Now That The Wrapping Paper Has Been Removed

I have always thought that it is very fitting that the new year follows so closely on the heels of the Christmas holiday. Just one week after all of the beautifully wrapped gifts have been opened and the ribbon, paper and bows have been discarded, we are blessed with a very special gift of 365 days! It is ours to unwrap and to cherish. What mysterious adventures lay concealed under its wrapping? What treasures will we discover hidden within its days? It is perceived as a new start by many who resolve to make improvements in their personal lives and relationships. We dream of the possibilities and hold tightly to the hope of a better tomorrow.

Each day is a present, and I have no doubt that that is the reason we call the current time “the present”. Just a few short years ago I was still longing for the thrill of seeing eagles gracing the skies above Dayton, and now I can look back on 4 successful nesting seasons and 10 fledged eaglets! I have watched as Jim and Cindy’s love story has unfolded both around me and above me. Each day has been a precious gift, each sighting a wonderful present. Their tenderness and faithfulness is inspirational and their gracefulness unmatched in the animal kingdom. And so I return again and again to the shores of Eastwood and to the rivers that crisscross their domain, searching and waiting, quietly watching for the next present that the present hour may present to me.

Our eagles have been somewhat hard to find which is unusual for early winter, but that just makes the anticipation greater. As I sat in the car on New Year’s Eve and watched as the wind whipped up impressive waves on the lake, I tried to see my surroundings through Jim and Cindy’s eyes. Now I cannot begin to imagine the depth and details of their amazing eyesight but their domain is full of creatures that I rarely see but, I would imagine, are seen daily by our eagles as they perch silently in a barren tree surveying their realm.

So I turned my eyes from the watery scene before me and concentrated on the nearby woodland. There I found a whitetail buck standing in the tall grasses. He paused for a moment and carefully watched me as well, assessing whether or not I presented any threat to him or his nearby does.

Friend or foe?

Friend or foe?

After a moment or two he had determined that I was more friend than foe and returned to his grazing before eventually dissolving into the brush. I am always appreciative of the way such a large animal can disappear into its surroundings even without the use of stripes or spots sported by so many other creatures for camouflage.

Back to grazing.

Back to grazing.

I then drove to the other side of the nearby Mad River to see what the eagles might see in this part of their world. I parked the car and hiked a few hundred feet to the southern bank of the river. The thermometer read 25 degrees and the brisk wind out of the south informed me that this would be a very short excursion. But that was before I made my way under a nearby overpass to the very edge of the well field that Jim and Cindy call home. As I reached the last few feet of public ground I instantly froze! Not because of the weather mind you, but because I had happened upon 3 whitetail does wading across the Mad River. They were so close that I could not raise my camera for I knew I would frighten them for sure. Now if I know anything about deer it is that when you see one or more, you may soon see others, so slowly I moved into a less conspicuous position nearer the overpass. Before long a young buck emerged from the wood on the distant hillside and approached the flowing water. He was obviously sniffing the air for the scent of the does. Slowly and cautiously he made his way across the river. This time my camera was already in position.

Young buck following the does.

Young buck following the does.

The crystal blue water in the unfiltered sunlight provided a vivid contrast to the dull beiges of the wintry foliage along the river bank. Since I could still feel my fingers and toes and since I sensed that this show might not yet be over, I silently waited for the next act. As cautious and methodic as the young buck had been, the next scene was anything but! There was a quick flash of activity atop the hill as a young deer flew from the wood! It raced with such abandon in a confusion of circular patterns that I was sure that I would soon see a coyote in hot pursuit of the youngster.

Helter skelter romp.

Helter skelter romp.

But what emerged next from the trees was far from the hunter that I was expecting. As the youngster continued its dance a majestic buck stepped out into the sunlight. It took a few steps to the very crest of the hill and paused as if he were posing for my lens. He looked every bit like Bambi’s father from the famous Disney masterpiece.

Majestic Buck.

Majestic Buck.

As he stood motionless on the hillside, he too sniffed the air for any sign of the wandering does. Again I remained as quiet as possible. Slowly and so very cautiously he advanced downhill toward the water. Old bucks are wise creatures. (That is how they live long enough to become old bucks.) He knew that to be out of the protection of the trees and on a sunny hillside on a clear afternoon made him vulnerable. Eventually he made his way to the water’s edge. Again he stopped. Again he sniffed the wind.

Caution at the water's edge.

Caution at the water’s edge.

This time he seemed more alert. He had learned that fording a river of water meant that there would be no nearby cover and his mighty legs would be less agile with the wet footing. Deer move their ears independently listening for any strange sounds and now both of his ears turned in my direction. The wind was at my back and I knew he had caught the sent of a human. His eyes searched the distant riverbank. Although I tried to hold my shivering body as still as possible it was hopeless. I could tell in an instant that I had been spotted. Up went the mighty buck’s flag. He turned and retreated to the safety of the trees a few yards upstream from where he had stood.

And away we go!

And away we go!

He was gone, and so was the feeling in my fingers and toes.

I turned and made my way into the wind and back to the car where I took a few minutes to thaw out before driving home. To see as the eagle sees would be a wonderful gift indeed. Jim and Cindy have picked a beautiful place to call home. Much of their domain is a refuge for wildlife, an oasis of natural tranquility in a desert of man-made confusion.

But since this blog  is dedicated to eagles, please allow me to share one more brief story.

On New Year’s Day, Ray Mueller, one of the three of us that contribute images to this blog, was downtown along The Great Miami River photographing waterfowl and such. Now even though we have had little ice on the lakes so far, when we do see eagle activity in the winter it is generally along the rivers. That was the case on New Year’s Day. The adult eagle that Ray saw through his camera lens does not appear to be Jim or Cindy as it seems to have a bit of black on the outer edges of either side of its tail. Although this portion of The Great Miami is well within Jim and Cindy’s domain, this is the season for roaming eagles to pass through the area and rivers serve as their highways as well as their refrigerators. So for your enjoyment, I will leave you with the following five, amazing images of this nomad raiding Jim and Cindy’s ice box.

Nomad on wing.

Nomad on wing.

Searching the waters.

Searching the waters.

The approach.

The approach.

The grab!

The grab!

Fresh fish for dinner.

Fresh fish for dinner.

Who knows what other treasures we will find in 2015 now that the wrapping paper has been removed.

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Published in: on January 4, 2015 at 4:45 am  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your updates are written so well! It is as if reading a good book! You don’t want it to end! Thanks for all you do.

  2. What a beautiful piece. Thanks Jim.

  3. Wonderful photos ! Can’t wait to see Jim and Cindy on a regular basis!!

  4. Thank you Bonnie. There are more chapters yet to come!

  5. Thank you Gigi. I wish that I had more to share on our eagles but they are just not wanting to be seen lately.

  6. I can’t wait either George. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they are more cooperative. Thank you for your comment.

  7. I was so excited to see a post from “eaglejim” !!!!! Thank you for the up dates on all of the wild life even though it wasn’t about our eagles it is still wonderful pictures!! And hopefully soon Jim and Cindy will return to the well field to their adoring fans!!!!! Thanks for all you and the other EagleWatchers do!!!! Polly.

  8. Thank you for all of your updates. I really look forward to them

  9. There back Polly! There back! Thanks for hanging in there and tagging along with us.

  10. I am glad that you enjoy them Diane. We love sharing their story.


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