A Day At The Aerie

Bald Eagles are usually very dedicated parents and Jim and Cindy are exemplary Bald Eagles! They could write a book about the self-sacrificing devotion necessary to rear young eaglets. (OK, since holding a pen or typing on a keyboard may be a bit challenging with talons, maybe I could write it for them.) It takes coordination, cooperation and mutual respect for parents to properly share the duties, burdens and responsibilities of parenthood. Whether the child has feathers, fur or just unadorned, naked skin, successful parenting is an art form and Jim and Cindy are masters.

Let me share a few of the thrills, joys and surprises of spending just three hours watching those masters at work.

Although both the male and female adult Bald Eagle willingly share incubation, brooding, guarding, hunting and feeding duties, each parent has their own specific area of expertise. Cindy is usually the one you will see in the aerie (or perched just above it) and Jim is the primary hunter, sentinel and (eventually) flight instructor. When he is not hunting he is often perched in a nearby tree searching the skies for any possible threat to home and hearth. Out of view of the online Eagle-Cams but always with a clear view of the nest, he sits in alert silence, constantly scanning the trees, waters, grasses and skies of the wellfield, just as he was yesterday.

Always diligent!

Always diligent!

Jim the guardian.

Jim the guardian.

Meanwhile, up in The Treetop Palace stood Cindy, watching over three ever-hungry six-week old eaglets. The morning rains had finally subsided and the warm sunbeams working with the light breeze had all but dried the little trio’s soggy feathers.

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It was a warm and tranquil scene, an hour better suited for snoozing than eating. For a few minutes the eaglets napped and Cindy yawned as she basked in the toasty sunlight.

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But with the passing of time the little tribe began growing restless. Napping in the sunlight was alright mind you but it is hard to rest when your tummy starts growling. After all, it had been at least an hour since their last meal and now the three amigos were impatiently pacing about the nest and peering over the rim, straining their eyes for a glimpse of Dad, and (more importantly) lunch.

 

Jim had left his guard post about 30 minutes earlier and had headed off in the direction of Eagle Lake. Just what was he doing? We expected that he would arrive soon with the usual meal of fish in his talons. Perhaps he would bring home a duck of some sort. Maybe turtle would be on the menu. (The nearby “Garbage Tree” shaded a number of discarded empty turtle shells littering the grass beneath its lofty branches.) As if on cue, in the skies over Eagle Lake we spotted the unmistakable form of an approaching eagle carrying something in its talons! As it approached the river we could see that the prey of the day was not fish, fowl or reptile. It appeared to be mammal. But what mammal? Over the years we had seen squirrel, raccoon and groundhog making the airborne, one-way trip to the aerie but this was something different. Something different indeed. To our surprise, shock and somewhat dismay we could see the stocky body, heavy webbed feet and short, flat tail of a young beaver in Jim’s talons! (Well that was new.)

Leave it to beaver.

Leave it to beaver.

The youngsters in the nest looked a bit confused too as Jim landed in front of them. All eyes were on the strange entrée, including Cindy’s. Her mouth dropped open and she stared at the furry critter with a “What in the world is that thing!?” expression on her face.

"What cha got Poppa?"

“What cha got Poppa?”

For several minutes all five eagles were in the nest. Jim seemed quite pleased with himself while Cindy and the eaglets inspected, evaluated and reevaluated the unfortunate beaver.

The happy family.

The happy family.

What happened next was quite heartwarming. Cindy pecked at the animal, picked it up and carried it across the nest passing two hungry mouths and began carefully feeding the smallest (and most likely the youngest) of her eaglets. Jim, looking to be rather proud of himself, flew off to one of his guard positions.

Off to resume his post.

Off to resume his post.

Faithful father.

Faithful father.

For the next quarter hour or so Cindy shredded meat and fed her baby while its siblings sat in the nest and patiently watched. Eventually the youngster had had its fill and slipped back into the nest as the other two moved forward. Bit by bit the larger eaglets consumed their meal, occasionally tussling over a single morsel.

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When her brood was satisfied and most of the beaver had been consumed Cindy ate a little herself, turned and left the nest for the shade of a nearby tree as the youngsters watched her depart.

Cindy needs a break.

Cindy needs a break.

Faithful mother.

Faithful mother.

Her rest was well deserved. Her tireless devotion to her offspring was inspiring. She is after all a mother,
and mothers simply and lovingly do what needs to be done. With full tummies, her babies soon drifted off to sleep in the gently swaying nursery. Jim was perched a few hundred feet away on the broken top of another sycamore tree. Here now, with her broad shoulders turned towards the warmth of the ebbing sun sat the faithful mother, quietly enjoying the stillness around her, knowing that little ones grow hungry way too soon and the precious demands of motherhood will summon her again as nighttime approaches.

 

Our short visit has been educational, amusing and inspirational. I marvel at all I have seen. We are grateful to have enjoyed this blessing. Our pictures will allow us to share the adventure with others and to revisit the memories of this day for years to come. For us, this day was special. For Jim and Cindy it was just another day at the aerie.

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Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 3:23 am  Comments (16)  

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful. Thanks so much for a great bedtime story.

  2. Every time I see that you have posted I open it first. Your writings make me feel like I’m standing right next to you watching. I want to thank you for having such a great way with words.

  3. That was wonderful. Your words give us a beautiful story. Thank You so much. Oh! the pictures are simply amazing. Thank You again

  4. Jim,
    As always, very good words!!!
    Cheers,\
    Harris

  5. Thank you for the Mother’s Day post. They are inspiring to watch ! I think they will be leaving the nest soon, when they are fledglings do they come home to this nest for a while? Barb weikert. Sent from my iPad

    >

  6. Unbelievable! How in the world did Jim manage to catch a beaver? Well! After all. It was Mothers Day! A special day for a special Mom! A delicacy for sure! And as always……..she cared for her babies first. That’s what good Moms do! Thanks Mr. Jim!

  7. I hope you had sweet dreams.

  8. How sweet of you Jannice. Jim and Cindy have a great way with, well, everything.

  9. They are growing fast Barb, but they are still sprouting feathers. They will fledge between 70 and 92 days of age, in about a month or so. At first they will return to the nest to be fed and to hang out with their siblings but those visits will become less frequent as they follow Jim around. They will watch him fish and he will bring food to them in whatever tree they are in and by the end of July all three will be hunting for themselves. Even then they may return home once in a while until Mom and Dad hatch next year’s eggs and chase these youngsters away.

  10. She is a good mom Opal. I have seen beaver in the area but not recently. There are many gnawed off stumps and fallen trees along the Mad River in Eastwood Park. Often Jim will hunt from a perch watching for movement. My guess is that this beaver moved at the wrong time. Jim will remember that spot so if this one had any siblings, their days may be numbered.

  11. You are welcome Diane. The pictures tell the real story. I hope that my narrative helped tie them all together.

  12. Thank you Harris.

  13. These pictures are beautiful!!!!!! I am a mommy to three but I don’t recall having to get my feet wet to feed my little ones!!!!! Teehee. Jim and Cindy really amaze me and with your story telling it really keeps all of us right there and listening to your every word. You have a gift with words and I very much appreciate all you do! I hope your wife had a wonderful Mothers Day also. Thanks Jim. Polly.

  14. Thanks again Polly. Those little ones are really growing up fast and the nest will be really crowded in two weeks or so! (My wife had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Thank you for asking. I hope yours was as blessed as well.) Jim

  15. I do so enjoy your writings and the pics. Wish I lived closer to be able to observe myself. I will miss the photos and writings when they fledge. How old are they when they begin growing their white head & tail feathers.

  16. Thank you Wanda. The web cameras will be turned off in July but we will keep posting all year ’round. Those babies heads and tails will turn white during their 4th and 5th year when they reach maturity.


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