in: on January 31, 2016 at 4:47 am  Comments (12)  

Now Is The Time!

Old Man Winter’s icy fingers have a firm grip on the Miami Valley of Ohio. He took a while to find us but now that he is here he is intent on making his presence known in a big way! December in Dayton was warmer than average but as the new year dawned we returned to more normal temperatures and we began to see our eagles return to their annual winter behavior.

Over the years I have written about the advantages and disadvantages of eagle watching in the frigid weather. Well, actually there is only one disadvantage…the frigid weather! But the advantages are many, like the absence of leaves making the perched eagles more visible. The singular, biggest advantage is predictability. As the weather cooled we once again saw Jim and Cindy begin to fish the local rivers more frequently, bringing them out of the well field and into more public spaces. The cooler air temperatures force the cold-blooded fish in the local lakes to go deeper for warmth thus making surface fishing more difficult. And now that the lakes have frozen over, the door to Jim and Cindy’s pantry is locked shut for a few weeks. But the icy lake surface is where our pair prefer to mate so it’s not all bad news. The surface of Eastwood Lake seemed to have frozen overnight. Here is an image of the frigid lake with the downtown skyline in the distance. That is where the eagles will be fishing now.

On Frozen Pond

On Frozen Pond

The rivers of the area are just a few feet deep in most places and the surface of the moving water freezes less easily than the calm lake waters. Another advantage is the turbulence provided by the inflow of one river into another. On the north edge of our downtown, the Stillwater River and the Mad River dump into the Great Miami about half a mile apart, plus there is a low dam on the Great Miami right in the middle of that action adding enough turbulence to turbulence to break up any surface ice that may form. As I have mentioned, we still only have two nesting adults within the city of Dayton making predictability a big advantage for eagle watchers. Jim and Cindy are truly urban eagles and therefore face different challenges than their more rural relatives.

In the winter our eagles like to hang out in a small grove of large trees along this very stretch of river. In the following image you can see those trees to the left and Interstate 75 to the right with the Great Miami barely visible between the high levees.

Winter's perch.

Winter’s perch.

I do not like them being so close to the freeway but that is what it is. They will often fly upriver, passing just 20 feet or so above the speeding semis!

This next image was taken from the same spot looking southwest and shows just how close this area is to the edge of our central business district. The Mad River is just to the left of this view.

Looking southwest.

Looking southwest.

Then one more picture, again from that same spot, looking at the Great Miami to the north. You can see the busy highway bridge in the foreground. The arched bridge in the distance is the Helena Street Bridge over the Stillwater River and between the two bridges you can see the water flowing over the low river dam that I mentioned earlier.

Looking north.

Looking north.

But the active water makes this the place to be in the wintertime, especially if you are a Bald Eagle or an eagle watcher. Jim and Cindy know that other passing eagles will find this area too so they stand guard over the place to discourage poachers. Knowing where they will be makes it able for the eagle watcher to be there first. Monday morning was bitter with brisk winds and single digit temperatures, but the frigid air was crystal clear when I arrived at that small grove of trees. I had only been there a short time when Jim flew in and landed nearby.

Here's Jimmy!

Here’s Jimmy!

The stiff wind buffeted his feathers making him look rather Harpy-like at times.

Jimmy Buffet(ed)

Jimmy Buffet(ed)

He was obviously on patrol as he searched the skies for intruders. He reminded me of a traffic cop sitting along the highway with an A.P.B. for a “dark-colored, two-winged vehicle with a white hood and white rear end”. Every bird (or plane) that passed by was carefully scrutinized.

Even the parking lot full of long-necked vehicles with Canadian plates at the water’s edge below was inspected. Although they were guilty of excessive honking, he let them go.

Checking out the noisy geese below.

Checking out the noisy geese below.

After about 30 minutes he spotted 2 suspect vehicles approaching from the west. I could not see them but Jim’s actions told the story. He alerted, leapt to a lower limb, lowered his head and stared intensely at the approaching suspects.

Watching approaching intruders.

Watching approaching intruders.

He remained in this agitated state for about a minute as he watched the pair draw nearer. Then, with siren blaring he took to the skies and pursued the suspect vehicles, escorting them well beyond the Helena Street bridge before returning to his perch.

Officer Jim sat there for another 30 minutes before he finally flew off, most likely in the direction of a local doughnut shop.

Ready to launch.

Ready to launch.

In less than a month there will be eggs in the nest and Jim and Cindy will be once again anchored to the well field. If you are in the area and want to see an eagle in the wild, this is the place to be and now is the time!

Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm  Comments (10)  

Sorrow and Joy

You would think that those two emotions could never exist together for in so many ways they appear to be polar opposites, but in a deeper sense they are in many ways totally dependent upon each other.

As this new year began I found myself contemplating the remarkable recovery in the eagle population here in the United States of America and elsewhere. Many of the newer followers of this blog may be unaware of the Bald Eagle’s recent struggle for survival so allow me to provide a brief recap. Bald Eagles are exclusively native to North America and their population had plummeted to a point where they were in danger of being lost forever. Decades of legislation and hard work slowly began to turn the tide and Bald Eagle nests are now reappearing across the continent.

The few remaining nests in my state of Ohio dotted the southern coast of Lake Erie. In my home city of Dayton the last eagle’s nest was abandoned in 1938. As a young child I would lie in the grass on summer days and search the sky, hoping to glimpse a passing eagle. Only once was my searching rewarded. Sorrow turned instantly to joy! I hopped on my bike and followed it for about a mile before I lost sight of it.

Then in 2008 they returned to Dayton! Now, more than 5 decades after I began searching the skies for majestic wings, I can find them almost every day! That is a big part of why we formed the Eastwood Eagle Watchers group and started this blog. Even as Bald Eagles become a more common sight, we cannot lose the appreciation of their presence and we dare not lose the message of their struggle.

Our local eagles, Jim and Cindy, are a bit behind their usual schedule this year probably due to the warm December weather. The lakes are still clear of ice so the flowing river waters have not seen the anticipated uptick in activity. But those rivers are far from eagleless. We have seen the annual parade of nomadic youngsters along the levees, and so have Jim and Cindy. Roger recently captured this image of our pair as they patrolled the Great Miami River in north Dayton.

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On January 4th I found this wanderer, that appears to be in her 5th year, on the Great Miami just south of town.

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(There is a chance that this is Pride, Jim and Cindy’s lone surviving 2011 eaglet. In late December I had seen her near the nest tree and she was not being harassed by our resident adults.)

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That same day I found a first-year juvie, a second-year juvie and two older eagles soaring low over a field a bit farther north. I could not get all four in the same frame but you’ll get the idea.

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One of these birds may have been the young adult I had spotted 5 miles down river a few hours earlier.

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One youngster flew directly over my car’s open sunroof! I was able to aim my camera straight up and snap this image. (Some days have more joy than others.)

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Speaking of joy and sorrow, the eagle community has lost yet another eagle. We want to pay our respects to HE, the young female of the Norfolk, Virginia nest. Like her mother’s death a few years ago, Ozzie’s death in southwest Florida last year, the Decorah nest’s losses and so many more, HE illustrated how fragile life in the wild can be. Manmade inventions add to the dangers that imperil wildlife and create new challenges for their survival. Life in the wild is wild.

As a young boy on a grassy hillside I had no idea what I was asking for as I searched the skies with open eyes and an open  heart. If it wasn’t for the depths of sorrow we would not appreciate the heights of joy. It is the heights of joy that increases the depths of sorrow’s pain. Together they add excitement and wonder to life and life would be so mundane without either.

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(Two final necessary traffic reminders for our local followers:
1.The Harshman Road bridge over The Mad River at the entrance to Eastwood is being replaced. Traffic will be maintained throughout the construction project but some turns in and out of the lake will be restricted.
2. The Webster Street bridge over The Mad River will be closed for 500+ days starting next week as it too is being replaced. This is the bridge near Deeds Point MetroPark where the eagles fish from The Great Miami in the winter.)

Published in: on January 8, 2016 at 7:19 pm  Comments (15)  

Christmas Boughs

It has been a warm December. Last weekend we broke a record high that was set 114 years ago. Apparently it was warm then too.

But the warmer days allow for more outdoor exploration in Jim and Cindy’s domain. Although I have spotted our love birds working on the aerie and occasionally passing by, most images have been like this one captured on a cloudy, rainy day at Eastwood Lake.

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(It still made me smile though.)

Other things have also brought a smile to my face. My brother who lives in nearby Springfield, Ohio reports that a first year juvenile is hanging out on a body of water near his place. The hook of its beak tilts slightly to the right and he first saw it a few days after the release of the juvie that I wrote about in our last posting! Remember this little guy?

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(Hence my smile.)

Other encounters with Eastwood’s Whitetail bucks…

IMG_9108et2Ss and Pileated Woodpeckers…

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and Merlins…

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and Red-Tailed Hawks…

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have also brought smiles.

As I sit and watch I cannot stop myself from singing along with the Christmas carols on the radio. Like an unexpected visit with old friends, they too make me smile. Although the weather doesn’t feel much like Christmas, a recent playing of Deck the Halls made me consider the lovely boughs just outside my window and inspired me to pen this simple, little, prayerful Christmas poem.

 

Christmas Boughs

Some boughs bear berries, some boughs bear cones,

Some boughs are barren and seem so alone.

But the boughs I love most in the harsh winter weather

Are the boughs that are bearing a bundle of feathers!

-O-

Whether tiny and hopping

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Or larger and still

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The joy that they carry repels winter’s chill.

-O-

To my heart those feathers, no matter what size,

Show freedom and grace as they mount to the sky.

For though I am tethered, for now, to this sod,

Someday I’ll go soaring to meet with my God!

-O-

As we think on that manger and the babe lying there

Let us listen for sounds in that holy night’s air.

While awed shepherds in silence gaze on God’s love

From the rafters descends the soft coo of a dove.

-O-

As you gather with family near a gift-laden tree

Remember God’s gift that can set the soul free.

May you sense His sweet presence as friends come together

And may you smile when finding a bough bearing feathers.

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From all of us here to all of you there,

Merry Christmas!

Published in: on December 18, 2015 at 12:37 am  Comments (16)  
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