It’s Almost Time!

The bitter, biting wind whistles through the frigid air as it races unobstructed across the frozen surface of Eastwood Lake mocking the roar of the hydroplanes that raced across these same waters many summers ago. There are no cheering, swimsuit-clad crowds on the shore on this day, no vendors nor picnickers as far as the eye can see. Today there are but a few parka-clad spectators peering through car windows hoping to see an entirely different spectacle. Each short venture into the elements just outside the warm and protected confines of your automobile is a bit painful as you breathe in the icy air and hundreds of microscopic crystal daggers stab your cheeks and flash-freeze your nostrils. It is January 15th and the cold heart of winter has found us once again. You slowly pull your car into a position that provides you with a clear view of the only unfrozen pool of water on the lake where dozens of waterfowl bob up and down on the choppy waves. This is the stage on which todays performance will play out. The determined sunlight struggles to fight its way through the stubborn clouds and the winter winds buffet your car as you ready your camera and settle in for a potentially long wait.

Lights. Camera. Action!

A rush of warmth sweeps over you as the form of a juvenile Bald Eagle emerges from the just behind the distant tree tops to the east. Each strong, measured beat of its majestic wings brings it closer and closer to the open pool! You watch its approach in anticipation. It makes a few slow circles in the sky, several hundred feet from your motorized blind, assessing the world below. As you toy with the idea of driving forward, the youngster breaks its spiral and heads directly for the pool. Your patience has paid off.  You roll down the car window and focus your camera on the first-year juvenile hunting prey on the lake. It is no surprise that the eagle seems to be focusing on the group of Coots in the middle of the pool. Each pass creates an uneasy frenzy of flapping, bobbing and diving as the Coots avoid accepting the eagle’s dinner invitation. After a few minutes of focused attention through your viewfinder you are surprised to see another form flashing just above the surface of the pool. An adult Bald Eagle has entered the scene! Jim has come to the pool and you watch as he lands gracefully on the edge of the ice, just beyond the choppy water. He sits and intently watches his hunting offspring. You sit and watch them both. As the wind whistles and your camera shutter chatters you are thankful for this blessing and you wonder, “Can it get any better than this?”

So many choices!

So many choices!

Jim watching his juvie hunt.

Jim watching his juvie hunt.

It can.

After several minutes Jim launches from his icy perch like a rocket! His flight is straight, focused and determined! Something has caught his eye! This is an eagle on a mission! For a split-second you wonder if he has spotted a threat, perhaps a wandering adult eagle in his domain, or maybe he has spotted some prey of his own. As you follow Jim’s vanishing form to the east end of the lake you glimpse a flash of movement through the  barren branches and blowing crystals. You recognize the dark form of the broad wings of an adult Bald Eagle circling just above the lake! And now there are two! It is Cindy and Jim has joined his beloved in a ballet of ecstasy in the glimmering sunbeams! There is no toying with ideas now as you throw your car into drive and make your way east. Your vehicle slows to a crawl as you spot the pair standing side by side on the frozen lake. Your shutter sings as you capture frame after frame (almost 700 frames) of the two of them simply enjoying their togetherness. For the next forty minutes they pose for your lens. This may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The ice crystal-laden air dulls your pictures but not your excitement as you view the images of this special encounter, this natural and romantic spectacle. You smile as you realize that you have been richly blessed and have captured many of the moods of this pair of well-taloned lovers.

A brief, but passionate, conversation.

A brief, but passionate, conversation.

Stealing a kiss.

Stealing a kiss.

Always searching.

Always searching.

Always watchful.

Always watchful.

Windblown but together.

Windblown but together.

Captivating!

Captivating!

That was my experience a few days ago. That is what January and courting season is all about. As I look back on these images I realize that the cycle continues. Jim and Cindy are inseparable right now. Mating is just around the corner and we are just about a month from egg laying and incubation. During incubation Jim and Cindy will share the labor of keeping the eggs protected, rotated and warm for 35 days. Often the non-sitting adult will deliver food to its mate in the nest. Their dedication to each other and their shared tenderness always amazes me. Nesting season is a wonderful season and watching the courting behavior exhibited on the frozen surface of a lake on a windy January day reminds me that new life and new beginnings are just around the corner. It’s almost time!

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Published in: on January 21, 2014 at 5:09 pm  Comments (16)  

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your pictures are so wonderful!!!!!! I love to see Jim and Cindy together, but they seem so vulnerable as they are sitting on the ice! But I imagine they are such a powerful force as one so together they would be fierce!!!! You describe their tenderness and devotion to each other and I’m amazed at that also. Thanks Jim for braving the snow and the cold to capture these pictures, it does warm my heart!!!!!! Polly.

  2. Thank you Polly. They are very well equipped for survival and are usually unchallenged, but they are also always acutely aware if their surroundings. What amazes me the most is that they are so powerful and lethal yet so tender with each other their eggs and their eaglets. If it was cold, I hardly even noticed. 🙂

  3. Beautiful commentary & photos Jim. Always enjoy reading your posts.

  4. Hi,

    A great site.

    Where can we park or walk and see the eagles? My family wants to check them out.

    Thanks, Tom

  5. It just keeps getting better and better! Thank you for these “word tapestries” and gorgeous images, Jim! Happy nesting for Jim and Cindy. What a joy that the offspring come back. Wow. Big smile here.

  6. Thank you for your comments and glad you enjoy our posts.

  7. Hello Tom, Thank you for your comment. If you look back at my November 14, 2014 post titled Happy Eagle Watching you will find detailed instructions on how to view the nest. Be aware that it is a ways off, but clearly visible with the naked eye. Remember to search the trees around the lake and the lake’s icy surfaces as well. Let me know how you do. Good Luck.

  8. Joy is the word for it Carolyn! I love to watch the interaction. Thank you for your kind words. I hesitate to add words to the pictures because of the beauty of the eagles. The pictures speak for themselves but there are life events happening between pictures and a story that many enjoy hearing. The objectives we established when we started the group 5 years ago included sharing their beauty, their story and educating others while protecting their privacy and habitat. I hope my words are a positive step towards those goals.

  9. Beautiful narrative, as always Jim ! I can picture it in my mind ……..thanks again kind sir.

  10. Thank you Opal. (The eagles make winter much more enjoyable but I still really miss the warmth and fragrance of spring when it is 1 degree outside.)

  11. Thank you So much for all your wonderful Narrations!!!! I have always loved Eagles. And knowing we have some right here in our own backyards is really cool!!! I can’t wait till I have time where I can just go over there and sit with my camera and get my own pictures!!! That is on my bucket list!!!!! And I will do it here SOON!!!!! Thank you again for your beautiful pictures!!!!!!!

  12. Thank you Mary. I can identify completely. That was my bucket list. (I have a very shallow bucket and a very blessed life.)

  13. Thank you for keeping us posted and inspired, Jim! Enjoy your lyrical sense of things best put towards these majestic creatures. I’m going out this afternoon, armed with my Nikon and long lens, coffee thermos,
    a warm engine, and some luck! GOOD JOB! -Jay Vada

  14. I hope that you had success Jay. Thanks again for your kind words.

  15. With great anticipation of upcoming egg laying, will this years harsh winter delay the egg laying? Or will the eagles biological clock take over? Will Cindy and Jim’s parental success continue? Waiting and watching is the fun of it!

    It has been treat this winter to have the visiting eagles hanging out at Deeds Point. And now the road is open to the low dam for great viewing of them fishing the dam while the lakes are frozen. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos.
    Ron

  16. You are so welcome Ron. Only time will tell how this adventure unfold. The river activity has been fascinating this week!


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