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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the walk

You know how crazy I am about my birds.

You should see my Daddy.

He’s visiting us in South Carolina for the first time in several years, and at the top of our agenda is EAGLE WATCHING. We hung out on the pretty screen porch, fingers crossed, hope hope hoping for a sighting. Then right in the midst of dinner, two bites into the pork tenderloin, I caught a quick glimpse of one of the great birds crossing Bickley’s Pond. We decided right then and there to wrap up dinner ASAP and head out for a walk, intent on finding the eagle trio.

Saddled into his little red scooter, Dad was ready to go. So we all set out: Eliza, Tim, my brother Sutton, Little Bit, Dad and me.

I love a man with some binoculars.

I’m happy to report we found those Eagles in short order, perched high in the tall pine just at the top of the next cul-de-sac. What a thrill it was to share that moment with my Dad.

We talked about the big birds, the baby (who seems to be missing?) and all the action that takes place every day around Bickley’s Pond. Then I looked down to find this.

And then this.

 And later, along our route, this, and this, and this.

It was a great night for a little outing, an opportunity to talk about interesting things, to look for interesting things, to see interesting things. It was also a night of abundant blessings—which someone certainly made sure I realized, what with not just one feather, but five.

so much to see!


careful what you wish for

It was so quiet around here all those months between the demise of the great eagle nest and our discovery that (to go with the new nest back there in the woods) there is a new baby eagle.

Now it is not so quiet. This baby screams day and night, and it doesn’t matter what the big bird is up to. Perching on a branch, standing on the ground, flying in gigantic swoops above Bickley’s Pond—it screams and screeches like nobody’s business. Most curious, it regularly crashes right into a perching parent with such force it’s a wonder they don’t all come tumbling down.

Just tonight we heard such a racket Tim and I both headed up the driveway for a look. Big Baby came swooping down and knocked into one of the parents with such great force I still can’t imagine how the older bird held on. But sure enough, after 20 or 30 seconds of great wings flapping, the Big Baby lifted off and landed in a neighboring tree. Things calmed a bit until BB came back, finding a spot a respectable distance from Mom and Dad.

And still that baby carried on!

I’m thinking these next weeks will be long ones for our eagle parents. How happy I am they have several years of experience under their majestic belts.

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.

Reversal of Fortune: Eagle Story, part VI

With both nests now gone, it didn’t take long to realize the immense challenge facing that Mama Eagle with three insatiable babies to feed. First, there is the shear quantity of food required. Experts say three eaglets in one nest—one “convocation” as it is called—amounts to a whopping 45 pounds of baby eagles at 10 weeks old. How can the most devoted parents possibly catch enough food to keep that brood fed? (No wonder three surviving eaglets is “extremely rare.”) But even more daunting for this feeding Mama, there is also the matter of how to hold the fresh catch, tear it into bite-size pieces, then get it from her mouth to one of theirs while balancing on a tiny tree limb. A herculean feat under any circumstance, but a particularly grand challenge considering those babies fight for food so aggressively they have already destroyed two nests! (Remember, these babies are nearly three feet tall.)

So I began to watch this scene play out time after time after time:

  1. Parent Eagle swoops into view, large fish in his/her talons. 
  2. Parent Eagle lands on branch, still clutching fish (which may well still be squirming).
  3. Baby Eagle One, screeching and screaming, heads for that fish like a bat out of hell.
  4. Baby Eagle One crash lands on the branch, nearly knocking the Parent Eagle off the perch.
  5. (Often at this point, what an observer will see is that fish in free-fall.)
  6. But if the Parent Eagle has managed to hang on to both the branch and the fish, outlasting the crash of Baby Eagle One, in mere seconds will come the crash of Baby Eagle Two. And believe you me, that Baby Eagle Two comes in with the full intention of flying away with that fish.
  7. Next, that fish comes loose and falls to the ground, almost for sure. Parent flies off, disgusted. Two baby eagles sit stunned on that branch, screaming and squawking, until one hops to another branch close by.
  8. Baby Eagle Number Three stakes a good position in a neighboring tree, awaiting the next delivery of Catch of the Day.
You can see the dilemma she faces, attempting to feed three greedy babies balanced on a tree limb. And so I begin to fret about this feeding conundrum in the same way I fretted over the danger (40 percent don’t survive) of the babies’ first flight. And then I get this great surprise when I glance out that magic kitchen window over coffee one morning.

Yup. Feeding time, right there in my back yard. Mama stays close, making sure the third baby (whom I can only guess is the youngest?) gets her fair share.

And then they are all off again, ready for the day’s adventures.

Follow 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

Part V: The Eagle Nest Falls

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