One Small Step

Do you know what it is like to be an eaglet about to fly from the aerie for the very first time? Neither do I. But let’s try to experience that moment in our imaginations. Actually, it may not be all that hard to imagine because we have all been through a similar experience before.

Do you remember your first step? You had mastered the art of rolling over, sitting up and even crawling, but that just wasn’t enough. You wanted more. So with a certain determination you began to experiment. You made your way to the nearest table, chair or couch and grabbed on! Perhaps in your mind you envisioned yourself simply crawling up the piece of furniture but your knees just could not find traction on a vertical surface, so you added this newly learned fact to your ever-growing storehouse of knowledge. Next you reached as high as your little hands could reach, grasped onto something and tried to pull yourself up. This effort proved slightly successful as you became a bit more erect but your arms just were not strong enough to keep you upright so you tumbled back to the floor. Remember? But you were determined to improve your mobility so you kept trying. Days passed. When you were awake and not being fed, or carried, or tickled, or having your annoying diaper changed, you were practicing. Alone in your crib you discovered that if you pulled yourself just right and tried real hard, you could move those two, long things hanging out of the bottom of your diaper into position to brace you upright for a few seconds and those chubby things at the bottom of those two long things (those things that Mommy insisted on tickling and kissing all the time) made pretty good platforms to stand on. You then learned that once you were standing upright you could bounce up and down and giggle with pride in yourself! Slowly you were leaning the basics, always adding to that storehouse of knowledge. What you did not realize was that as you stood bouncing and giggling, grasping tightly to your support, your muscles were growing stronger and stronger and you were developing a sense of balance. Finally on one glorious day you released your grip on the furniture and with your arms sticking out on either side of your body and your hands (for some unknown reason) making tiny circles in the air, you moved one foot and then the other and then fell onto your soggy diaper with a SPLAT! Mom cheered and applauded. Dad cheered and applauded. You cried. But you had done it! You had walked! Remember?

That is what I envision our trio of eaglets are doing right now. We call it “baby steps” for a reason. They have peered down from their aerie and seen people, machinery, deer, foxes, coyotes, groundhogs… They have looked into the sky and watched planes, heron, song birds, vultures, clouds… Everything around them seems to be going somewhere. Everything but the three of them that is. So they have been practicing. They hop and jump and flap their beautiful wings. Each movement strengthen their muscles and adds to their coordination. With every repetitive action they add to their own storehouse of knowledge. This week they will release their grasp on the safe and familiar and take that one small step towards freedom!

One may have taken that step already! Late Sunday afternoon I saw two very interesting things on the eagle-cam. The first was only two eaglets in the nest. Lately all three have been clearly visible on the rim of the palace. The second thing was Jim bringing food to the nest. Now the missing eaglet could have been lying down and Jim brings food to the nest every day but I have observed over the past four nesting season that every single time an eaglet fledges from the nest Jim or Cindy will immediately bring food into the nest if another nest-bound eaglet is present. It is as if the parents are trying to keep the unfledged eaglet content while they tend to the novice flier.

The oldest eaglet is 82 days old today and Jim and Cindy’s past eaglets have fledged between 83 and 86 days. I was so encouraged by the eagle-cam tonight that I fired off an email to our friends in the well field to let them know that there may be a flying eaglet in the trees near the nest. The crews there are very protective of their eagle family and will keep an eye out for any grounded or injured eaglets.

The fledging process is a dangerous one and the eaglets have many things to learn. As they fledge they will hopefully land safely in a tree. If an eaglet should land on the ground, it is much more vulnerable to predators and parasites and it may have difficulty getting airborne again as it will need to run and flap and lift its 10 pound body out of the tall grass. From a tree limb gravity will assist it in getting airborne again. The eaglets’ landings will be awkward and rough for a while as they learn this art and as they learn what size limb can be trusted for support. Jim and Cindy will keep watch over the flying youngster and bring it food as well. Eventually it may try to fly back to the nest and its siblings so if you see three eaglets in the nest, one may be smiling just a bit.

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I can only try to imagine what an eaglet goes through as it fledges but I know that instinct drives them to try just as it drove each of us to walk. They were designed for flying. They too were fearfully and wonderfully made. I may not be able to soar like an eagle but I can rejoice with them as they discover the wonders of flight. From the ground to the heavens they journey untethered. What freedom! What beauty! What gracefulness and liberty will be theirs! And it all begins with one small step.

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Published in: on June 16, 2014 at 4:40 am  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. how wonderfull the world of nature is!!!!!!! Thank you

  2. Beautiful, Jim! Wishing your eaglets Happy Trails and a long and healthy life.

  3. Is the eaglecam something anyone can look at?

  4. Yes it is Robert.

  5. Thank you Carolyn. Happy trails across the sky and smiling faces watching them fly!

  6. Yes it is marcwheat, except on some smartphones. From a computer you can access the cams at . Just click on the Raptor Cam link on the left side of the homepage and then click on the Live Stream button under Eagle Cam.

  7. Looking forward to another year of raising a brood of eaglets. Thank you so much for your efforts.

  8. I am looking forward to it to Robert! If the past pattern holds there should be two eaglets this year.

  9. Jim, I cannot drive for a number of reasons. Last year my wife took Me on the day of the picnic to Eastwood Lake and we could not find the Group. I had a gift for you. I still have it and will bring it this year when possible. I enjoy watching Eagles all over the country and learning all about those magnificent Birds. I also enjoy and envy your skills at writing.

    Sincerely,

    Robert H Boian

  10. Sorry we missed you Robert. Thank you for your kind words. I hope we can cross paths this year.


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