Toddlers Will Be Toddlers

Nailed the landing!

Nailed the landing!

"What are you smiling at?"

“What are you smiling at?”

I have been spending as much time as possible watching the 2013 eaglets master the art of being an eagle. Each Bald Eagle, like each one of us, is born with the ability to do certain things necessary for leading a successful and prosperous life. Some of those abilities are involuntary, like breathing. Other abilities require a little time and practice, a period of trial and error, allowing each individual, whether avian or human, to learn from its mistakes and develop a more perfected technique. This learning process is greatly enhanced by the active presence of attentive parents, willing to demonstrate their educated approach to the situation for the benefit of the novice child. Eventually this process may turn the required skill from simply an acquired ability to an art form.

That process is unfolding daily within the confines of the well field. The young eaglets, now nearly 4 months old, are proving themselves to be eager students. They are following Jim and Cindy around their domain and watching attentively as their parents demonstrate what being an eagle is all about. Jim and Cindy have their favorite perches and almost every time that I am able to locate one of the adults on its perch, an eaglet is perched nearby. Sometimes what from a distance appears to be an adult on its favorite perch proves to be an eaglet with a displaced adult nearby. One such perch is a barren vertical fork in the very top of an old tree not far from the east end of Eagle Lake. On one recent encounter, Cindy had been sitting on that very perch for almost an hour while one of the two eaglets watched her from another tree a few hundred feet away. As soon as Cindy flew from the perch and headed deeper into the well field the youngster flew up to that tree and attempted to land on the recently vacated upright. Now I am not an eagle, nor a bird of any kind for that matter, but I imagine that a robin or a cardinal would find this perch much like any other. But apparently when you have large, taloned-feet on the end of your legs, grasping onto the end of a vertical branch is a bit more challenging than grasping the side of a horizontal branch of equal size. The youngster hit its mark but could not stop its forward momentum and balance itself in the slight tailwind without a lot of teetering and fancy footwork. After about 7 seconds of jumping, hopping, flapping and head bobbling, it settled into a rather confident pose looking quite proud of itself. (I snapped the top picture above just as it landed on the perch.) Then it looked at me with a very superior and indignant expression as if it was not at all amused to see me smiling back at it. (Yep, that would be the second picture.)

The whole encounter reminded me of an old Super-8 home movie that I filmed way back in 1978. It shows our oldest daughter as she was walking on the uneven surface of our lawn for the very first time. Each toddling step was a choreographed movement of counterbalancing arms, quivering knees and twisting torso. Every few steps ended with a sudden plop onto her diapered bottom and a round of giggles before she regained her footing and started off again.

“Trial and error” is a proven method of mastering a skill and finding new experiences. Failure can be a great motivator. Sometimes running to the rescue of someone learning a new skill robs them of the joy of conquering a problem on their own and  thereby learning to trust in their own natural abilities. This, in turn, can hinder their effort of growing into a self-reliant adult. Maybe that is why Cindy turned her back and flew from that perch in the first place.

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Published in: on July 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I always look forward to your commentary and pictures… both so vivid and detailed. I like to share these posts with the children of my daycare family… they are enriched and inspired by your passion. Keep up the great work!

  2. Thank you Mary. It seems more difficult to connect children with nature these days but it is so important that we do so. In a world full of virtual realities, including the carefully manufactured scenarios from video games, movies and television, many children miss out on the real reality all around them. Spending time in nature refreshes and restores us in ways that those manufactured realities never will as we breathe in the wonders of creation.

  3. I live in Maryland – where we also have some BEs. Your descriptions are, like Mary said, vivid and detailed. Funny, I’m planning to forward your newsletter to my children, who are also often caught in virtual reality. Think we’ll go walk a nature trail to the beach today. 🙂

  4. Spending time in nature is time well spent. I hope your children enjoy my musings. Thanks for your comment.


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