Archive - May, 2016

The Eagle Family–Part 2

(Since January 2016, I have been observing and photographing a pair of bald eagles which nested, hatched two eggs, and nurtured the eaglets. Part 1 of a series of photo essays on The Eagle Family can be found here.)

 

Father eagle bringing a fish to the nest for the juveniles.

Father eagle bringing a fish to the nest for the juveniles.

This morning the male Bald Eagle flew in with a fish for the juveniles. These parents seem to bring fish or shore birds for the young to eat. I’ve seen no evidence of other types of prey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You're not eating my portion are you?"

“You’re not eating my portion are you?”

The second-born began to tear at the fish, and the first-born looked on as if to say, “You’re not eating my portion, are you?” I don’t think it has anything to be concerned about, however. The first-born was noticeably larger than the second, and was advanced in flapping its wings and practicing flying, so he/she need not fear being overtaken by the second. It came up with a feather from a past meal, but it got to the fish as well.

 

 

 

 

 

The look. It just comes naturally.

The look. It just comes naturally.

This is the first-born practicing his eagle look. He’s got it down pretty good, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family

Circling the area to make her presence known.

The female circled the nest a couple of times this morning as she guarded the area while the male hunted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spectacular landing on a familiar perch high in a tree across the field from the nest.

A spectacular landing on a familiar perch high in a tree across the field from the nest.

She landed in a tall tree after taking perches in two other locations, perhaps to let me know she has her eye on me.

I imagine it won’t be too much longer until the first-born attempts flight. Both juveniles are flapping their wings and hopping, especially in a strong breeze. I hope to be there to see it.

The Eagle Family

The eagle nest (1 of 1)

The eagle nest from the road. (click to enlarge photos)

Driving down a one lane road in the late winter this year, Sharon noticed a bald eagle nest. It was a surprise because we were looking for another bird.

I took a few photos and resolved to come back and take more; and to see if I could get permission from the property owners to follow the nest through the hatching and fledging of the eaglets. Eventually, I was able to secure that permission.

Mother eagle on nest (1 of 1)

The mother eagle standing guard on the edge of the nest.

As a result, I’ve been able to watch the male and female eagle guard the nest against interlopers,

 

 

 

 

Male eagle vocalizing in flight (1 of 1)

The male eagle circling and vocalizing at an intruding eagle.

 

and I witnessed them chasing one away as it tried to encroach into their territory.

 

 

 

 

Eaglets in downy feathers taking a look at their new world.

Eaglets in downy feathers taking a look at their new world.

 

I’ve seen the newly hatched eaglets peek out over the edge of the nest, looking at the world for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Mother feeding eaglet (1 of 1)

The mother pulls meat from the prey and feeds the eaglets until they learn to tear it for themselves.

 

And I’ve watched them as they were being fed by their parents.

 

 

 

 

 

The eaglets outgrew their downy feathers after a few weeks, looking more eagle-like.

The eaglets outgrew their downy feathers after a few weeks, looking more eagle-like.

They’ve grown rapidly, adding more mature feathers to their downy ones.

 

 

 

 

 

The female changed course in mid-air directly above me one day. As she twisted she also flew upside down momentarily.

The female changed course in mid-air directly above me one day. As she twisted she also flew upside down momentarily.

I’ve seen the parents do aerial acrobatics, which were startling, and bring in fish and water fowl that they’ve hunted from a nearby lake and surrounding woods.

To learn their habits and flight patterns requires standing sometimes for hours waiting for something to happen.

 

 

Adults perched vocalizing (1 of 1)

The adults vocalize with a high pitched screech-like sound. It’s more comical than regal or menacing to my ear.

The adults fly to a nearby tree and perch on the same limb, often vocalizing to each other in a strange sounding screech that is almost comical coming from a bird that looks so menacing and regal.

 

 

 

Eaglet wings raised (1 of 1)

The first-born has developed noticeably more quickly than its sibling. Here he/she is flexing it wings in preparation for the day when it will fly. And that day is not long off.

 

I’ve seen how the first-born has developed more rapidly than its sibling. He/she stands in the nest and flaps her wings as it’s trying to fly.

 

 

 

 

 

Second born eaglet (1 of 1)

The second born was more reticent in taking food early on. Today it’s more active and is maturing rapidly.

The second-born is developing more slowly and is much smaller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male eagle on dead tree.

The male recently perched on this dead tree trunk in the morning sunlight after circling the nest and bringing in a fish for the eaglets.

I’m waiting for the first eaglet to fledge with something like the anticipation a parent has when its child takes its first step. Until then, I watch with admiration at the sight of new lives being launched and behold the beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

Unity, Schism, or Something In-between?

The bishops of The United Methodist Church proposed a path forward that forestalled debate on human sexuality when they offered a plan of action to the delegates of the 2016 General Conference of the church in Portland.

The plan includes a call to an extended time of prayer, review of the sections of the church’s law book referring to human sexuality, the creation of a commission to consider how to move the church forward and the possibility for a called session of General Conference at some future date to consider how the church manages its conflict over human sexuality.

Exclusionary policies regarding homosexuality spelled out in the law book of the church, called the Book of Discipline, are the source of the dispute.

I watched as an outsider after having been part of the general church staff for a number of years.

Parliamentary procedure became a proxy for action in a session that looked like the church was slowly unraveling. Delegates called for multiple points of order and made amendments to motions that brought the proceedings to a standstill.

One delegate even made an unprecedented request (at least I can find no precedent) to ask the bishop presiding over the session to step down due to “bias” and allow another to take his place.

This was an indication of how brutal the situation has become and how deeply entrenched are the different factions.

A Theological Problem

At root, this is a theological problem of great importance. But it also a cultural issue. And even some conservatives who are holding fast to exclusion concede that it is a battle lost. The church is fighting over values from a world that is already past, but not yet fully accepted by some.

It seems reasonable to say that there is no theological solution to the division. The differences are too great. The hurts too deep. The positions too fixed.

The denomination, once a cornerstone of mainline theology, has become irrelevant in the public conversation about human sexuality in the United States due to its exclusionary policies and practices.

On this issue, it is now in league with theologies that are more accurately situated in 19th and 20th century fundamentalism than in the traditions, teachings and practices of Christian faith over the centuries.

For a lucid discussion of this, see a statement by Timothy Eberhart, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ecology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Assistant Professor of Theology and Ecology at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Only time will tell if the proposed commission can provide alternatives that keep the church from making a formal split. On the other hand, it may determine that a split is preferable to the theological differences that are eating away at the church’s mission and witness.

Revisiting Regionalism

Past proposals for reorganization into semi-autonomous regional bodies will likely be given greater consideration. This would, in theory, make it possible for the church in different parts of the world to follow the theological perspective most acceptable to that region—schism without calling it schism.

What it would do to common mission and witness is open to question. What it would do to the nature of the community and how United Methodists view themselves in the world is worth considering as well.

Discipleship and the Kingdom of God

The call to discipleship is a call to see oneself in relationship to the whole world that is God’s good Creation. It is not a call to sectarianism, chauvinism, or cultural isolation.

In fact, these are the very things that are tearing the world apart, many of them under the guise of religious extremism.

If the church moves toward regionalism and does not simultaneously begin to teach more intentionally that to follow Jesus is to become a citizen of a kingdom that knows no geography, and that demands that one become a globally aware citizen who stands for justice for all and respects the sacredness of human personality, it will have failed its missional responsibility.

The call to be a disciple is the call to rise above the divisiveness that so characterizes religion in these days, contributes to the diminishment of the global community, and continues to do great harm to people around the world.

This is the challenge the church must face.

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There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28.

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This discussion by David Brooks of social fragmentation and decentralization is pertinent to the deliberations that will be conducted in The United Methodist Church in the future.

Practice and Learn, Practice and Learn

Female Eastern Towhee (1 of 1)

A female Eastern Towhee at eye level in the shade of a tree. Females of this species are equally colorful as the males, in my opinion. That’s not always the case with birds.

In an opinion piece in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, Gerald Marzorati, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine, writes that immersing yourself in something new and difficult, and improving at it, is a key to better life as we age.

He took up tennis and gained new insights about himself. He also experienced physical improvement.

Marzorati says it should be a difficult activity—a craft or discipline—that takes effort and coaching. It’s more than reading a self-help book or thinking good thoughts.

Much of his insight is consistent with my own learnings in photography.

My activity didn’t start that way. It started as an attempt to get more exercise. As Sharon and I began our daily walks we discovered anew how much we enjoyed being outside as well as being active.

One day we saw a red-winged blackbird on the hiking path and I said I should bring a camera the next time we walked. That started it, and my effort to perfect my nature photography skills have become a daily discipline.

Marzorati says “practice, practice practice” is the foundation for this rejuvenating effort. In photography, subject, composition, lighting, focus, framing, angle of view, shutter speed, and f stop all figure into making a photograph.

So does post-processing and printing which are disciplines unto themselves.

Pine Warbler. This is a photo I should have left un taken. The light alters the color of the bird and the background is busy. Discrimination is something I continue to learn when I get enthusiastic about seeing an attractive subject.

Pine Warbler. This is a photo I should have left untaken. The light alters the color of the bird and the background is busy. Discrimination is something I continue to learn when I get enthusiastic about seeing an attractive subject.

I still need to be more discriminating in selecting subjects. Along with those things I’ve listed above, poses and backgrounds make a photograph.

It’s more difficult to do this in a forest in subdued light than on a shoreline in the sunshine. I also trek in the rain and snow because photographic things happen on rainy or snowy days as well as sunny or overcast days. For some creatures it’s necessary to lie down to get eye-level views. I hadn’t anticipated lying on my stomach in the wet grass in spring or frosty weeds in winter when I started this venture.

I also hadn’t thought about how I would get up the first time I laid down but I figured out a way do so without looking too much like a hippo rolling in mud.

I’m still a long way from where I’d like to be with the photos I’m making. I can see improvement but there’s still room for more. Making photos of birds in flight is much different from birds in trees, or those on shore. Small subjects such as birds are more difficult than large ones.

Wild things move. Sometimes quickly and erratically. I’m told that practice is necessary to make adjustments on the fly, to adjust without thinking. Sometimes when I think about adjusting exposure or speed, the opportunity to make an image is gone.

So, it’s a process of practice and learn, practice and learn. Undergirding this is the need to stay alert, to remember, to be aware, and to be present in the moment. None of this will make me younger. But it does make life more interesting, adventuresome and meaningful.

 

I’ll have some additional reflections in future posts.