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  Leave a Comment  

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 (19)  

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)  

Sharing The Joy

Last weekend the second of Jim and Cindy’s two eaglets fledged from the nest. That departure means that the Treetop Palace has successfully finished its faithful service for another year. Jim and Cindy have now escorted the novice flyers deeper into the secluded confines of the well field just as they do every year at this time. For the next few weeks the busy parents will continue to bring food to the pair while their youngsters master the art of flying and learn to hunt on their own. For now, the nest is idle and silent.

Then, this past Tuesday, I noticed that the lower portion of the aerie has broken loose and is falling away.

Part of the falling portion may be what is left of the Great Blue Heron nest that Jim and Cindy used as a foundation in 2010 when they relocated to this tree. All but the very bottom of the nest blew from the tree on June 30th, a few years ago but our eagles began rebuilding it in early September of that year and it was restored to its full glory by egg-laying time in February. I have seen bored eaglets pull several sticks from the nest in past years and smaller birds like to nest in the lower portion of The Treetop Palace. Whatever the cause of this current issue, I am confident that Jim and Cindy will be able to repair the damage if needed. Life in the wild is wild…and very interesting to watch.

On Wednesday I was able to spend some time at Eastwood with a dozen or so students who were participating in the Raptor Camper program of the Glen Helen Raptor Center. Although the eaglets were no longer in the nest, the campers were able to actually view a real eagle’s nest through my spotting scope and their own binoculars as they learned a bit more about these amazing birds of prey.

An hour before the campers arrived I was privileged to meet with a grandmother and two of her young grandsons. I was quite impressed by the boys’ politeness and obedience. The eldest was eleven and an avid raptor fan. His enthusiasm reminded me of my own love for birds as a youngster. As we talked about Jim and Cindy’s history and habits, Cindy decided to make an appearance overhead. After making a few circles a couple of hundred feet away from our position she headed back into the well field.

The young man was thrilled (as was his grandmother and I)! The whole encounter made me realize again what a blessing it is to finally have eagles gracing the skies of Dayton again and how much things have changed since I was a child fruitlessly searching the skies, hoping to see our national symbol pass by. The events also renewed my appreciation for those parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other loving adults who invest their time and efforts in nurturing a love for wildlife in the children of today. So many boys and girls are growing up adrift in a virtual world of animated games and missing the thrilling, real-life adventures unfolding just outside their window.

Eagle watching is an excellent way to enjoy just one of those adventures and one of the greatest thrills of that eagle watching is simply meeting people, making new friends and sharing the joy.

Published in: on July 3, 2016 at 8:10 pm  Comments (2)  

It’s Boiling Now

My mother was an amazing woman in so many ways. Dad never made a lot of money but she always found a way to stretch what little we had to insure that my five siblings and myself had what we needed to get by. But Mother abounded in love. She had an endless supply for everyone from her own children to the hobo man knocking on the back door. (For you younger readers, “hobo” is a now nonpolitically correct term for a homeless person. It is an abbreviation of the words “homeward bound” and referred to men who were down on their luck, substance abusers, unemployed, adventurers…or for some other reason wandering from town to town, often travelling by boxcar on their way to wherever and whatever “home” was to them.) Mom never turned a hungry person away without some bit of food. My mother was rich in compassion and we children feasted on her bounty.

What does all this have to do with eagles?

Well, another thing that Mother was rich in was adages. She had a tried and tested saying for every situation and she flung them freely when the need arose. One of her favorite adages was, “A watched pot never boils.” Whenever I was anxiously awaiting something or someone she would throw those words in my direction to draw me away from the window. It was her way of telling me to relax and the allow time to pass.

The memory of her words repeatedly ripped through the air of Eastwood as I have sat and watched our eaglets over the last two weeks. Around 10 weeks of age eaglets are fully feathered and as large as their adult parents. They technically may have the capability to fly but they lack the coordination, muscle tone, experience and confidence to leave the nest successfully. I have read that the window for fledging the nest is around age 70 to 92 days. Our oldest eaglets typically fledge around 84 to 86 days after hatching with their  younger siblings following suit a few days later (near their 84th to 86th day.) That first flight is the major hurdle in a young eagle’s life and I always grow impatient as I wait for the time to pass. So there I sat at the park watching the pot refuse to boil.

I knew things were progressing in that direction though. Jim and Cindy were now seldom seen in the nest. A careful search of the well field might reveal one or both of them atop a nearby tree. Food delivery to the youngsters had grown more random and less frequent as Mom and Dad seemed to encourage hunger to be a motivator for flight. Jim had begun to visit his favorite off-season perch again and Cindy (looking a bit dirty and tattered from her mothering duties) was seen passing over Eastwood with a pesky Eastern Kingbird escort.

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The youngsters were also showing signs of restlessness. Often they would play in the air above the Treetop Palace strengthening their muscles and skills in short vertical flights to nowhere. Like children forced to share a bedroom, the massive nest had grown too small for their compatibility and they were using their newfound branching abilities to get away from one another.

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Each morning I counted the days since they had hatched. One by one those days passed by and the water in the pot grew hotter. I tried to heed Mother’s words but, now that I think of it, I wasn’t too good at it back then either. Monday was day 84. Tuesday was day 85. Today was day 86 and when I arrived at Eastwood this morning I saw this!

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A lone eaglet in the nest! Was the other one hiding in the branches? Not that I could see. Then I saw Mom or Dad deliver a fish to the nest and fly off, twice! In years past I have noticed that after one eaglet fledges from the aerie Jim or Cindy will take food to the nest as if to keep the remaining eaglets occupied while they watch over the novice flyer. And they will watch over it, bringing food to wherever it perches and encouraging it to fly again. Sometimes a recently fledged eaglet will end up on the ground and have difficulty getting airborne again. This situation can prove deadly for the young eagle as it is vulnerable to predators and parasites. An intervening human approaching the grounded youngster will be severely chastised by the protective adults. Sometimes the youngster will find a suitable perch and remain there for a day or so before trying to fly again, eventually making its way back to the nest. I will let you know how successful this year’s fledging process has been as it progresses and I can verify the results.

For now I have to decide if the “pot” is half empty or half full but that is a whole other adage. Slowly the days have passed and I smile as I realize that somehow our Dayton eagles have stayed true to that fledging window again. I have no idea if other nests are so consistent or not but Jim and Cindy simply amaze me. And Mom, if you’re watching this proverbial pot, it’s boiling now!

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Published in: on June 23, 2016 at 2:10 am  Comments (12)  

“Ations” Are Mighty Funny Things

Watching Jim and Cindy’s Treetop Palace from half a mile away has its limitations. Limitations cause frustrations. Frustrations lead to consternation. Consternation craves consolation. Consolation brings appreciation. Appreciation explodes into exaltation!

And so I burst forth in praise when I finally was able to clearly see this!

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I was watching Cindy and one eaglet sharing a snack over a period of several minutes when wing-stretching in the back of the aerie drew my attention to the second (yet unnoticed) eaglet! Weeks ago I had watched both parents simultaneously feeding hatchlings on opposite sides of the nest but on subsequent visits only one eaglet was visible. I knew that by now both eaglets should be large enough to be clearly seen on the rim of the nest but I also knew that if they are not eating our watching for Mom and Dad then they are sleeping. Therefore I was never sure if the single eaglet in my viewfinder was the same eaglet I had seen previously. Those problems would be less likely to occur if I was closer than that half mile distance. Hence the whole limitation to consternation scenario.

Eaglets around the country have faced some pretty scary predicaments this year. Everything from manmade threats like fishing line entanglement to natural threats like owls that go bump in the night. The challenges to survival have always claimed too many first year eaglets but with the proliferation of eagle-cams we are now more aware of these challenges. Hence the consolation to exaltation segment of the scenario when I saw both eaglets at once.

Isn’t it strange how some “ations” work? Take anticipation for instance. Time moves so s-l-o-w-l-y as we impatiently await something but as we look back on the much-anticipated event that seems to have just happened yesterday, we are hit with the realization (There’s another one!) that years have flown by.

Speaking of flying by, seeing a sight like this:

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is always a cause for celebration!

Those “ations” are mighty funny things!

Published in: on May 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm  Comments (16)  

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 (26)  

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!

RGP879

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)