A Tale of Two Palaces

Once upon a time, long ago in a land not so far away, a handsome young prince called Jim and his beautiful bride, Cindy, sought far and wide for a kingdom of their own. Their journey led them to a wonderful land where the rivers flowed as freely as the wildlife played! In this land all was well. Field and stream, meadow and woodland abounded with life and excitement. It was a land full of promise and potential. “This shall be our kingdom!” proclaimed the young prince and his beautiful bride nodded in agreement.

Now this new king and his lovely queen were of independent spirits needing no royal court or attendants. They were quite anxious and able to accomplish all they desired through personal labor and sheer determination. So, being of like mind, they began at once to construct a magnificent palace for what kingdom has not such a structure, what king can rule without a palace from which to do so? Therefore while still wearing their royal robes they began at once to construct their kingly residence.

(Did I fail to mention their regal appearance? Please forgive me for their appearance was the envy of all! From the crown of their heads to their shoulders they were covered in the most brilliant white one could imagine! Whiter than snow were their heads, whiter than the clouds that drift across the heavens on a bright summer’s day! Why, their heads appeared so purely white that in the sunlight they glimmered with the luster of angels’ wings. From their shoulders down they were robed in a dark chocolate hue with a single golden, embroidered thread sparkling here and there throughout the garments. Each robe ended in a fanning white train as glorious as the crown of their heads. Their feet were shod in bright yellow slippers with toes of the deepest, polished ebony. Is it any wonder that those they encountered were utterly captivated by their beauty?)

So the first step of any home construction project is to find the perfect location and this was to be no ordinary home for this would be their royal palace! Together they searched for an ideal site. Soon their eyes fell upon a giant sycamore tree with branches tall and true. Theirs would be a palace in the treetops where they could survey their domain and raise prince and princesses free of threat from man or beast. And so the real work began. Every timber was carefully selected and set into place by the monarchs themselves. It was a labor of love and the hours of working together only strengthened the bond between them. Day after day they toiled side by side. Day after day the palace walls grew higher and higher until at last King Jim decreed, “It is complete!” “It is so beautiful!” added the queen, “But what shall we call it for every palace must have a name suiting its grandeur and prestige.” The young king hesitated not a moment and declared, “I christen thee The Treetop Palace.” And with those words the work was officially completed and their new life in this new kingdom truly began.

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Years of happiness and bliss followed. Oh, there were some challenges along the way, and some very tragic losses as well, but together the young rulers conquered every challenge, soaring to new heights and raising many princes and princesses in The Treetop Palace nursery.

Then one very dark autumn day tragedy struck and the young king lost his queen. For days he mourned, searching his kingdom in hopes of finding her again. But his searches were all in vain for she was no more. There was a great shadow of darkness and sorrow shrouding the kingdom. King Jim finally ended his searching and seemed more forlorn and lost than ever. But one day Joy returned to the realm as a young maiden began to pursue the crestfallen king. King Jim began to soar again and hearts were gladdened once more! But then, quite unexpectedly, young Joy departed and King Jim was once more alone. Thankfully, as soon as Joy departed Hope arrived and our sorrowing king was smitten anew!

With this renewed Hope the beloved King Jim soared. He had found a new queen and together they returned to The Treetop Palace. Together they worked on strengthening the palace walls. Together they labored. Together they danced across the winter skies. Together they bonded. Together. As spring arrived new offspring played in the palace nursery under the care and provision of King Jim and Queen Hope. It was good to see the king’s heart full and happy once more. The royal children soon grew strong and before long flew from the palace to seek fame and fortune of their own and the king and queen took a well deserved vacation.

Months passed before the late autumn return of their Royal Highnesses. Upon their arrival the king and queen began to construct a second palace!

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They chose another large sycamore tree not far from the old Treetop Palace. This new site was home to a dozen or so other couples of lesser standing in the kingdom and when those couples return in the spring they will be quite surprised to find a new palace in their neighborhood and will likely be forced to find new accommodations of their own. Why a new palace you ask? Perhaps Queen Hope found too many memories of Queen Cindy still dwelling in the vastness of The Treetop Palace. Perhaps the limbs of the old sycamore had become a bit less trustworthy over the years of bearing the ever-growing weight of a royal palace. In reality, it is fairly common for monarchs (especially Bald Eagles) to maintain an extra palace or two just in case it is needed. But whatever the reason, there are now two growing palaces within the domain as King Jim and Queen Hope work on both the new and old homes. The real question is “Where will they decide to raise the new princes and princesses?” Only time will tell. Whether they choose The Treetop Palace or their new Palace of Hope we are hoping for a “happily ever after” ending to this tale of two palaces.

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Published in: on December 14, 2017 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Hearts Full of Gratitude and Praise

(Let’s roll the clock back a week. The following is a compilation of events and times that illustrate the joys and wonders of eagle watching.)

The crisp early morning air is alive with glittering ice crystals and shimmering promise as we begin our quick visit to Eastwood. It is Thanksgiving morning, 2017, and the awakening world around us is just now brushing the sleep from its eyes.

As we make the short ride to the park our conversation lingers on thoughts of the holiday. The word “thanksgiving” overflows with memories of wonderful feasts shared with loved ones over the years and the close, enduring bonds of companionship that forever link us together in unspoken mutual support and respect. Even those long-departed souls are still somehow closer during the holidays. The sweet memory of their smile, their laughter and their embrace flicker in our hearts like candles on our Thanksgiving table and bring light and joy into our homes once again. They are almost touchable at times and their presence in our hearts can snatch us away to places that were once ours together, bringing a smile to our lips and tears to our eyes. (Isn’t it interesting how often smiles are accompanied by tears?) We speak of the plans for the day and of those who will share the meal with us this year. The anticipation of what lies just a few hours away is palpable. The list of the yet unfinished tasks that must be completed before today’s meal is long but we have taken a short break from those demands to invest a bit of the day in hopes of seeing an eagle or two.

As we near the park our conversation changes to the subject of our search. Jim and Hope are finally together again. After much (apparently unwarranted) concern our local love birds are in their courting mode. They spend the day working on their nest, dancing together in the sky or contentedly perched side by side atop a suitable tree. That is how we hope to find them this morning.

The sun is a bit higher in the sky as we turn slowly into Eastwood. Across the road in the well field we notice a distant Whitetail buck encouraging a younger buck to stay a bit farther way from his doe.

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We smile. The night is full of adventure and adventurers and their activity is just now winding down as ours begins.

We creep down the long, straight, entrance road at a little more than an idle as we search the familiar trees for large bodies with 7,000 feathers. Many of the trees are like old friends as well. The large sycamore on the right is where the Red-tailed Hawk loves to hunt and several years ago the sycamore on our left was a favorite perch of a visiting juvenile Bald Eagle. The small trees near the bottom of the short hill are commonly filled with Eastern Bluebirds and an occasional Eastern Meadowlark. And here, on the left, is all that remains of what was once a Pileated Woodpecker’s tree. Eventually we make our way to the west terminus of the roadway. The morning sun is now crowning the treetops like a brilliant gemstone giving a welcomed warmth to the otherwise biting air.

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We pause for a moment to acknowledge that we are now where the young eagles gather! Hopefully in just a week or two, juvenile and sub-adult eagles will begin their brief annual visit to this end of the lake, adorning the treetops, frolicking in the skies and standing together on the ice. There were as many as a dozen one day last year!

They will gather here until Jim chases them away as the new nesting season draws near.

As we turn and head back towards the entrance we spot a Belted Kingfisher fishing from the top of one of the newly installed fishing line recycling stations at the edge of the lagoon.

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(I am honored that Five River MetroParks is using one of my images of an entangled Great Blue Heron to encourage fishermen to properly dispose of unwanted line and I hope that these receptacles, that are now popping up throughout the park system, will be greatly used.)

As we gradually make our way east along the lakeshore we pass under another familiar tree. This is the tree where two years and one week ago a young, rehabilitated Bald Eagle had perched for 23 hours after being released back into the wild.

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Eventually hunger and the need for companionship encouraged the youngster to fly. (We chuckle when you comment that these trees are not really trees at all but more like pages in a photo album.)

Just a bit further east we notice an unusual form across the now busy road and in the distant tree tops of the well field. The form is sillohetted in the morning sky.

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It stands upright like an eagle and it is high enough in the tree to be Jim or Hope but it is just too large. Puzzled by this object we drive a bit more quickly to the east end of the lake for a different vantage point. There we relocate the object and our questions are answered as our suspicions are confirmed. It is not an eagle. It is two eagles!

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What we were seeing through the trees were Jim and Hope perched nearly side by side with one slightly higher that the other making it appear as if we were seeing one very tall bird. Success!

But the steady stream of traffic on Harshman Road all but blocks our view of the far off pair so now we drive even more quickly to the entrance at Harshman Road, hoping for a less obstructed view. We park the car, grab our cameras, locate the birds, find a point where the foreground trees are less of a nuisance, begin to focus carefully on the distant eagles in the hazy sunlight and snap the shutter… just as this happens.

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Some days are like that.

We watch as the second eagle follows its mate and after a few shivering minutes we realize that they have perched somewhere out of sight. But they are together on this Thanksgiving morning and for that we are thankful.

With a busy day ahead of us we retrace the road back to the demands of the day. The warmth of the car is comforting but it cannot compare to the warmth of our hearts. We have so much to be thankful for: the cherished memories of loved ones long gone, the promise of time with the precious loved ones we have now, the beauty of creation, the wonders of nature, time, opportunities… and the loving God who provides blessing upon blessing. We may not have been able to catch a decent glimpse of an eagle this morning but as we drive down the road we ponder the past hour together and think of the day ahead when suddenly, outside the car window, something like this happens…

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and we enter into the holiday season with hearts full of gratitude and praise!

Published in: on December 2, 2017 at 1:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Remembering Cindy

The human heart was created to love, for fellowship, for cherishing, for bonding with its Creator and with His creation.

We must have love to develop a healthy psyche and a fulfilling life.

This truth is sadly and glaringly evident in the world around us. Everyday we encounter it in a myriad of ways. We live in a day when our headlines are full of reports of horrendous events where individuals commit unbelievable crimes upon others. Those perpetrators are often called “loners” or “misfits” or “outcasts”. We hear statements like “This person just fell through the cracks.” meaning they were somehow isolated and unnoticed by society and those around them. Being unloved and feeling unimportant or unnecessary will lead one into despair which can manifest itself in a deep-seated craving for attention and notoriety. Without wholesome loving relationships people can become consumed by the monster of emptiness.

But the monster of emptiness is not just lurking in the mind and hearts of criminals because this monster’s lair can be hidden anywhere. I have seen this monster’s consuming work in the hearts of young children. There are two young girls who are very precious to me. Each were adopted, but from very different situations. One came from a very unstable environment that left her emotionally shattered and fearful while the other came from a caring foster mother, full of hopes and dreams. In both girls I have witnessed what loving interaction and unquestionable belonging can do.

Adolescent minds are particularly vulnerable to the instability of feeling unloved and alone making them easy prey for the monster of emptiness. Chemical changes within an adolescent body create an unstable world of boiling emotions and self-doubt. Balance is a challenge in their turbulent world and outbursts of emotional stumbling are frequent. In our age of personal computers, headphones and streaming media, adolescent isolation is common and may give a teen (or young adult) a soothing sense of control, a point of mental focus and emotional retreat, but too much isolation may prove toxic. We even have virtual glasses that clamp around a cell phone and clamp out all contact with real humanity. Parental guidance is hard in this stage of growth, but it is necessary to maintain a healthy balance of privacy and wholesome interaction with others.

Busy parents and single adults may have constant activities and demands but still be empty and lonely inside, drifting slowly away from those relationships that anchor them securely to reality and to others. The monster knows that a full calendar is not indicative of a full heart.

Many older adults feel alone and unnecessary. The busyness of life has passed them by and without a healthy support system of loving contact, the monster of emptiness can consume them with despair. The realization that the years behind them far outnumber the ones ahead is a constant companion and the longing for what once was easily overshadows any hope of what might be.

(This is not where I was planning to go with this blog, but it is where I have been led to go.)

The point is: we need each other. The only defense against the hideous monster of emptiness is a healthy fullness of God and of each other. Loss, isolation and separation hurt but the burden of pain fades more quickly when others share its heavy load.

One of the greatest pleasure of eagle watching is the bonding that takes place with others as one bonds with the wonders of Creation. That is Cindy’s legacy.

One year ago this week we lost the original Queen of the Treetop Palace. There are people in Virginia, Florida and across the country who understand that loss in a very deep and personal way. There is a grace and freedom that is carried on eagles’ wings that personifies liberty and strength like nothing else. There is a bonding that takes place between an eagle watcher and the watched (and between watcher and watcher) that is hard to put into words. Whether the eagle is called Cindy, Mom Norfolk, Ozzie or by any other name, the grief of losing something so free and wild is hard to bear alone. As the eagle population continues to swell across our land many more will come to know the thrill and bittersweet agonies of following an eagle family through various trials and victories.

On this anniversary of Cindy’s untimely death I offer this little poem of tribute in gratitude for her inspiration and dedicated to all who have known such loss.

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Sent on Eagle’s Wings

by Jim Weller

The skies above are fresh and clear,

bright sunbeams fill the air,

As songbirds sing in bushes near

and dance without a care.

The sweet aroma of the breeze,

warm sunshine on my skin,

the rustling song of leafy trees…

I scarce can take it in.

Yet in a corner of my heart

a pang of loss abides,

a silent whisper, a secret part

of the beauty at my side.

For these skies have known a special grace

of joy beyond description,

that once caressed this unbounded space

free from inhibition.

On eagle’s wings she chased her dreams

while carrying my dreams higher,

and singing loud with chattering screams

my burdened heart inspired.

With majesty she kissed the sky 

As she soared into the blue,

Her breathtaking beauty made me sigh

As little else could do.

 

Then silent fell her song, too soon,

her wings would spread no more.

For she had soared beyond the moon

To rest on golden shores.

 

But now this pang reminds me

of the beauty I have known,

of a blessing far behind me

that I once called my own.

As I bow my head in gratitude,

for the sweetness of my loss,

upon the ground a form glides by,

the shadow of a cross!

With squinting eyes I look and see

low in the sky above

an eagle passing strong and free,

a reminder of God’s love.

As tears well up the pang subsides

and my heart is freed to sing

For God’s secret blessing blooms inside

Sent on eagle’s wings!

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Isolation is a killer. What better way to remember those we have lost (with and without feathers) than by loving a lonely child, teen, adult, neighbor or anyone else in need of friendship and purpose. Love is costly. One must invest time, prayer, effort and other resources in the lives of hurting people without the expectation of seeing any tangible return on those investments, but the intangible returns are guaranteed and they are always priceless.

Published in: on November 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm  Comments (47)  

Typically Atypical

The nature of wildlife (and the wild life of nature) can be a bit perplexing at times. But it is always fun to watch and there are several ways that one can participate in watching wildlife.

By far, the most common method is to just open your eyes in a natural setting. Your own backyard can become a fascinating arena of activity when you pause to watch as feathered friends flit from bush to bush noisily chirping at fledglings or dining on berries hidden in the foliage. A little time spent sitting on a hillside, even in an urban park, may reveal groundhogs at play, scampering squirrels or more feathered, serenading  friends. If you venture into the countryside foxes, coyotes, deer and all sorts of amusing creatures may emerge from the shadows as you sit quietly and bask in the wonderment of it all.

But the best way to watch wildlife for optimum excitement and enjoyment is to slowly grow to know individual animals. You can actually build a unique kind of relationship with wild creatures, although it may be a bit one-sided. As you watch over time you learn their habits and begin to anticipate their movements. Individuals within every species have their own personality and preferences. One may be bold while another is shy. Some may scamper and frolic while others move with cautious, measured steps. Some may be more boisterous than other. Recognizing individual animals by their personal traits is quite fun and often amusing.

But the nature of nature is change. Life in the wild is wild so animals must adapt to new situations to survive and situations are always changing. The atypical is typical.

In our last post I mentioned that Jim was still awaiting Hope’s arrival from her summer hiatus. Well you can imagine our smiles when we saw this sight several days ago!

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This tree is a familiar, favorite perch for Jim and his mate. It is a place we check out several times a day and their preferred place to watch the setting sun so we were extremely happy to see two eagles together in this tree! But then, during the last several days we have seen very little of either bird. In years past Jim and Cindy were always together in October, but this is Hope, not Cindy. We must wait and allow her to define herself and for their relationship to blossom.

So in the mean time, to satisfy our need for eagle activity, we have been venturing just north of Dayton to Englewood MetroPark and viewing the transient eagle activity there. I have seen at least 3 adults and 3 juveniles snatching fish from the 6 inches of water that covers the lakebed. That water is all that is left from recent rains that allowed the Stillwater River to flood into the shallow reservoir behind the dam, and it is rapidly evaporating. When it is gone, the eagles will move on too but for now it is fun to watch the interaction of these amazing birds. Here is a bit of what we have seen.

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We must trust in unseen hands and allow these beautiful wild creatures to tell us their story. They know the script that God has authored for them. You cannot put nature in a box for then it would cease to be wild and free and it is that wild freedom that allures the mind and speaks to the heart. As Jim and Hope’s story unfolds we will relate it here. We know not what tomorrow holds but we have faith in The One who holds tomorrow. Life in the wild is indeed wild. It is a place that is overflowing with questions and possibilities. This is just the onset of a new courting season, a new adventure, and it promises to be typically atypical.

Published in: on October 17, 2017 at 5:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Happy Anniversary!

That is a phrase we often hear or utter ourselves as times of remembrance make their annual appearance on our calendars.

Happy anniversary. Sometimes that wish can be as mundane and as void of emotion as “Good morning.” or “Have a nice day.” but at other times the sentiment carried in the syllables of that phrase come straight from a heart of gladness and appreciation for the noteworthy past event. Happy anniversary!

But some anniversaries are anything but happy as we remember the loss of a loved one or a traumatic and stormy trial of one’s life. Such remembrances can be painful, dripping with sorrow, hard to bear and can fog our hearts with emptiness and dismay.

But, whether an anniversary is happy or sad, anniversaries are best shared with those we love, for shared joy or sorrow brings us closer together and strengthens the invisible bonds that we call friendship. That is why I want to share this anniversary with you for I desire to share my joy with all those who follow this story of wild eagles, soaring wings and majestic inspiration.

This September marks the 9th anniversary of the return of nesting Bald Eagles to Dayton, Ohio after a long 70 years of absence. From 1938 to 2008 our skies were missing the special grace and wonder that can only be found on eagle’s wings.

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Not to mention that awe-inspiring beauty!

The memory of their return still makes me smile as does the memory of making so many new friends as we stood in the snow, rain and sunshine over the years, captivated by the activity around The Treetop Palace. What a special blessing! What a special place! 15 eaglets have fledged from the palace over those 9 years and although not all have survived the challenges of life in the wild, each novice flyer carried with it the power, strength and promise that embodied Jim and Cindy and now shines in Jim and Hope.

September is also the time for our eagles to return to courting and nest building, slowly at first but gradually building to an all-consuming passion. That is the promise held in this image from a few weeks ago.

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But lately we have only seen one adult sitting in “Jim’s Tree”…

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which always concerns me but the missing adult has never failed to eventually return in the past. Still, a lone eagle is a lonely eagle. (I also find it interesting how their majestic demeanor is evident whether perched or soaring.)

Power, majesty and beauty returned to our skies 9 years ago this month and I pray that they will forever grace our skies and bring smiles to the faces of young and old alike and that for generations to come eagle watchers’ spirits will take flight as they look on each September as a happy anniversary!

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Published in: on September 19, 2017 at 10:21 pm  Comments (10)  

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

Do you remember that catchy little song from Sesame Street? Many, many years ago that little tune would get stuck in my head after watching the PBS series with my daughters. The words of the song listed the policeman, the grocer, the baker and other “people that you meet while you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day.” The song supported a sense community and encouraged children and parents to get to know and appreciate those around them.

Life is full of blessings and some of those blessings are people. In the fast-paced world we live in today we can find ourselves bombarded with noise, distractions, annoyances and schedules that keep us from being anything but neighborly. Many people spend so much time in the virtual world of video games, television and online interaction that actually meeting and greeting other people can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience.

Nature has a way of calming that noise, lowering one’s blood pressure, soothing one’s pulse and slowing us down. That is part of nature’s design. Nature is where we belong. Nature is… well, natural.

I love being in a green oasis. The aroma of fresh pine on a drifting breeze, the music of birdsong, the warmth of sunshine all blend together in a restorative stream of relaxation and rejuvenation. Sometimes you can share these moments with enchanting faces like this one.
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Sometimes, but not very often, you may even see a face like this one!

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But sometimes those particular faces are a bit hard to find. Especially during August around Eastwood Lake in Dayton, Ohio. Now that the eaglets have fledged and have learned the basic survival skills of flight, landing and hunting, we are passing through our annual season of almost eagle-less skies. Jim and Hope are taking a well deserved break and the two youngsters are off somewhere, most likely together, quite possibly with Mom, more likely with Dad. I have always imagined that the ability to fly can be quite liberating and with a whole new world to explore curious young eagles do a lot of exploring. But the season of eagle-less skies will soon pass and a season of returning juveniles is just around the corner!

In this lull in activity I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the people in my neighborhood. Over the years I have met many wonderful people while eagle watching. Nature, wildlife watching, bird watching and especially eagle watching are best appreciated when shared with someone special. There is a bond that builds between people when you experience the wonders of nature together. One of those people was a sweet lady who was very excited to share her love for eagles with her young grandsons so I agreed to meet her at the lake to point them in the right direction. The morning that I met her and the boys I stepped out of my car and stepped 5 decades back in time. This is my friend Bryce.

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Bryce instantly reminded me of the young boy of my own childhood. He was full of enthusiasm, expectation and a wealth of knowledge about avian life that was well beyond his years. He emerged from his grandmother’s car full of questions and a determination to capture an image of a wild eagle with the small camera that he held in his hand. I was impressed by his politeness and his longing to learn. As we stood by the lake hoping for Jim or Cindy to pass by, we talked about eagles and birds of prey in general. My mind kept flashing back decades as I recognized the familiarity of a young heart’s love for eagles and I was thankful that all these years later, this boy actually had the opportunity to see wild eagles gracing the skies of Dayton. As we chatted one of our adult eagles decided to give him his chance! I believe I said, “Look there.” and Bryce was instantly a child in pursuit of a dream. Tracking a flying bird with a smaller, handheld camera is no easy task but that fact doesn’t stop one from trying when the opportunity presents itself. When the moment had passed I remember him commenting that he needed to get a better camera, which, as the above picture shows, he did. I have since met Bryce’s mother and father and it is very apparent where this young man’s politeness, curiosity, security, enthusiasm, determination and faith have been encouraged and nurtured. Bryce has now visited many local Bald Eagle nests and his images keep improving. Those images now look more like this.

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I wonder where his love for God’s wonders will take him in the years to come.

During my years in the eagle watching neighborhood there have been so many people that have touched my life. From World War II veterans and retired school teachers to new parents and young children, each one is special, each one is precious. All share in a love for this amazing world that we call home. You just never know who you will see out there. Some make you think. Some make you wonder. Some make you remember. And some just make you smile.

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Who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day?

 

 

Published in: on August 18, 2017 at 9:28 am  Comments (6)  

Milestones

Because large stones are heavy and therefor extremely hard to move, they have always been used to indicate distances and boundaries. Property boundaries were commonly marked by large stones placed at the corners of a parcel of land as a permanent indication of where one owner’s property ended and a neighbor’s property began. Travelers along roadways were able to judge the length of their journey as they passed large stones placed along the roadside at various intervals to indicate distance. These markers became known as “milestones”.

Markers are necessary to gauge our progress along a road or on our journey through life. Although milestones have now been replaced by reflective signage we often refer to important events in our lives as milestones and it is a good practice to pause and reflect on those events that have marked our journeys thus far, and to be thankful for our progress.

Milestones can mark great accomplishments like a marriage, a birth, a new diploma, a new job, a new home or a retirement. Milestones can also seem small and quite usual at the time like learning the alphabet, learning to write, learning to drive or a first date that turns into a lifetime bond. One of the earliest milestones in our lives is learning to walk… or fly!

Jim and Hope’s eaglets have passed that milestone with flying colors! Literally!

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This milestone means that The Treetop Palace has seen 15 eaglets successfully take their first flights in the last 7 nesting seasons! Considering that during the previous 72 years there had been no eaglets fledged from aeries in Dayton, Ohio (mostly because there were no nesting eagles in the entire Montgomery County area) that is quite a milestone indeed!

The first flight is always a bit of a challenge, but the first landing is even more critical. Hollow bones, 6-foot wingspans and a lack of experience can be a dangerous combination. Jim and Hope make it look pretty easy since they have had years of practice, but their youngsters have conquered that challenge. True to the pattern of past years, Jim and Hope led the novice flyers deeper into the protective confines of the well field where the youngsters have been perfecting their skills. Another challenge they seem to have mastered is getting airborne from the ground. Flying from the ground requires more muscle strength than dropping into the air from a higher perch and some grounded eaglets struggle to accomplish this feat. Our two eaglets seem to be doing just fine at that milestone too. But even when they are resting together along the lake they are still impressive sights!

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They really seem to enjoy each other’s company and now that they are more mobile and are working on mastering their hunting skills, we should be seeing them more frequently around the Eastwood area. I have also seen a second-year juvenile in the area that is quite possibly our 2016 eaglet. The fact that Jim has not chased the one-year-old away indicates his satisfaction with the new fledglings’ progress and no longer views the older bird as a threat. This also bodes well for this fall and winter’s juvenile eagle convention on Eastwood Lake!

An added bonus for the approaching cooler weather is the expected completion of the new Harshman Road bridge spanning The Mad River. The 2-year project, now in the final phase, has added a walkway/bicycle path which finally allows for safe passage for pedestrians between the two sections of the Eastwood MetroPark complex, yet another milestone.

This nesting season is now complete. It began with a lot of unknowns as Jim had taken a new mate after Cindy’s tragic, accidental death. Life in the wild is wild, but as I look back over the last 6 months I find myself smiling. It is good to take the time to pause and to be grateful for our blessings as we look back over life’s milestones.

Published in: on July 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm  Comments (10)  

Now

“Now”… Now that is an interesting word. By the time you have uttered its single syllable, that “now” has passed and another “now” has arrived.

Webster’s dictionary defines “now” as “at the present time or moment” and moments pass in a fleeting parade of instants, never to be seen again. They are more numerous than the grains of sand on a seashore and they can slip through our fingers just as easily. Moments can only be truly captured within our memories where those captured moments are cherished by our hearts forever, whether they invoke smiles or tears. Maybe that is why the precious moments of “now” are referred to as “the present” because they truly are a present, a blessing, a treasured gift from God.

Many times “now” walks with a partner who is not like “now” at all…”then”. People often say “every now and then” this or that happens. The two words are in many ways polar opposites. As tiny as “now” is, its companion “then” is anything but! “Then” is massive! “Then is everything that is not “now”! In fact, as “now” flees away it becomes another part of “then”!

Every now and then I make myself pause to count my blessings, and my “nows” are full of them. Recently, on one such occasion, I was reminded of what a privilege it is to be able to watch our local Bald Eagles work and play around me and I was challenged in my heart to never lose sight of that wonder. As I have come to know more and more about eagles I find that at times I can become so engrossed in that knowledge that I lose sight of their grandeur. This is a trap that comes with adulthood.

Let me illustrate it this way: Close your eyes and drift back in your mind to a different “now”… a moment in time when you were a seven year old child filled with curiosity and wonder. Every flower was a wonder-filled marvel of beauty and fragrance! A dandelion was not a weed in the lawn but a thousand fairies awaiting to be freed by a puff of your breath. A sundrenched field or grassy hillside was not a place of labor but a playground for exploration, discovery and an opportunity to bask in the warmth and amazement of it all! Picture yourself lying on that hillside intentionally breathing deeply to capture the aroma of life, engulfed in the carefree world of childhood and innocence. As you glance at a lone, wispy cloud floating by you notice a majestic eagle dancing on the sunbeams and you are instantly captivated by its gracefulness. Slowly its mesmerizing circles carry your imagination aloft, higher and higher into the heavens and you long for the ability to fly. Remember the joys of that long ago “now” and allow yourself to relax in the tranquility and security of that moment.

Every now and then I am encouraged to put down the camera and just watch an eagle soar.

Our eaglets are ready to fly. Now is the time. They are almost impossible to see from Eastwood while they are branched out onto nearby shady boughs. Their wings are strong and fully feathered. Jim and Hope are seldom in the nest as they allow the youngsters to grow hungry and lonely for their companionship in an effort to encourage them to take that first step into freedom.

It has become a tradition that each year I post this little poem that I penned a few years back while impatiently waiting for Jim and Cindy’s first eaglets to fledge. This year the familiar impatience has returned as I watch Jim and Hope’s youngsters. It is my tribute to this annual moment when young wings do what they were designed to do. The “now” when a young eagle experiences a thrill that I still long to know.

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Two Little Eaglets

By Jim Weller (June 16, 2011)

Two little eaglets

Way up in the tree.

Two little eaglets,

Looking down at me.

 

You sit there in your aerie

Staring at the sky,

And every time you flap your wings

My heart lets out a sigh.

 

Silly little eaglets

Hovering o’er the nest,

Do you even know that you can fly?

Your wings will stand the test.

 

Do you even care that I’m waiting here

To see you soaring high?

I’m tethered to the earth below

But you, you own the sky!

 

If I were an eaglet

And could do what you can do,

Without a moment’s hesitation

I would launch into the blue.

 

But wait! One’s perched upon the edge!

It leans into the breeze!

It spreads its wings! Then hops back down.

You’re such a little tease.

 

I know that you are old enough

Your wings are sure and strong,

Dancing high across the sky

Is where eagles belong.

 

You’re made for inspiration.

You can make the mute heart sing

Rejoicing in your majesty

Borne on outstretched wing.

 

“Why don’t you fly?” I ask out loud.

“When will you learn to soar?

I know that you are ready!

What are you waiting for?”

 

Then deep within my spirit,

The eaglets speak somehow.

They say, “We’ll take that leap of faith

When we hear God whisper, ‘Now!’ “

Published in: on June 20, 2017 at 1:19 pm  Comments (16)  

Waiting and Watching

Waiting and watching. Two simple words that can mean so many different things to so many different people and it all depends on what they are waiting and watching for.

Life is full of periods of waiting and watching. I can vividly remember those days decades ago where as a young student I sat waiting and watching a classroom clock struggling to reach 3 PM. I still smile as I remember a day 42 years past as I stood expectantly waiting at the altar of a small church watching for my beautiful bride to enter the sanctuary. I remember the nervousness of watching and waiting during the last few days of pregnancies. A tear still comes as I recall the time of waiting and keeping watch while praying and pacing outside my dear mother’s hospital room. Periods of waiting and watching are necessary for life. Time and expectation are precious commodities.

The leafy boughs of the giant sycamore have all but concealed Jim and Hope’s Treetop Palace as viewed from our vantage point at Eastwood Lake where we watch and wait. The two eaglets within the palace’s open cradle are watching and waiting too. Mostly they watch and wait for food… a lot of food. Their aquatic diet provides nutrition and almost all of their water needs as the eaglets grow in both size and impatience. Mom and Dad are giving the young ones more space these days. We are only a month from fledging time and young muscles need to be exercised and strengthened making more space a real necessity.

Watching and waiting does not mean idle and bored though. Wildlife stories are playing out all around the park as animals watch and wait for future events. This young buck has sprouted new velvet in anticipation of establishing his place in the Whitetail herd.

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An Eastwood Pileated Woodpecker nest has revealed at least 3 young (2 females and a male) watching and waiting for their parents’ frequent food delivery service. Dad Pileated feeds the hungry babies while watching and waiting for a well deserved break. Mom Pileated was watching and waiting for more tasty morsels to crawl her way.

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Some animals, like this raccoon, are just watching and waiting for nightfall, fun and mischief.

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During this season of watching and waiting there are other changes afoot. The construction of the new Harshman Road bridge over the Mad River that flows through the greater Eastwood complex is almost complete. The new span will provide both vehicular and pedestrian passage. I was able to attend a public input session that Five River MetroParks hosted focusing on the future of the Eastwood complex. The current plans call for closing the entrance road to the lake after another new bridge is built across The Mad River within the park. Also included in the plans are a 5K path around the lake, new restroom facilities, new children and adult activity areas, new hiking trails, rerouting the bikeway through the park, dredging and cleaning the lagoons, an increase emphasis on kayaking opportunities and training, dock improvements and other enhancements. As Jim and Hope’s representative I encouraged the MetroParks staff to respect and protect the western shoreline of the lake where as many as a dozen juvenile Bald Eagles roosted last December and we discussed the possible inclusion of an elevated platform to allow Treetop Palace viewing over the Harshman Road traffic.

As the warm, wet days of springtime give way to the hot, humid days of summer our eaglets will find new freedom, Jim and Hope will find more time to soar and eagle-watchers and their cameras will find more excitement from the hours spent watching and waiting.

Published in: on May 22, 2017 at 9:40 pm  Comments (5)  

Make It Count!

I love springtime!

Springtime is a time of new beginnings and burgeoning promises. Not only are the days growing longer and warmer but the buds on trees and bushes are literally exploding into leaves and blossoms that carry within them the promise of shady shelters, fresh fruit and new seedlings.

This time of year I spend more and more hours wandering the winding trails of our local Five Rivers MetroParks, (mostly Eastwood) breathing in the fresh aromas of nature and witnessing the promise of new life in the arbor of boughs above me and the tangle of brush beside the path. Red-winged Blackbirds serenade the sunrise hoping to attract a mate. Song Sparrows sing lustily from the bushes. Yellow Warblers, Yellow-Rumped Warblers and male Goldfinches add brief flashes of yellow to the bright green foliage. Chattering Belted Kingfishers flit from tree to tree along the lakeshore. American Robins hop here and there hunting for worms. Bright red Northern Cardinals search through the freshly mown grass looking for scattered seeds beneath a nearby pine tree. A beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk, perches in a tree intently searching for any movement on the ground behind the mower that slowly passes back and forth in yet another grassy field. (I even saw Turkey Vultures mating in a tree at Eastwood last week. That was a first for me.) This week I have discovered the nesting holes of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Carolina Wren and I have watched a pair of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers as they were constructing their delicate nest. Just yesterday I spotted my first Eastern Meadowlark of the year and Roger told me that Bubba, his male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird friend, has returned to his yard so they will soon be dancing among the wildflowers! Promise upon promise! Smile after smile!

And that is just a few of  my encounters with wild creatures with feathers. Other wildlife like deer, foxes, groundhogs, opossum, beavers… everyone is out there enjoying the wonders of springtime!

But nothing in the wild makes my spirit soar like the sighting of an American Bald Eagle.

Monday, as I was viewing the Treetop Palace a woman walking her dog passed by and wondered what I was looking at. When I told her about Jim and Hope she was ecstatic and thrilled to learn that there were eagles nesting nearby. That afternoon I was walking along the lake and I paused to talk to a gentleman who had heard about the eagles and wanted to know from where he could best view them. I always smile when someone approaches me and asks, “Excuse me. Do you know anything about the eagles that are supposed to be around here?” As we conversed I interjected, “If you really want to see a wild Bald Eagle, look up!” and I pointed to Hope as she circled overhead. On Tuesday I was at the nearby Wright Brothers’ Memorial National Park with about 40 other people waiting for a group of WWII era, B-25 Mitchell bombers to fly by as they commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Dolittle Raiders’ bombing of Tokyo that took place in April of 1942, just 4 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As we waited at the memorial which sits atop a high bluff overlooking Huffman Prairie where Wilbur and Orville Wright perfected their flying machines, we spotted Jim circling over Huffman Dam. The droning B-25s were classy and the roaring B-1 bombers that flashed overhead to close the ceremonies were thrilling, but neither were as classy or as thrilling as the sight of that lone eagle silently and effortlessly circling in the sky.

Speaking of the thrills of eagle watching, in our last post I mentioned that Jim and Hope seemed to be feeding at least two eaglets in the palace nursery. The number of trips to the lakes and the visible activity at the nest certainly appeared to indicate a duo of eaglets but we could only see one bobblehead at a time. (Any parent of twins will tell you that when one baby sleeps the other demands to be fed so we were never sure if we were seeing the same eaglet every time.) Until yesterday when I captured a series of images that clearly show two eaglets!

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The images were taken from that 1/2 mile distance so they are what they are quality-wise, but you can clearly see two eaglets enjoying the spring warmth under Mother Hope’s watchful and very protective eye.

Two hungry mouths call for a lot of fish so that series of images started with this image…

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Jim brings them in, drops them off, catches his breath and then flies off for more. Oh, the joys of parenthood. They can make even the best parents wonder, “What were we thinking?” before they find a place to sit and mutter quietly to themselves for a while.

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Springtime is indeed a great time to be outdoors, but springtime always leads to the heat and humidity of summer. Let me encourage you to visit a local park soon. You don’t even need hiking boots to enjoy the wildlife. Just bring along a comfy folding chair and a good book and sit under a tree or by a lake and let the wildlife come to you. You can’t truly experience it if you are not there but if your health or other issues limit your opportunity to join us, we will continue to try to bring the story to you by words and pictures because every season is a new chapter and every day is a new page and this story is worth sharing!

Springtime is short so make it count! (At least make it count to two, as in eaglets!)

Published in: on April 20, 2017 at 9:29 pm  Comments (15)