Some of Which Even Have Wings

I am a “middle of the road” eagle watcher.

I don’t particularly mean that I stand in the middle of a road to watch eagles (although on some occasions I have done just that) but rather I mean that the opportunities to see these magnificent creatures here in Dayton, Ohio are better than in some places but far worse than in other places. In most of the country encountering a wild eagle is still an extremely rare experience while many other areas are enjoying a repopulation of nesting eagles along nearby lakes and rivers, with some of those areas now having several established nests. We have just two eagles here…for now. But I am extremely grateful for those two! Therefore when I get the chance to share about a special encounter with one of our eagles, I cannot wait to do so. Many, if not most, of the followers of this blog have rather limited opportunities to go wild eagle watching and since it has been a while since I have taken all of you along for the trip, grab a jacket, climb into my car and join me on a recent ride. But be aware of the fact that there are now more than 530 followers of this blog so my car may be a little crowded and we may all have to share seatbelts, but it will be worth the inconvenience!

It is the day after my last posting and as we approach the area of Eastwood Lake the noise and activity at the bridge construction site is in full swing. The massive cranes have already placed two of the four huge concrete beams on the supports and the third beam is just about to be pulled into position for unloading. The misty drizzle blurs the flashing yellow lights on the construction vehicles but they seem to sparkle even more brightly under the brooding overcast skies.

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As we enter the park we find the entrance road is damp and the green grass is wearing what looks to be a glistening coat of heavy dew. A dozen or more rain-soaked robins hunt for soggy worms as we idle slowly by. The local Whitetail Deer must be bedded down within the seclusion of the newly leafed underbrush for they are nowhere in sight. As we turn towards the lake a lone Great Blue Heron glides effortlessly above the water surface and lands on the shore nearby. Great Blues never seem to mind the rain. I reach for my camera and realize that it is still locked in the car’s trunk where I had placed it during a short stop for coffee on our way to the lake. I consider leaving it there but the heron is posing so beautifully that I begrudgingly zip up my jacket and step out into the cold, moist air. As I retrieve the camera and slip back into the driver seat the heron flies off laughing loudly as it heads to the far side of the lake. “What a dirty trick!” I sigh as I wipe the water from my glasses. But I am not at all surprised. It has been like that a lot lately. The windy, wet and unseasonably cold weather combined with the clutter and clatter of the bridge construction project has made picture taking difficult. Today’s dismal light conditions will require slower shutter speeds and any moving object will appear fuzzy anyway. It may not even be worth the effort to try to take pictures today. I put the car back in gear and we once again begin idling along the lake.

Then it happens!

Far ahead, beyond the distant guardrail of Harshman Road and just visible above the barricade of construction trailers, there is a flash of movement! As our eyes focus on the object we instantly recognize the strong, steady, determined wingbeats of an American Bald Eagle! Before you can say, “WOW!” my foot has already depressed the accelerator and we lurch forward. As we rush a few hundred feet further east all eyes are on the majestic bird. It momentarily dips low and out of sight, far behind the row of parked trailers but then it reemerges closer than before. We smile with the realization that it is headed directly towards us! My driver’s window comes down as I turn right and quickly park the car in the grass with the driver’s side facing the approaching eagle. Various questions flash through my mind in the instant it takes to grab and ready the camera. Is the eagle going to circle back into the well field? Will it turn and fly north along Harshman Road vanishing into the northern haze? Will it slowly gain altitude by circling over Eagle Lake? All of these scenarios are way too common as of late but the urgency of the moment drives those questions from my thoughts. And the eagle just keeps coming!

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The bird is clearly visible now as it gains altitude to pass over the power lines that parallel  Harshman Road. Judging by the size of those wings we are almost certain that this is our Cindy! “Every new mother needs to stretch her wings once in a while.” I muse. We cannot help but be impressed by the power she displays. Surely the drivers carefully maneuvering their cars though the orange barrels have to see this beauty passing just overhead! Surely the busy construction workers must be watching in amazement! But we will never know for our eyes are locked on this approaching wonder. As she clears the power lines I refocus the camera and continue snapping images.

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I find it rather difficult to focus on an eagle flying straight at me at around 30 miles per hour. Maybe that difficulty is a result of my lack of skill or a quickened pulse from the adrenalin rush (or quite possibly it is a combination of both) but I do my best to keep her in focus. Onward she comes! She clears the roadway! She is over the park now!

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My shutter is singing as she passes almost overhead. I even have to back off on the zoom to keep all of her in frame! While she passes about 50 feet away she glances in my direction and the telltale notch in her head feathers confirms the identification as she smiles down at us. (OK, maybe I just imagined that she smiled, but I was smiling big enough for both of us!)

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Then she turns her focus to the lake as she flies on.

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I start the car and we head after her hoping that she will fly back towards us. She circles a few times over the center of Eastwood Lake…

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before she turns north, leaving the lake and the park and eventually dissolving into the northern haze.

As we sit and attempt to regain our composure, we rejoice in appreciation of what we have just seen. It has been months since we have had a close encounter of a personal kind with one of our eagles. Somehow the cold, damp weather is a bit brighter, as are our moods. Hours of waiting and watching have finally proven to be fruitful. The middle of the road is not a bad place to be when the right type of traffic is passing by. As we look through the images securely captured within the camera it dawns on me that I had entered the park not expecting much to happen. In fact I would have missed the entire opportunity if it hadn’t been for that laughing Great Blue Heron that had tricked me into retrieving my camera from car’s trunk. I took its laughing as if it was mocking me while it flew off but perhaps it was laughing for me in anticipation of what was about to happen. As I think about that heron and Cindy’s short visit I am grateful for my life full of so many blessings, some of which even have wings!

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Published in: on April 11, 2016 at 6:43 am  Comments (26)  

26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your words are spell-binding, as you tell us the story, First the laughing Great Heron, and continuing so descriptive and swift as Cindy approaches. The photos were incredible and beautiful. I was in the backseat and enjoyed the ride throughout. Thank you. .

  2. I’m so glad you took me for the ride Jim,
    Thank you…

  3. That gave me goose( eagle) bumps!!!!! What glorious pictures of Cindy, she is just beautiful!!!! You were meant to be there and I believe Jim and Cindy know you and Roger and all the other watchers. So exciting to get that close up and we all can hear it in your voice!!!! Thanks for sharing and by the way……I call shot gun seat in your car for the next road trip!!!!!…….Polly.

  4. I was sitting right beside you and could hardly believe my eyes (of course through your eyes!) Thank you for sharing this ever opening story of God’s magnificent creatures.

  5. Thanks for taking all 530+ of us with you. 🙂

  6. Wow! awesome pics…thanks for your persistence.

  7. Thank you for inviting me on your adventure How exciting it was to see Cindy up close

  8. 😀😀😀 I’ve only seen them from the highway lately, sometimes perched near the tree. I SO wish we were able to see them closer.

    Lisa

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  9. I enjoyed joining you on this adventure (virtual as it was!). Hooray for Cindy!

  10. That is so awesome! Thank you for sharing. My family has always been intrigued with the bald eagle. I was able to see it fairly close one evening on my way home from work on Rt 4 by the lake in front of their nest. Is there a better time day than another to be able to see them? We have been down there several times to try and catch a picture.

  11. Thank you. What a pleasure to read this Monday morning.

  12. So glad to have you aboard Carol. We definitely got the last laugh!

  13. It was my pleasure Roger! It was a challenge not to bang the lens on the upper edge of the car window as she passed though. (Once it was all over I was hoping that I would find your Jeep parked nearby.)

  14. OK Polly! Everyone hear that? Polly called shotgun so the other 500+ will just have to wait your turns, but if it isn’t drizzling next time I will open the sunroof for you. Keep your eyes open Polly.

  15. I’m glad you squeezed in Diane! They are simple amazing and what a beautiful picture of God’s strength and grace!

  16. Thank you all for being so well behaved Kay! I didn’t have to threaten to “come back there” once!

  17. Thank you Karen. Persistence in most things pays off…eventually. (But if it paid off sooner there would be no need for persistence.) Glad you enjoyed the ride.

  18. Wasn’t she impressive Shirley? I’m still smiling. I’m so glad that you were there for the ride along.

  19. I haven’t seen you out at the lake lately Lisa. I wonder how often those moments happen just after the last one of us leaves. Do you think MetroParks would notice if we built a cabin there…with a kitchen…and a coffee pot…and a bathroom? Hmmmm? Maybe a small camper. Gee, I wonder who might have a small camper around?

  20. Hooray indeed Carolyn! That is the proper response when the queen passes by but we are usually left speechless and a bit giddy. I’m glad that you enjoyed the ride and I hope it wasn’t too cramped in there. (I’ve gotta buy a bus…or a passenger train.)

  21. Thank you for your comment Rachelle. We call that lake Eagle Lake as it never really had an official name before. As to a time of day, they are really unpredictable right now. Their usual patterns from previous years have changed a bit (possibly due to that bridge construction activity) but just around sunrise is still promising. Now that the eaglet(s) is growing they will be more and more active as the feeding needs increase. I have spent many hours waiting only to see distant glimpses. At other times one will pass overhead just before I enter the lake area or as I drive pass by on Route 4. Lately the pattern has been that the adult being relieved of nest duties will start low over Eagle Lake and slowly gain altitude until they are just a tiny spot in the sky, then they will drift east toward Huffman Dam and beyond. I have toyed with the idea of spending some time on the dam but if they maintain that altitude getting a good picture would be impossible. You really need good luck or persistence and to be ready to seize the opportunity if it arises. It is REALLY frustrating when the opportunity arises and your camera battery doesn’t! Believe me, I know.

  22. Thanks Ladonna. Monday mornings sometimes need a little boost.

  23. Thanks for your great pictures. They surely brightened this rainy day. Thanks to all. We are certainly lucky to live in this area and be so close to get your amazing photos and can see so many of Gods gifts in our location.

  24. Thanks Jim, I’ll put up with the cramped conditions, any time!

  25. I am glad that I could make the gloominess a little brighter Pat! God is good!

  26. Always room for more Jerry!


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