The Things You May See

Summer is a fascinating season at Eastwood and this year is proving to be a fascinating summer. Days of monsoon rains in the western half of Ohio have been interrupted by hot, humid days of hazy sunlight. Watching our local eagles has been a real challenge as they have been hiding deep in the safe, remote recesses of their territory and the moisture-laden weather has apparently added to the heaviness of my eyelids.

The heavy precipitation means rapidly moving, muddy river water so avian fishing efforts have been focused mainly on the more tranquil and transparent lakes that pepper the well field’s landscape. Hours of watching and waiting without having much to watch can be taxing. To break up the monotony I will sometimes take a quick drive or stroll around the park. The patches of sundrenched wildflowers in the meadow are exploding with brilliant colors and activity. Goldfinches, House Finches, hummingbirds, Song Sparrows and other feathered creatures feed on the thistle adding to the profusion of colors. Resident mockingbirds add a melodious soundtrack to the virtual fireworks of hues.

Gold in the meadow.

Gold in the meadow.

House finches and thistles.

House Finches and thistles.

Listen to the Mockingbird.

Listen to the Mockingbird.

Along the Mad River, in the shaded coolness of the heavy, woody foliage, is where the larger wildlife is often hiding. That was where during a quiet moment of gazing upon yet another wildflower garden a bit of movement drew my attention as a young doe slowly raised her head and curiously peered at me through the blooms.

A surprise among the wildflowers.

A surprise among the wildflowers.

We watched each other for at least fifteen minutes. I was captivated by her eyes. She was questioning my intentions. She still wore a few fading fawn spots on her back and her actions seemed somewhat familiar to me. She silently watched me for a few moments with her ears independently rotating like two radar installations as she searched for audible clues. The wind was squarely at my back so I knew she was catching my scent as well. After a brief pause she cautiously advanced a few steps before pausing again to repeat the process.

I believe I will call her

I believe I will call her “Wildflower.”

Could this have been the little fawn that I had mentioned encountering in a post in the spring of 2014? She had walked slowly from her mother’s side inspecting my presence in much the same manner. That young fawn had crept to within just a few feet of me before her mother’s stomping foot called her back. This time her cautious advances had moved her to around 40 feet from me before the pausing of a passing car caused her to flee.

Just before she fled.

Just before she fled.

On a subsequent visit to this same secluded wildflower patch I found the big Eastwood buck, velveted antlers and all, foraging among the greenery. He too carefully studied my presence but made no attempt to move towards me.

Eastwood's big buck.

Eastwood’s big buck.

After a few minutes of staring at my camera and shutter-clatter-induced ear twitching he returned to his foraging, slowly and casually dissolving into the trees, apparently assured that I was no threat.

But I had come, as always, to watch eagles and no matter how patient and attentive I remained, there were just no eagles to watch. Not on this day anyway. It has been over a month since Jim and Cindy’s lone 2015 eaglet had fledged and I ached to know of its success.

That is why I was elated when I received a message from our fellow eagle watcher, Lisa. As she was driving down Route 4 she had passed by Cindy and her youngster! The two eagles were perched in a tree that we have become very familiar with near the southeast corner of Eagle Lake. We have long called this particular tree “Jim’s Tree”. If Jim has some free time on his talons he will quite frequently perch in this tree to watch the setting sun as he surveys his lake. The sighting of the youngster constituted enough of an “emergency” that Lisa pulled to the shoulder of the highway long enough to quickly snap a few images from some distance away.

Cindy and her baby.

Cindy and her baby.

As she watched, the juvie flew from the tree to the lake, gracefully grabbed a fish and flew to a utility pole for dinner! (Well that answered that question. The youngster is fishing like a pro!)

After the successful catch. (I hate it when they land here.)

After the successful catch. (I hate it when they land here.)

Now, two final observations: Judging by the relative size of the juvenile as it was perched by Cindy, I am guessing she is a she. And although perching on any utility pole is a potentially disastrous thing to do, novice fliers, or more precisely novice landers, seem to prefer the uncluttered crossarms of these poles. You can see the avian protection devices or local utility company has installed on many of the poles in the well field. The Eastwood Eagle Watchers and the wonderful people of the City of Dayton Water Department had requested that something be done to reduce the threat to the eaglets after we lost the eaglet “Spirit” in a nasty pole related incident in 2011. Our group identified the poles that were most frequently visited by the eaglets and those poles were quickly retrofitted with devices. The image posted here shows the plastic, inverted triangular devices that are intended to discourage perching by obstructing the wooden beam. (These devices met with limited success.) The device protruding up near the pole top is a standard rangepin that was installed to obstruct the wider pole top itself. The most important devices by far are the brown-colored, plastic devices that cover the insulators of each bare conductor on the pole as well as the first 6 feet or so of each conductor on either side of the pole. Not only do these devices add an additional element of insulation to reduce the risk of electrocution, they make the wires more visible and therefor less of a threat for a wing or muscle being damaged by contact with a single conductor while landing on, or flying from the poles. And because these devices fit loosely on the wires, the hard plastic proves to be an unnatural and unstable perch should an eaglet attempt to land on the device itself. In time the youngster will master the difficult art of landing in trees with her 6’+ wingspread and grow to prefer the protective seclusion of the limbs to the openness of the poles.

In stormy weather or in hot, muggy air, if you can keep your heavy eyelids raised, you never can predict the things you may see.

Published in: on July 20, 2015 at 3:11 am  Comments (8)  

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Stunning pictures, Jim. I’m so glad you shared them with us. I loved hearing about your close encounter with Wildflower. She’s a cutie. The handsome buck has quite a rack to show off. He looks especially proud to show them to you. I can just feel the velvety touch of his antlers. So happy to see Cindy and her baby. It’s also good to know the youngster is learning how to fish. Thanks again Jim, for sharing your beautiful area with us. I hope, maybe next time you go out, the eagles will let themselves be seen.

    Sandy Stricklin
    Omaha, NE

  2. Thank you Jim for your posts. I totally enjoy them. Just wondered how you can tell whether the eagle flying is Jim or Cindy???

  3. Thanks again Sandy. I will always wonder how close she would have come if that car hadn’t spooked her. It is frustrating at times when you wait for an extended period of time for wildlife to appear and some human activity scares them off. This time the persons in the car paused to see the deer so I cannot blame them. There have been several time when after investing an hour or two of waiting a person has intentionally yelled or pounded on the side of their car to scare the animals away. That is aggravating! There is a tree at Eastwood Lake that the eagles will sometimes land in and it allows for some very close pictures. There have been times when I have waited patiently and finally had an eagle perch in that tree only to have a fisherman pull up a minute later and park under the tree to fish nearby, flushing the eagle from its perch. “Wow! Did you see the size of that bird?” they ask. “Yep, I noticed it.”

  4. Thank you for your comment Diane. If Jim and Cindy are together, she is taller and broader. Cindy also has a very obvious notch in her white head feathers at the front of her neck. Many eagles have this notch but Jim’s is very slight and Cindy’s is much more prominent. I am not sure if the notch is visible in the image I chose to use in the blog post but it was clearly visible in some of the images Lisa captured that day. Cindy also has a larger wingspan that we have come to recognize over the years.

  5. The picture of the beautiful buck and fawn were amazing!!!! I also enjoyed the birds and wild flowers. Knowing Jim and Cindy and their baby are okay makes me smile too!! Thanks for spending hours watching and waiting for a sign from our eagles. I appreciate all of the Eaglewatchers hard work!!!! Polly.

  6. Thank you Jim for sharing your passion. I’ve been to Ceaser’s Creek fishing a few times and have seen what I think is an eagle flying close to the dam. The only other eagle I’ve seen flying has been in Yellowstone so I can appreciate the surprise and thrill you experience when you see Jim and/or Cindy. I love it that they are here in Dayton and will keep my eyes out for them when I’m in that area of town. It’s something we city folk don’t often think about and never take time to notice.

  7. Thank you Polly. This is a beautiful world full of fascinating creatures!

  8. Thank you Steve. There are eagles in the Waynesville/Harveysburg area. I had one pass over my car as I was driving on 73 last year. I do not know of a nest on the lake but they are fishing there. They may be from the Little Miami nest a bit farther to the north. I am also grateful for their return to Dayton. Thank you for checking in with us.

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