What Really Counts

“Count” is an interesting word. It can be a verb as in “Count your pennies.” It can be a noun as in “I participated in a winter bird count.” It can be a title of nobility as in “Count Dracula”. It’s almost hard to count all of the many and varied uses of the word.

Some of the things that people do count are years, and you can surely count on the continual, steady passage of time. I have seen a lot of changes in and around Dayton, Ohio in my lifetime and because of my love for history, I have learned of quite a few more that occurred before my birth.

In recent postings I have written about a particular stretch of the Great Miami River here in Dayton that seems to have become an eagle magnet during the past few weeks. Please bear with me as I recount a little of the rich history behind that area before catching everyone up on the happenings of the last few days.

Most people know that there were two young, local men who managed to do the impossible on December 17, 1903. These brothers had developed the Wright theories to successfully manage powered flight. Wilbur and Orville became world-famous within just a few years of that date as they exhibited their flying machine around the United States and across Europe. Dayton rapidly became the hub of the development of aviation technology. Much of the brother’s experimentation and discoveries took place at various locations around the city. From their bicycle shop just west of our downtown to Huffman Prairie several miles east of Dayton, the 1903 flying machine was surpassed by newer machines resulting in longer, safer and more controllable sustained flight.

Many of Dayton’s other engineers, inventors and business men assisted in the blossoming development of this new aviation industry. Men like Charles F. Kettering, Col. Edward A. Deeds and John H. Patterson invested their finances and intellect into improvements in aviation. The new technology needed a testing and engineering facility and so Col. Deeds purchased a large parcel of property along the eastern banks of The Great Miami River from the family of Civil War General, Alexander McCook and the McCook Air Field was born. From 1917 to 1927 it would serve as the epicenter of aviation advances until the entire facility was moved to a newly purchased, much larger parcel of ground near Fairfield, Ohio that is now known as Wright Patterson Air Force Base. This archival image shows the area of McCook Field in the 1920s. This same area is crucial for the survival of our local Bald Eagles. (You knew you could count on me getting there…eventually.)

Area of McCook Field in 1922

Area of McCook Field in 1922

I have labeled some of the streets to help those of you familiar with The Gem City. (If you click on the image it will enlarge itself to provide more legibility.) The area looks far different today. You can count on things changing in nearly a century. I particularly like the old Miami Erie Canal that is still visible near the top of the image. McCook field featured a large sign that read, “This field is small. Use it all.” The paved runway was one of the very first paved runways anywhere as most landing strips were grass fields. The Great Miami River served as an emergency ditching spot off the end of the airstrip should an aviator have need of it. At the far right of the image you can see the old Herman Avenue bridge. It was near the end of that bridge that Dayton’s last eagles nest adorned a treetop until it was abandoned in 1938.

You may close your history books now.

This stretch of The Great Miami River is indeed crucial for Jim and Cindy and for the Bald Eagle repopulation explosion that we are witnessing daily. The inflow of the waters of the Stillwater and Mad Rivers along with the hydrodynamics of the low dam keep the waters in this small section of The Great Miami rather turbulent. This movement deters the development of ice and keeps the refrigerator light on for hungry eagles during the winter months. They can count on it.

And the eagles do just that. For 70 years we had zero eagles feeding there. Then in 2008 Jim and Cindy arrived. Today we could count as many as 6 Bald Eagles feeding from this 1/2 mile stretch of river! Jim, Cindy, a couple of young juveniles and those two sub-adult birds were snatching fish, scaring up the gulls and irritating the Canada Geese. You could sit in your car and watch them fly, call to each other, do a little talon grabbing and just look majestic! Here are several images that show a bit of the action as it was captured by our Lisa Brown Hite, Roger Garber and Roger’s wife, Marcia.

1492768_10205743517417716_8256300145579454054_o 1551702_10203345530270239_7249292171284345389_nl 1655494_10205736856771204_8702175797730063238_o 1800343_10203344888894205_8184082225471487092_nl 10012636_10205736826210440_4188710607176392803_o1957877_609362855830276_2653785098481934089_o  10430408_10203345448468194_7971134818277719460_nl10394068_10205749083956876_7996920842376194298_n  10450323_10203344795051859_1726397234991393554_ol 10556889_10203344984696600_6528505595052180594_ol 10628725_10203344888854204_7821566879599029987_ol 10841868_10205736803409870_8190836637696913254_o 10847518_10205749695052153_6908486880631184709_ol 10856683_10203344825372617_6412465517296420233_ol 10857181_10203344889134211_4853057349218530383_ol 10900005_10203345055098360_5153259728678675286_ol 10959438_10203344888974207_3946523471405277181_nl 10959977_10205736796129688_3621335683954863523_o 10974260_609363025830259_5963899087256792807_o 10974274_10203345432987807_4975333274658165962_ol 10978540_10205743470896553_531284777631262239_n

(Incidently, a couple of the images from my last posting were Marcia’s work as well.)

So if you get the chance, be a part of history! Come on down to the river and count eagles with us! You can also count on a lot of smiles as your heart is carried aloft on eagles’ wings. And that is what really counts!

Published in: on February 6, 2015 at 3:02 am  Comments (16)  

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wish I had eagles to view so close to home! You are so lucky to be able to enjoy them! It’s a three hour drive for me—in the coldest months of the year. Jealous! 🙂

  2. We were there a couple weeks ago…Will try again this weekend…thanks for the history lesson and updated pictures…so exciting!!!

  3. Where do you normally park to watch them from your car? I drove around that area and I did find a nice drive with a good view of the river, but it had “no parking” signs posted there. Also, where is the best place to watch them at Eastwood? Thanks!

    It sure is special to get to see an eagle, even when it’s just a glimpse of one flying that I spot while I’m driving along Route 4! Makes my day. 🙂 It would be really cool to actually sit and watch them! Thanks again for blogging and sharing your experience with us.

  4. One of the reasons that I post the story is to enable those who cannot be here to share the experience Becky. Many of our nearly 500 followers are unable to visit due to distance, health concerns etc. Some of our more senior followers have waited 7 or 8 decades for the eagles to return and it is my joy to share the fun with them even though they are unable to travel anymore. Three hours isn’t that far away, maybe I can arrange for Jim or Cindy to visit you.

  5. Tomorrow is predicted to be a beautiful day Joy. I hope the eagles show up this time.

  6. Good questions Melody. Along the Great Miami’s east bank is North Bend Blvd. As it passes The Kettering Field ball diamonds it has a wide gravel median. Parking is allowed in that gravel area and you can get a great view of the air above the water from your car. When an eagle flies in you can walk 40 feet to the top of the levee to watch it fish.

    At Eastwood Lake any place along the big lake may be fine, just search the skies and the trees. The nest is viewable from the Harshman Road end of the lake. If you look back several posts in the blog you will find detailed instructions for locating it but be aware that it is 1/2 mile away.

    At either location PATIENCE IS KEY! Sometimes the eagles are there before me, sometimes I have to wait. Sometimes they forget our appointment all together. Let me know how you do.

  7. Awesome photos!

  8. I love to read your postings. For those of us in the Dayton area, perhaps we can petition our Department of Natural Resources to follow the example of Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa and other states. It is so wonderful to watch from the laying of the egg to the hatching as I watched in Florida this year. I’m waiting for Decorah, Iowa and Hays, Pennsylvania for the laying of their eggs. My students will watch those to see this miracle of life! May our Jim and Cindy have many more years!

  9. Thanks for the history lesson Eagle Jim!!!!! And the awesome pictures!!!!! And I hope your wife is feeling better from her surgery!!! Please keep the updates coming. Thanks to you and all your dedicated eagle watchers!!!!!! Polly.

  10. These pictures are awesome thank you for sharing Lisa, Rodger and Marsha; also, Jim I am not from the Dayton area and I really enjoyed learning a little of the history. Thanks everyone I continue to look forward to your information and pictures. Most of all I enjoy watching these magnificent God created creatures!

  11. Thank you James. I’m glad you liked them. Our photographers are super!

  12. Thank you Diane. I have one other option that we are working on to reactivate the eagle-cams. If it pans out the coverage would be much better. Patience is key in eagle watching.

  13. Thanks again Polly. My wife is recuperating better than anyone had hoped as long as she doesn’t overdo it. The eagle watchers appreciate your support.

  14. We love sharing the images and story of our eagles, April. Dayton has a lot of interesting history to share as well.

  15. Just love all of the photo ops. It’s do exciting every
    day to see your newest pics of the magestic eagles. Thank you all so much for the joy you bring to us.

  16. Thank you Pat. We try to keep folks informed and involved.

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