hello old friend

We moved to Bickley’s Pond in 2008, and one of the great joys we discovered here was an Eagle’s nest just across the tiny cove from our back yard. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get the chance to watch such fascinating activity from my screen porch; our house is built on a lot that slopes toward the water, so we have a pretty good “bird’s eye view” from the main level of our house. We raised three broods there, those eagles and I, something I was thrilled to share here on The Daily Grace. (You can follow much of the story via the links below.)

And then the giant pine in which they’d built their nest died, and the branches became frail, and the nest began to crumble. I think I’d have cried the day I watched as the entire thing fell 100 feet to the ground—except that a major contributor was the fact there were three giant eaglets fighting over food in the nest at the time. How I delighted in watching those babies grow.

With the nest gone, the eagles built farther back in the woods. My friend Jay (an expert) took Tim and me on a hike to visit the eagles one Sunday afternoon. My heart warmed to find them at home and, seemingly, very comfortable there.

All of this is to say there hasn’t been much eagle activity in my life of late. In fact, I don’t think I’d seen either of them all summer. And then two days ago, I happened to catch sight as one or the other cut a flight path right through our yard, no doubt headed to Lake Murray or the tree in Matt’s yard with the natural perch they love.

And then yesterday, just as I passed by the big window over my kitchen sink, I saw the eagle again, just above the pond. I watched as he swooped down and back, and then landed in a tree just at the edge of the water, right on our side of the fence. I ran for the camera and crept down the side yard hoping for a quick up-close shot. He spotted me and those giant wings lifted off. My heart sunk a little as I click click clicked, hoping to get something worth sharing. And then to my delight he landed on a branch just across the water.

Hello old friend I said out loud as I raised the camera to my eye. It’s mighty good to see you again.

8.21.14, on Bickley's Pond
8.21.14, on Bickley’s Pond

Follow much of the Eagle Saga here:

Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.

Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.

Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.

Part IV: Spring 2012 Three years pass.

Part V: The Eagle Nest Falls

Part VI: Reversal of Fortune

Part VII: Finding the new eagle nest

 

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Day 16: Dusk. Rain. Eagle!

You probably know the sight of either of the Eagles is cause for great celebration in our house, now that the pair has made a regular home back in the woods, out of our view. For so long their nest was right here, across the tiny cove from our back yard, where I could watch (and document) every move. We raised five eaglets in that nest, those Eagles and I.

Late yesterday I stepped to the sink to wash up some dishes, there in front of the big kitchen window. Looking through the rainy dusk I spotted this.

eagle-1

(Not great photos due to the darkness, rain and distance–but you get the idea.)

It was thrilling to see that big bird there, for obvious reasons. But even more fun is the fact we’ve never seen either of the Eagles perched there, on the tip-top of the tallest tree on Bickley’s Pond.

What a grand view of the world I thought. How glorious it must be to see things from that height, to have that broad perspective.

eagle-2

It was a beautiful reminder of advice I received years ago that has served me well in this life:

When you are wrestling with a problem you can’t seem to solve, pull out, broaden your perspective. Then broaden again. And again, if need be. The answer is there for you—you just can’t see it when you are down in the weeds.

I hadn’t thought about that counsel in a long time, but I get the feeling it has come to me now for a very good reason.

 

30 Days of Grace III

Gigantic News

What    is    that   ?  I asked my husband as we rounded the bend at the end of our road, the one capped by the Coles’ pretty craftsman house. We were deep in conversation regarding a very important topic: the process for seriously-this-time cleaning out my burgeoning closet. I was intensely processing his suggested process when I became distracted by a screech screech screech in the background, a carrying-on that insisted on being noticed.

What bird is making that noise? I asked.

It’s the eagles, he said, and we both looked up.

Sure enough, there they were, there in that magnificent White Oak.  Eagle one. Eagle two.

Eagle three.

What????

Eagle three!

I needed a better view fast, so Tim and Little Bit held back and I headed left around the side of the house. Past the snowball bush, past the cutting garden, past the corner of the house and BAM. There she (he?) was.

Well, well, well. We have a Spring baby after all.

 

Mama and Daddy both kept a close eye on me, barking instructions to this young fledgling who had most certainly landed in the big White Oak on a maiden voyage, one of her very first flights. She looked as confounded as you might expect, this baby, so I decided to relieve some tension. I circled around to the other side of the house. Big Daddy (okay, I really don’t know which is which so just go with me here) had had enough of me and took off for the nest, lunch in hand.

That’s when the real commotion commenced. Mama took to squirming and squealing like nobody’s business.

 

Finally, the baby got up her nerve and launched into the air. (She and I were both relieved to find she really could fly.) And still Mama squirmed.

Have you ever seen an eagle in THAT position?

She was no doubt worried, this Mama, wondering if her little girl knew how to navigate, how to land, this sweet baby so recently hatched and so fast out in the big world.

(Don’t you know? Haven’t you been there?)

Then in short order, Mama too, was gone, off for the nest.

___________________________

Nothing could thrill me more, may I just say? After the excitement of the record three babies last year, then the collapse of the nest, then the sightings of both parent eagles together (a sure sign no one is watching eggs or hatchlings), and the search for their new home back there in the woods—I had completely given up any hope of babies.

How lucky I am to live here on this pond.

How happy I am Spring has come.

her nest, my nest

Late for work, I raced back toward the bedroom for one last forgotten item. And that’s when Tim stopped me, taking my shoulders and gently nudging me toward the front door.

It’ll just take a second, he said, sensing my begrudging attitude. You’ll want to see this.

Out to the porch we marched, and then to the brick walkway, where at the appropriate distance he turned my body to face the front of the house. We stood there awhile, him anxious for me to spot it, me anxious to be done with this nonsense.

Finally he said, See that? pointing to the edge of the roofline, the side closest to the driveway.

 

Hum, I said, hardly sharing his enthusiasm. I don’t remember much wind last night.

 

(the things boys get excited about)

 

We stood for a moment, quiet. And then Tim said:

The eagle. It came from the eagle. He was sitting right there with it, and when Mike’s car pulled into the driveway, he took off over the lake.

Wow, I thought. Wow. 

I stood and stared, thinking of the eagles, feeling the same excitement I felt the first time I saw them all those years ago.

They must be building back in the woods, I said. And Tim smiled and left me to my thoughts, knowing full well my heart was overflowing to have the evidence right there on our roof, right there in front of me.

They didn’t abandon us when their nest fell, I thought.

And they didn’t move on when the tree fell, I rejoiced.

It’s such a big branch, I considered. I wonder if he’ll come back for it.

Maybe he is around right now. Waiting.

I looked to my right, past the Cope’s pool to the woods beyond, to the tree that had been a favorite eagle perch when they lived right there on the edge of the lake, when they raised the first two babies right before our delighted eyes.

 

 

Sure enough, she* was there. I ran for my camera, then crossed our yard, and the Cope’s, for a closer look.

 

I swear I could feel that eagle smile as she posed for me, a familiar exchange between the two of us, an agreement we came to five years ago when we both found ourselves at home here on Bickley’s Pond. She goes about living her life—making a comfortable home, devoted to her mate, rearing needy babes who in no time at all fly away to begin their own lives—and I watch in awe, cheering her on.

 

As of this morning, three days later, neither of the eagles has retrieved the branch. It hangs just over corner of our house, right above the garage. I see it every time I go and come.

I have to say I like having it there.

I can’t help wondering, at least the romantic part of me, if that eagle might have placed that branch right where she intended it to be all along.

 *It’s impossible to know which is the male and which is the female when they are not side by side. But I always think I can tell.

A sad day.

Notice anything?

See that big empty space? There, to the left of the towering pine? Once upon a time there was another tall tree there that housed a huge Eagle nest. It was home to an Eagle family.

Then the tree died, but the nest stayed.

Then those Eagles had three rambunctious babies who ripped apart the nest fighting over food. The nest proceeded to fall to the ground in two gigantic clumps. And before you could hardly get a photo, there was no nest at all.

There was still a tree (or at least the skeleton of one). We’d gaze up at it lovingly, as if any moment some significant Eagle activity might commence. And sure enough, from time to time, one or the other, or one of the growing babies, would land there, sitting a while, lording over Bickley’s Pond. I’d grab my camera and come running like I didn’t already have 5,000 photos of those birds, sitting in that very tree.

eagle photo #4999: one of the babies

And then last night, Tim looked up to find the old dead tree gone. Vanished, in the blink of an eye.

How could this happen? How did we miss the entire event, after the countless hours we’ve spent speculating on when, and in which direction, that old tree would fall—toward our house? Into the lake? In the Cope’s pool?

I went searching for the tree this morning on my walk, creeping way deeper into the gigantic weed trees and spider nests than I expected. I had to see that tree, after all this time.

Doesn't it look spidery?

But alas. It has been swallowed up by the woods and the weeds, not to be seen by me until winter comes and strips the spot a bit more bare.

I feel sad deep in my heart. I know this is silly; every ending is a new beginning. Who knows? Maybe the eagles will build a new nest in the even more gigantic pine just next door? Maybe the next babies will be even closer?

Still, I’m sad. It’s very strange to glance up to that tree to see what might be going on there, only to be reminded it is gone. And I do it a thousand times a day.

Tomorrow, I will remember to fill the bird feeders. In no time there will be great flocks of sparrows and finches and chickadees and mockingbirds dancing just beyond the kitchen window. I will leave my camera there on the kitchen counter—ready to snap a shot of the speckled baby cardinal. And didn’t I see a pair of herons just this morning?

Come home, Eagles. I will keep watch.

A Season for New Beginnings

Those babies do grow up and must move on. I feel it in my bones, as raw and scary this moment as it was for me a year ago when my own walked—diploma in hand—toward a big and uncertain future. I look into the eyes of friends, mothers awash in this season of release, and my heart feels heavy. I know the burden.

I think, too, of the Eagles, two babies gone and the third (who was always most needy) still here, its cries a little more distant each day.

It is happening with the Canada Geese, as well. Just yesterday there were five tiny ducklings making the long journey from the distant shoreline to my world, little balls of fuzz tucked safely between their parents as they paddled across. Today they are gangly teens sprouting a crop of grown-up feathers. Awkward and clumsy, their too-big webbed feet present quite a challenge as they attempt to navigate the inconsistent terrain of our back yard.

Those babies have grown so fast. This Spring has passed so quickly.

And then today my husband calls me to the front door.

Take a look at this, he says, looking through the glass window so as not to cause an unnecessary ruckus. I can’t believe I haven’t noticed this before.

There, at the top of the second column on our front porch, the most perfect birdnest— lovingly attended by a beautiful, peaceful mourning dove.


Online sources tell me we can expect about two weeks of constant nesting, followed by a couple more weeks with babies, called squabs, in the nest. How thrilling to have a clutch this close! How wonderful to get to watch the story unfold.

New beginnings are around us every day, it is true. I have a beautiful reminder right there on my front porch, and I don’t even have to step outside to see it.

And then the Eagle Nest Falls

I’ve heard the other nest fell as well, said my neighbor, Stephanie, and I could scarcely believe my ears.

You probably know I’m talking about the giant eagle nests in our neighborhood. One is (ahem, was) in tall pine just across a tiny cove from our yard. The other, located deeper in the woods, had served as the Spring home sweet home for our Eagle couple and their three gigantic babies.

But perhaps I should back up so you get the whole of the story.

This is our eagle nest, circa 2008:

This is the Eagle nest today.

How on earth, you might be wondering, could that happen?

That old, tall pine had some brittle bones that simply couldn’t take the toll of time and weather. And then those babies came along in March, and—Good Lord—things would never be the same. Leaving the healthier “home” nest, the family of five came out of the woods for some afternoon fun. Mama decided the old nest—aka our nest—was the perfect spot for a little afternoon feeding.

Those babies took to fighting over that food like nobody’s business, and before you knew it, half of the nest just fell right to the ground.

(Neveryoumind those babies hardly seemed to notice, screaming and clawing for that daily fish catch like they were starving to death.)

And there went the rest of the nest.

I've taken to calling him Hording Harry. Don't think he ever learned "share."

I saw that nest fall, and I grieved. With it gone, I feared the Eagles would soon be gone, as well.

 But oh, no. That is not what happened.

Eagle Surprise: Part 4

Recap. Shall we?

Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.

Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.

Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.

Part IV: Spring 2012

Three years pass. Those babies have moved on and wherever they are, must be nearly ready to start families of their own (at age four, the experts say). The parents are here, infrequently fishing these waters because they, too, have moved on to a new nest deeper in the woods. No wonder. The lanky pine that holds their old home place has declined significantly: its nest-shading mantel is gone; most of the remaining branches are broken or missing.

Still we keep an eye on that nest as if expecting them to return to it any minute. They do appear from time to time and it sets our hearts to racing. First the shadow, then the whoop whoop whoop of giant wings through air, then that unmistakable crown of white feathers.

A glorious sight it is.

But these are only quick glimpses, pass-through flights of one eagle or the other.

Spring arrives, 2012. Our hearts race again at a quick flurry of nest-repair activity in our tree. But they don’t take up residence and are gone again, no chance for a new brood within our sight, we know.

A few weeks pass.

And I’m standing at the kitchen window, looking out at the new green in our trees, our lawn, our little garden, when I look across the pond to see both Eagles sitting side by side, on the very edge of a branch.

There they are, I said, together. There can’t be eggs if they are both away from the nest. It’s been three years, I think. That’s really too bad. 

But at least my Eagles are here, waiting patiently for me to come on out to the water’s edge, to get reacquainted. Snap, snap, snap goes my camera. And then I see a shape in a tree just beyond my focus.

Is that? Could it be? How on earth?

It is. A big, dark baby eagle, clearly out on an early voyage from that deep woods nest.

And then I hear another sound, just there, to the right. A little farther back. The dark mass of another baby.

I run for the house, and Tim. He gets in the canoe and heads in their direction, wanting a closer view.

The baby eagles notice but don’t budge, too afraid of flight at this early age. And then a parent flies toward the abandoned nest—our nest—with a fresh fish catch. And lickety split they are there, Mama and her two babies, feeding time. Giddy, giddy, giddy I am.

 

Could there still be more to this fantastic story?

Oh yes, and this time I won’t leave you hanging:

You got it. Before long we discover there is Baby Number Three!

It has been a very fun couple of weeks, with our back yard as the playground of three baby eagles. Up to something all the time, they are. In fact, they fussed so much over a fresh catch dropped in that nest by their mother (or father?) the entire nest fell apart and to the ground!

But THAT is another story, for another day.

The Story of the Eagles, Part III: First Flight

the eagle baby, out of the nest and out on the town

Those babies did eventually fly, although it came as a bit of a surprise to all of us.

It was early on a Sunday morning in the Spring of 2009. I was away visiting my parents when my sweet husband called. I could hear him pacing.

I can’t believe you aren’t here, he said. One of the babies is about to fly.

That eaglet (dare devil, remember?) had hopped hopped hopped out to the very end of a not-so-sturdy branch. One more jump and Snap! It happened. The limb broke and that branch, and the still-clutching-it eaglet, were 80 feet in the air and dropping, fast. Then flap flap flap and that big baby was airborne for the very first time.

The shock of first flight still pounding in his chest, the next problem presented itself in short order. Where on earth to land? he had to wonder as he lifted above our roof line. And more significantly: How?

not the maiden flight, but you get the idea

Those early voyages were not pretty. But he got the hang of it and in time, coaxed his little sister out of the nest and into the air. The two of them swooped and circled and played like giddy children, the sky above Sterling Lake their playground. And before we could say four to five weeks, they were “grown” and gone—off to claim hunting grounds of their own.

missing their babies? or rejoicing empty nesters?

Three years passed. We heard from friends that the parent eagles had built two more nests, still in our neighborhood but this time, a little deeper in the woods. While the Mama and Papa would come from time to time to fish within our view (and to our delight, to tease us with a spurt of rebuilding), we never saw any signs of real nesting activity.

the empty nest

Until this Spring, that is.

Up next: April of 2012