And Sometimes You Get Quite A Show

Dayton, Ohio has only one pair of resident Bald Eagles. Just one pair. Unlike Alaska, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, The Great Lakes, coastal Florida and several other places around the North America continent where these majestic birds are much more plentiful, we have only Jim and Cindy. Now, I am not complaining because one pair is 100% more than we had from 1938 to 2008, but with only two resident birds to watch, you just never know what you are going to see out there. Sometimes you see nothing and sometimes you get quite a show!

That is what made Saturday, April 19th, quite a day. It was warm and sunny, more like early summer than early spring. The persistent, light breeze out of the west and the low humidity added a refreshing touch to the warm air as I spent an hour during the late afternoon chatting with some delightful people. A young couple from Beavercreek and his or her parents who were visiting from Indiana had come to Eastwood Lake to view the nest and (hopefully) flying eagles. As we chatted and watched we could clearly see Jim and Cindy at the nest. Eventually one of the eagles took to the air and (to my surprise) the other one joined it!

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Now even though it was a beautiful day we knew that they would not leave the vulnerable eaglets unprotected for very long. Sure enough, less than two minutes later one of the eagles returned to the nest. That brief but important flight was all about reinforcing the strong pair-bond between Jim and Cindy. A few circles alone together in the open sky is like a quick date night for human couples, an opportunity for a couple to leave the demands of parenting and just enjoy being together. Even though the flying duo stayed east of Harshman Road my companions were thrilled to be able to see wild Bald Eagles doing what Jim and Cindy do so well. After several more minutes the four visitors left with the younger couple promising to visit again soon.

Now there is that unwritten rule in eagle watching that the eagles seem to fly just after one of the watchers leave, so I noted the time as they drove away. Eight minutes later, this happened.

 
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Cindy flew overhead, stretching her wings and drifting on a thermal. She was lovely. I thought of how much those two couples would have loved to have seen her from this perspective. She made several passes overhead before slowly gaining altitude as she rode the updraft higher and higher, eventually disappearing into the sun. Soon I was joined by others taking advantage of the nice weather to get in a little eagle watching. We kept scanning the western sky looking for Cindy but to no avail. The next time that we spotted her she was back on the nest with Jim. (They are mighty big birds but they can be awfully sneaky at times.)

Some time later, Jim left the nest and headed west over the Mad River. This flight was different. It was a flight of speed and purpose. As he disappeared behind the trees we could just make out the shape of another large bird behind the budding treetops. Had he seen a poaching Osprey trespassing in his domain? Was there a third eagle in the area? I looked back at the aerie and Cindy had repositioned herself to the branches above the nest.

 
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I have seen them take this defensive position before when trouble was afoot nearby. From here she could quickly jump to the nest to shield her eaglets or rocket skyward to defend her young.

 

In a few minutes we spotted a juvenile eagle flying from the direction that Jim had gone and heading towards the nest. It was very possibly one of their own youngsters heading towards what had previously been home.

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It would not be well received with babies in the nest. I could not hear Cindy’s alarm call from where I stood but apparently Jim did. Eagles have excellent hearing and as Cindy dropped to the nest Jim crossed back over Harshman Road rushing to the rescue.

 
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After seeing several flashes of fleeing and pursuing eagle wings through the distant branches, the properly chastised youngster reappeared over the roadway and drifted off to the west once more. Cindy remained in the nest while Jim disappeared somewhere within the confines of well field.

Once again the group of eagle watchers stood in the early evening air and watched. About thirty minutes later, wave after wave of Double Crested Cormorants passed overhead heading towards the golden glow of the descending sun.

 
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They had begun arriving in great numbers two weeks ago. Most will soon venture further north but a hundred or so will spend the summer here. As we watched yet another approaching wave we noticed a different, larger shape among the stragglers.

 
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Jim was making his evening rounds, inspecting his realm and assuring that all was right before the setting sun ushered in a few hours of welcomed rest.

He slowly circled low over Eagle Lake

 
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before lowering the landing gear

 
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and coming to rest on a perch just inside of the well field fence.

 
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And there he sat as the day slowly ebbed away. With the last parting rays of golden light he spread his mighty wings and returned to the nesting area beyond the trees. There, safe under the watchful eyes of their faithful mother, at least two three-week-old eaglets are bedded down to rest, unaware of the threats and challenges of life. Their day will come soon enough. For now they are safe, sheltered and protected by their majestic parents who rule their domain with precision, teamwork and a pair-bond that will last a lifetime.

Eagle watching is indeed a fickle thing. Sometimes you see nothing at all. Sometimes you get quite a show!

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Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 5:23 pm  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How wonderfull to hear of Cindy and Jim enjoying the beautiful day they had. We were at Hueston Woods last week and caught a glimpse of their resident Eagle. Even at a distance, it’s an awesome thing to see. But no mistaking that white head! Just beautiful……keep up the good work along with your photos. It brings us so much pleasure! Hats off to you Mr. Jim!

  2. That next-to-last paragraph melted my heart. Thank you for allowing all of us to virtually share in your wonderful world of eagles.

  3. My husband and I were the young couple that eagle watched with you on Saturday, along with his parents and my mom. Figures something more would happen after we left! 🙂 We were thrilled with what we did get to see while there and were grateful to meet you and learn more about Jim and Cindy. We’ve been checking the eagle cam and looking forward to going out there again to see them very soon. My husband’s parents found out that they had a bald eagle visit their yard just the other day in Salem, IN while they were visiting us (the neighbors saw it and took pictures). It was in a tree right next to their house! 🙂

  4. My apologies to your mother, Kathryn . I guess she had slipped my mind. An eagle coming to your in-laws’ yard while they were gone sounds like something that would happen to me. I hope our paths cross again soon.

  5. Watching them is a moving experience Carolyn . Learning from them is a blessing . Thank you.

  6. I am glad that you were able to see the Acton Lake eagle, Opal. They too are doing very well.

  7. I was watching the Eagle cam Friday night and saw some different behavior from Jim and Cindy then I have ever seen before. Both were looking skyward and then Jim shot straight up and Cindy spread her wings covering the two babies in the nest! I have paid attention to all that you have said and just assumed there was some sort of threat and both parents were in protective mode!! Gradually I watched as Cindy pulled in her wings and looked down at her babies in such a loving way that it really is amazing how fierce, then how tender eagles can be!!! Thanks for the photos and story and some day I hope to watch Jim and Cindy up close and in person!!! Polly.

  8. Thank you Jim, It’s a wonderful mission that you are keeping interested people informed about Jim and Cindy and Family. Thank You

  9. That is what they do Polly. They are the perfect balance of fearsome protection and loving tenderness. It is no wonder that God uses them so often as an illustration of His provision in The Bible.

  10. Thank you Diane, we love sharing their story.


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