Wondering What Wild Wonders We Will Witness While Winter Winds Whine

And a bit worried too.

The next few days will be very challenging for the non-hibernating residents of Eastwood. Today’s constant rain in 37 degree air has morphed into blowing snow as a major Arctic blast cuts through the Midwest bringing life-threatening low temperatures of 20 degrees below zero (or colder) accompanied by 40 miles-per-hour winds. The resulting wind chill will make the temperature feel more like -50 degrees. That is cold! Although the extreme temperatures will be short-lived and will rebound into the positive 40s in three days, our local wildlife will face some real struggles. Even as I type these words I can hear the gusting wind beating against the exterior of my home.

Although Bald Eagles are well suited for Alaska-like cold, these temperatures (and the rapid change with which they are impacting the region) are extreme. Jim and Cindy winter here because their food supply is constant. The Mad River, which seldom freezes, and the more turbulent waters where the Mad dumps into the Great Miami near downtown Dayton are reliable winter fishing holes. Coots, Canada Geese, various gulls and other waterfowl also are possible sources of nutrition for our local eagles so even if the wind-driven frigid air should freeze the water’s surface they should be able to find a meal. But these temperatures only hit us every few decades and will be a new experience for Jim and Cindy and the local juveniles.

If you have been following this blog for any time at all then you know how I look forward to each season of the year and the opportunities they bring to witness different stages of the eagle’s annual cycle of life. As a preteen I would often pass a summer afternoon lying in the fragrant grass on a sun-drenched hillside and watching the avian activity above me, hoping to catch a glimpse of a wild eagle soaring by. Five decades later I am very privileged to be able to watch the fulfillment of that dream. We are currently in the heart of courting season as Jim and Cindy playfully chase each other through the sky and perch side by side on barren, lakeside boughs.

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They are fishing and hunting the area of Eastwood Lake almost daily now. In fact, they have had quite a bit of company lately. Roger captured this image last week of the eagle activity on the surface of the partially frozen lake.

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That is Cindy airborne and Jim holding, and protecting, his Coot. The three juveniles look to be first or second year birds. Jim and Cindy fledged 2 eaglets in 2011 (one of which was fatally injured), 3 eaglets in 2012 and 2 more last year. Although Pride, their surviving 2011 eaglet, would appear a bit older than these young eagles, I suspect that at least one or more of them are Jim and Cindy’s offspring. Two of these juveniles flew into the well field at sunset and roosted in a tree adjacent to the aerie. Their close proximity to the nest somewhat confirmed my speculations. However, the mortality rate for first-year eagles is still quite high so the odds are somewhat against the survival of all 6 of Jim and Cindy’s eaglets. Just looking at this image stirs the heart of that young boy who still lives, hopes and dreams somewhere deep within this aging body. (He finds it hard to believe that all of this eagle activity is taking place right here in Dayton, Ohio.) And that stirring brings a smile to my face.

As today’s rains fell Roger snapped the following pictures of Cindy flying just above the frozen surface of Eastwood Lake. The filtered light of the overcast skies and the veil of precipitation add a mystical quality to the images and enhances the beauty of this majestic and graceful huntress.

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There are so many amazing images from this week. (Mine fail to compare to Roger’s but that is alright with me.) But there are two more that I simply have to share with all of you. Friday, as Jim and Cindy were hanging out near the west end of the lake which had been barricaded from traffic due to road conditions, Roger and I positioned our vehicles about 200 feet apart near the east end of the lake, anticipating Jim and Cindy’s return to the well field. As we watched and waited, over the lake we saw the unmistakable silhouette of a Bald Eagle flying towards us. It was Jim and he was heading my way! I stepped out of my car and tried to find secure footing on the icy pavement while focusing in on the rapidly approaching target. (If you have ever tried to focus a camera on a lone bird in a clear sky then you know that even locating the animal through a viewfinder is difficult. Then trying to keep a rapidly approaching bird in focus adds a whole different element of difficulty.) As I aimed at Jim, he turned and aimed at Roger. He passed about 40 feet high, directly over Roger’s head. I wish I had had the forethought to pull back and snap an image of Roger aiming his big lens straight up at Jim as he passed overhead but I was focused on the eagle. I was sure that Jim was moving too fast and was too close to Roger’s big lens for him to capture a decent image. I was wrong. Here are two images that he somehow managed to snap as Jim approached and passed overhead.

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How does he do that!?

I will keep you all updated on how Jim and Cindy survive winter’s first frigid blast of 2014. They are happy and healthy. I trust that they will be just fine. But with these Arctic temperatures, I admit that I am a bit anxious as I wait here wondering what wild wonders we will witness while winter winds whine.

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Published in: on January 6, 2014 at 7:30 am  Comments (7)  

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Another beautiful blog. I look forward to reading these and am never disappointed. The photos are stunning. The descriptions unforgettable. Well done! — again.

  2. Just wonderful reading this latest tale. Thanks again. Keeping a positive thought in mind for the next few ‘cold’ weeks and like you, can’t help but worry a bit.

  3. Thanks again Carolyn. We are still watching for Destiny.

  4. The photos are so awesome!! Roger captures such detail and It seems like you and Roger could just reach out and touch Jim!! And I really believe that Jim and Cindy know the two of you and get so close as if to tell you to be sure and get a good picture!! The story of you as a child watching for an eagle as you are lying in the grass and now your reality of capturing photos and telling all of us about “our” eagles has to make you feel so blessed!!!! And I thank you for sharing so I can feel that excitement also!!! Polly.

  5. Thank you Polly. It is Roger that the dynamic duo searches for. I still am amazed at how beautiful they are and what a blessing it is to finally be able to visit with them on a daily basis right here at home.

  6. Love your final sentence (in addition to the whole blog) because I can practice those terrible w’s!

  7. Thank you Sidney. It looks to be an interesting and promising year!


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