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Becoming a Certified Naturalist

Fossilized brachiopods and crinoids which lived in the sea that covered the state of Tennessee 450 million years ago

A few days ago I was kneeling alongside some middle school children on a hillside in a rural park as they searched through rock-filled bins for fossils in an Archeology Day festival.

When one little boy found a fossil he looked up at me and said, “So, I’m holding 450 million years in my hand?”

I assured him that yes, he was. “Wow,” he said.

His excitement was exactly what the sponsors of Archeology Day wanted children to experience.

In the past 13 months I’ve had numerous experiences like this, experiences that are enriching, encouraging and fulfilling.

Since April, in addition to fossil hunting at historic Ft. Negley in Nashville, I’ve been assisting in a project to monitor and record data on Monarch butterflies at Owl’s Hill, a local nature sanctuary.

A migrating female Monarch butterfly feeding on fennel blossoms.

We’ve recorded the types and density of milkweed, monarch adults, eggs, larvae, temperature and rainfall to add to a national database on monarch habitat, survival and migration.

I’ve participated in another citizen science project to collect leaves of red maple trees in spring and fall to understand how leaf traits vary in this species in response to strong environmental gradients.

A chikapin oak that is old enough to have witnessed Civil War battles.

I’ve hiked with a trail manager through bush to a chinkapin oak that is probably old enough to have at least witnessed Civil War battles around Nashville, and perhaps events much earlier.

Located at the crest of a steep hill, it’s easy to imagine a time when Cherokee hunters could rest under this magnificent sentry, long before white people crossed the Appalachians from the east.

It’s also easy to feel a sense of the sacred under its massive limbs.

I got to help construct nesting boxes for near-threatened hellbender salamanders and to see the hellbender research facility at the Nashville Zoo.

I learned that the Great Smoky Mountains are the world’s capital for salamanders. More varieties live here than anywhere in the world. The three-foot-long hellbenders are among 30 species, some of which exist only in the Smokies.

These choice experiences are the result of a course I began in August 2018, to become certified as a Tennessee Naturalist. The program is designed to introduce the natural history of Tennessee to interested adults and encourage them to volunteer in various ways.

We spend 40 hours in class lectures and field education, and another 40 volunteer hours for certification.

Additionally, we are encouraged to continue our education and to volunteer to:

  • Help state and local government agencies monitor and maintain the quality of our native ecosystems in a variety of citizen science projects;
  • Work with nonprofit organizations in preserving and maintaining our natural heritage;
  • Assist with public interpretive programs reaching school children and others across the state.

I received my certification in mid-September and I’m on the way to completing the next level of continuing education and volunteer hours.

I’ve combined this education with an intense commitment to nature photography to capture the beauty of our natural environment, beauty that is threatened virtually every day by the loss of habitat, pollution, pesticide overuse and climate change.

As we face a sixth great extinction and an environmental crisis that looms as an irreversible threat if not addressed quickly and meaningfully, each of us is challenged to learn more about the natural world, planet Earth and the species with whom we share life—and do all we can to protect and preserve.

The Poetry of Nature

Bald Eagle with catch

Bald Eagle with catch

Recently I watched a bald eagle slowly circle low over a placid lake. It made an unsuccessful pass to catch a fish and circled again.

On the second pass, it dropped its talons. There was a splash as it broke the water’s surface and snared its prey.

Leaving behind a of spray white water, it continued on its low flight path, looking downward and behind at one point to see if the catch was still secure.

Then it slowly lifted upward, turned in a graceful arc and flew to a log jutting out from the bank where it consumed its catch.

It was poetry in motion, a sight I had been yearning to see for too long to remember. I felt a sense of calm and fulfillment after watching this very simple, natural act.

A few days later, sitting in my backyard under a small stand of trees, a Cooper’s Hawk flew in from the west as a Bluejay took note and sought to escape the danger it posed.

In midair, among the tangled branches, the hawk splayed its wings, banked a sharp 90 degree turn and pursued the jay into open sky.

It was an amazing acrobatic move that I’ve never seen before.

I don’t know how the chase ended but the dexterity of the hawk was breath-taking.

As I view events like these they seem to me more than merely instinctual or mechanistic. They are, of course, both, but they tap into something deeper in the human psyche.

Rachel Carson, perhaps the finest nature writer of the 20th Century, said, “Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.”

Whatever this is, it cannot be fully explained by understanding the mechanics and physics of our world.

The reach of nature is more primal and revealing.

Viewed through this lens is to be reminded that we are a part of the stream of life, interconnected in a way that is mysterious and wonderful.

It’s more heart than head. It’s about beauty and mystery.

We live in a human-formed culture that dishes out slights and assaults on a daily basis. These can lead to cynicism if not despair.

Thoreau wrote more than 150 years ago, “In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean…[but] alone in distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even on a black and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself…”

Nature writers have sounded a similar theme throughout human history. Carson writes, “there is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds; in the ebb and flow of the tides; in the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in these repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

After working for years in a rewarding but high stress job, a return to nature is functioning as a healing process in my own life.

Being in nature provides occasion for contemplation, introspection and transcendence. These moments are challenging as well as healing.

I find comfort in Whitman’s insight, written nearly forty years after Thoreau, when he says, “After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.”

It’s easy to dismiss this sensibility as untethered romanticism, or naive and unscientific prattle, especially if one views nature as a resource to be exploited, its creatures as subjects to be dominated or slaughtered, or natural processes to be purely mechanistic or chemical interactions.

But I prefer to view it in a more expansive and perhaps less scientifically precise way; as poetry.

Writing to the people of Israel when they were dispirited and under the oppressive hand of the Assyrians, one of the authors of Isaiah in Hebrew scripture used a nature allegory that communicates to us today as surely as it communicated to a weary people long ago.

Those who wait on the Lord, the writer says, “shall mount up with wings like eagles.”

To equate human perseverance under oppressive conditions with the great characteristics of eagles is to lift the human spirit, and inspire it to soar.

This is poetic myth, and sacred story. Mythos takes us into a deeper level of truth than rational thought alone can explain.

It is transformational, and often healing.

In a troubled world that sometimes crushes our spirit and leaves abiding wounds, this vision of the deep grace that underlies Creation, and is revealed in moments of wonder and contemplation, is a gift to cherish.

My Virginia Creeper Escapade

I recently got into Virginia Creeper, a vine that for me is as toxic as poison ivy.

I took all the necessary precautions, long sleeve shirt, work gloves, even coveralls.

I scrubbed in the shower within thirty minutes of completing my garden work.

And still I got the oils on my arms.

When the outbreak started a couple of days later I applied over-the-counter salves.

When it continued, I followed a pharmacist’s suggestion for a soaking powder and calamine lotion.

When it got worse, I went to a drugstore clinic and got a prescription salve.

As it worsened, I went back and got prednisone.

After a miserable night, I went to a hospital-run clinic and got a shot.

But it’s the prednisone that drives this escapade. I kept my wife awake all night, she claims.

She had been pretty sympathetic until this. Now, she’s suggesting a different sleeping arrangement for the duration.

I was warned the prednisone might affect my sleep. Wow. That wasn’t the half of it.

It affected my appetite, my activity level, and my sleep.

That’s what got me in trouble with Sharon.

I made repeated trips to the kitchen throughout the night, which she says she heard between her naps.

I started the evening after supper with a bowl of watermelon. But that didn’t hold me.

I followed that with a granola bar. Then a banana. Then mixed nuts. Then an apple. Then vanilla wafers.

It was the vanilla wafers at 3:30 am that were the straw that broke the camel’s back, to mix my metaphors.

Well, that and the noise of the shower, which I took to try and stem the itching.

It was the crinkling tin foil and scratching sounds that I made pulling the wafers from the box that woke her for the last time.

I thought I was being stealthy. She says it sounded like a turtle scratching inside a cardboard box.

I guess tonight I’ll sleep upstairs.

But first I have to go to the grocery store.

Nature as Grace

Snowy Owl

I was sitting in a ditch alongside a road in farm country in Kentucky. It was cold and windy. The ground was wet.

My legs cramped as I tried to arrange them around the tripod that held my camera close to the ground. My back hurt and my backside was wet.

I was focused on a snowy owl that had chosen to winter in this place.

The only way I could get a decent photograph was to get low and make the sky the background.

The owl sat on an old concrete building foundation barely three feet above the ground.

Central Kentucky is an unusual, even rare, location for this arctic native.

I heard footsteps and turned as a lady in rubber boots wearing a coat with a hood sat down on the ground beside me and started to talk.

She told me we could park in her driveway at the top of the hill, apparently as a polite and subtle way to tell us we were improperly parked.

Then she began to relate her experiences with the owl. It has been hunting on her side of the road, finding water at her stock pond, and landing on fenceposts nearby.

She shared photos she had taken.

I listened. She spoke of family, nature, the owl and her beautiful dogs. I take great joy in moments like this. Unplanned, authentic, spontaneous connection.

Spontaneous Connections

But she was only one of the half dozen folks I got to talk to that day. There was the farmer who owns the land on which the owl was resting, a local man who bragged that the owl came to his place in the evening to hunt, a local newspaper photographer who interviewed me about my interest in the owl, a mother and adult son who had driven about as far as Sharon and I to see the owl and take photos.

Some people stopped their vehicles in the middle of the road to talk, such is the lack of traffic in this beautiful farm country.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

I’ve been thinking lately about nature, and how it is more than a resource for humans to exploit, despoil and use up.

Thoreau on Nature

Thoreau wrote in his journal in 1857, “In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean. No amount of gold or respectability would in the least redeem it — dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!! But alone in distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even on a black and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that the cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home… It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion, and walked with him.”

I understand Thoreau. I’ve come to myself in solitude. But I’ve also come to others when we share a deep respect for nature. We connect. And when we honor it, nature makes healing connections.

Original Blessing

What I’ve been thinking about is this. Religions that speak of original sin need to be reconsidered. As Fransiscan friar Richard Rohr writes, it would be more accurate to think of our presence on this earth as “original blessing.”

“The first act of divine revelation is creation itself. The first Bible is the Bible of nature,” says Fr. Rohr.

In one of his meditations he shares the words of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:

Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.
I asked the tree, “Tell me about God.”;
then it blossomed.

 

We sought a little owl far, far from home. We found, however, connection, community, beauty and joy–a shared experience of the divine.

Teilhard writes, “By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined [the divine] as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.”

Snow Falling Gently

A pileated woodpecker goes about finding food.
(Click to enlarge photos.)

Snow falling gently in a quiet wood is sacramental, a gracious act revealing the sacredness of Creation.

I was reminded of this on a cold winter day as I listened to the rat-a-tat-tat of a pair of pileated woodpeckers and the low hoot of a distant owl as snow covered the woodlands where I stood.

The ethereal rustle of snowflakes alighting on trees provided a musical undertone.

Shhh, shhh, shhh whispers the snow. Be quiet. Be still. Listen. See.

A quiet snowfall is so completely innocent and deeply authentic.

Snow covers the forest bed.

In contrast to the noise with which we all live these days, and to the tawdry artifice of popular culture, this beauty leads to contemplation and reflection.

Before your eyes, the wood is transformed. How can you not be swept away from the mundane and led to consider the sublime?

If the place in which you stand can change so quickly and beautifully what other surprises might nature teach about “reality?”

Snowflakes fall ever so gently.

Well, there is much to learn: Creation is dynamic, an on-going process, as is life itself, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Life need not be bound by limited expectations. Reality need not be immutably fixed. Transformation happens, sometimes simply and quickly. And it can be beautiful.

Nature awakens us to a higher level of consciousness–or is it a deeper, more interior way of comprehending?

Snow gathers on a reed-like stem.

Of course, the scientist can explain how moisture condenses as warm air rises, clashing with cold resulting in ice crystals that fall to earth. But science cannot explain why we are transfixed with wonder, mesmerized by its beauty and led to contemplate and reflect as it happens.

We can lose ourselves in higher thought and our trivial cares melt away in a snowy woodland day. That’s beyond the ability of science to explain.

A tufted titmouse collects a kernel from an icy plant.

We are invited, however gently, to cultivate the ability to be present and fully attentive, so that we can see and hear in more profound ways, to reach beyond the obvious limits and break out of the binding cords that can make life seem routine and wearisome.

We live in an age that makes a fetish of being productive, an age of doubt, violence, fear and alienation.

Religion has, for many, been turned into uncritical certitude devoid of mystery and wonder, a refuge for exclusion and authoritarianism.

It is diminished, and as a result, matters less to the truly inquisitive.

And yet we yearn for the transcendent.

We must answer the question Einstein said is the first and most basic: Is the universe a friendly place?

I say, “yes.” And more.

What is sacred is not “out there” in some distant nether land. It is here before us and within us. Emmanuel, the holy in-dwelling.

The very ground upon which we stand points to the holy. That we do not see does not make it untrue.

The holy, or, if you wish, that which offers meaning and inspires us, is already before us to apprehend, to discover, with insight, compassion and concern.

That is why snow falling gently in a quiet wood is sacramental.

A Walk in the Woods

Radnor Lake at sunrise

For the past 2 1/2 years, I have made it a point to walk approximately three miles every day. Most often I walk at a wildlife conservation area with many trails and a lake within the city limits of metropolitan Nashville.

I made a goal to post one photo a day of nature or wildlife on Facebook and other social media.

This has been a remarkably positive experience. A cold morning this week was especially so.

I arrived just after sunrise but before the sun rose above the hills that encircle the lake.

When I started my walk the temperature was 22° but Accuweather said it felt like 17°.

Small birds were prolific, unlike the previous day when the woods seemed unusually quiet.

A doe watched as I stood nearby

A doe watched as I stood nearby

A family group of does watched me as I approached, lifting their heads and turning as I walked along.

The younger ones were playful and scampered back and forth into the woods. The older ones kept their eyes on me until I stopped and lowered myself to appear smaller. They eventually returned to their grazing.

I walked on and saw several yellow-rumped warblers and eastern phoebes feeding on trees at the edge of the lake. More of these birds are showing up now than were here over the winter.

Tree swallows in sunrise fog

Tree swallows in sunrise fog

A flock of tree swallows flew by. Fog was rising from the water. As the sun crept above the hills, the swallows flew into the orange haze. I fired a couple of clicks of the shutter.

A horned grebe swam away from the bank below me, the sole grebe on the lake.

A green-winged teal circled and landed toward the middle of the lake behind a group of ring-necked ducks bobbing for food.

As I walked along the paved pedestrian road a hermit thrush froze in place on a tree within a few feet of me. Then a golden-crowned kinglet busily worked the next tree and I stopped to watch and attempt a photograph.

Eastern phoebes flew ahead of me along the bank. They didn’t seem panicked or afraid.They were casual, staying ahead of me as they searched the trees for insects.

A great blue heron sunning in early morning light

A great blue heron sunning in early morning light

A great blue heron flew from its resting place on a log near the shore as I passed by. I found another sunning itself on a log jutting from the bank. I stopped and took a picture. It stood there, aware of my presence but unperturbed.

The horned grebe muddled along the bank.

I walked to the road that runs atop the dam where I discovered another hermit thrush. It was not concerned about me. I walked within a few feet and it continued to hop along the ground searching for insects.

The thrush perched, raising and lowering its tail as it observed the ground for moving insects.

 

Hermit thrush seemed unconcerned that I was nearby

A hermit thrush seemed unconcerned that I was nearbyThe barred owl was unperturbed by my presence

I worked to get a photo clear of foreground brush. I stalked the bird for 20 minutes, taking several photos while it was on the ground and perched in small trees on the bank.

Two rusty blackbirds drink at lake cove

Two rusty blackbirds drinking at a lake cove

I continued along the lake trail to a cove where I saw a large flock of rusty blackbirds drinking at the edge of the lake.

 

 

I’ve been looking for this species for three years to no avail. Now, here they are with the sun shining on them and no obstructions to block my view. I knelt down to become smaller and started taking pictures. They remained at this drinking spot for ten minutes before flying away.

I was thinking, “This may the best day I’ve had in the woods since I started coming here over two years ago.” I might even work up to a whistling mood.

I walked the rest of the trail, my feet crunching the frozen ground. I was alone on the trail. That’s quite unusual. I had the place to myself.

Barred owl on street sign

Barred owl on street sign

I went to my pickup truck and had a snack before starting home. As I was leaving the entrance to the wildlife area, I spotted a barred owl sitting on a street sign near the gate. I stopped and took a photo through the open window.

I edged the truck forward and took a second photo. The owl sat there looking at me.

 

The barred owl was unperturbed by my presence

The barred owl was unperturbed by my presence

I moved even with the owl, expecting it to fly. It sat looking at me. I snapped a closeup photo and drove away, chuckling.

Today was typical only in that I walked the trail observing the wildlife and enjoyed being outdoors. It was atypical in that I was alone for most of the time and the wildlife unperturbed allowed me to get close, unusually close.

It was a great day.

Pursuing Beauty

We are made immortal by the contemplation of beauty–Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked how I achieved a particular look for photos I post on Facebook.

It’s interesting that in the digital age this question comes up often. “How did you do that?”

In my reckoning, it was not so in the age of film, despite the fact that prints from film were heavily processed. Back then the photo seemed to speak for itself. We’ve become so technologized today that we just assume a photo has been manipulated in some way.

I’ll answer the questions in the next few posts by writing about my workflow which results in the look I’m trying to capture. But there are a couple of prior steps and I don’t want to ignore them.

Photography as Prayer

For me photography is more than the sum of techniques and technical skills. It’s an experience. It’s the act of creating art.

Sometimes it’s a spiritual act.

I once produced a video on at-risk teenage Native Americans. In a class on crafts, a wise grandmother told the kids, “When you do something that’s creative and constructive, it’s a prayer. You pray with more than words. You pray when you dance, when you sing, when you work with your hands.”

Photography can be a prayer.

She also told them that they should never do creative work when they are in a bad mood because that spirit will enter into the outcome. “Even if you’re making soup for someone who is feeling bad,” she said, “you should not make that soup if you’re not in a good mood. Your bad feelings will enter into the soup and it won’t be healthy for them.”

My photography is my soup-making. It’s both an experience and the act of creating.

Creation is Beautiful

I don’t try to achieve an effect so much as to capture the beauty that I see before me, and to share it online with friends who have the same appreciation for the natural world as I have.

Often I’m awed at the simplest of things that I see; the flight of a common bird, the shape of a leaf on a tree, the shimmer of light on water. I know some think this is naive, and others mere sentimentalism.

But it’s how I feel and what I see.

Sometimes nature, especially landscapes, lead me into a meditative state. How wonder-filled is the earth that we call our Mother?

Sometimes nature is, by human judgment, cruel. We’ve seen examples. Birds of prey are graceful but merciless. They are killing machines. Large cats, muscles straining, attack the young, weak or old in a herd. It seems an unfair match.

These are pieces of the whole reality, and they challenge the perception of an idealized natural world. It’s not all beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Never the less, it always comes back to beauty. The Creation is a beautiful thing. It nurtures us and feeds our souls.

It calls us to protect and preserve it. We need reminders of this call, and we need to visualize it.

The Hunger for Beauty

In her excellent newsletter Brainpickings, Maria Popova quotes the poet John O’Donahue on beauty. “We can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us,” he writes.

“The human soul is hungry for beauty,” says O’Donahue. “When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.”

He goes on to say we feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful because it meets the needs of our soul. It brings a sense of completeness and sureness, says O’Donahue.

Nature photography—birds, animals, landscapes—isn’t simply about the photos. It’s about the pursuit of beauty, about our wholeness, about coming home.

It’s a prayer.

Fledging Day Has Arrived – The Eagle Family – Final Chapter

 

(Since January 2016, I have been observing and photographing a pair of bald eagles which nested, hatched two eggs, and nurtured the eaglets. The series of photo essays on The Eagle Family can be found at these links: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4.)

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (5 of 12)First flights! This is a first flight from the nest to a nearby tree. This is juvenile #1 after flying to a tree about 75 feet to the north of the nest. The young one landed on a limb, hung on for dear life, and then decided to test the limits by flapping another five or six feet to another branch.

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (6 of 12)

It discovered that balancing on a limb is more precarious than balancing on the nest. It wobbled, flapped and

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (7 of 12)

seemed to say, “Perhaps if I chew off a bit of this knob I can get a better grip.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (10 of 12)

Juvenile 2 is even more uncertain. It perched on the same tree as Number 1. Then it flew back to the tree where the nest is located. It landed on a branch and settled in for a spell.

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (8 of 12)

Number 1 followed, planning to land. But it discovered those small twigs at the top of the tree won’t hold a bird of its size.

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (1 of 12)

So it flew on (as there’s really no choice), circled the tree, and headed for a stand of tress a few hundred yards away. I saw it land in the treetops in a flutter of wings and leaves, too far for my camera to get a decent shot, but it  would have been an embarrassing photo anyway. No eagle would want to be seen crash landing.

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (9 of 12)

Mother eagle circled the young ones with a fish. I’m thinking she was attempting to lure them to follow her for a feeding. This is part of the training to move them from the nest as well as to begin to teach them to hunt on their own.

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (2 of 12)

After its own traumatic landing, Number 2 was not that hungry yet. It is less mature, and more insecure than its sibling.

 

 

 

 

 

It sat perched and called out to its sibling, which flew in from the treetops and landed just below. The difference between the two is very interesting. Juvenile 1 is more aggressive, coordinated and adventurous. Number 2 is smaller and rather obsequious.

 

Now that they’ve fledged they have a lot more to learn. The survival rate for young eagles is horrible. By most reliable estimates, only 1 in 10 reach adulthood, which is 5 years of age. I’m hoping these young ones are among the survivors.

The Eagle Family – Part 4

 

(Since January 2016, I have been observing and photographing a pair of bald eagles which nested, hatched two eggs, and nurtured the eaglets. The series of photo essays on The Eagle Family can be found at these links: Part 1Part 2, Part 3.)

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (3 of 12)The young eagles have grown from eaglets to juveniles, awkward and innocent, but much more eagle-like.

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (4 of 12)

Juvenile number 1 is most active, testing its wings in a strong breeze.

 

 

 

 

 

At times it looked as if the young ones were unsure what those long things on their sides were for, and they whacked each other as they stretched and flapped them. But they are getting the hang of it.

The Eagle Family - Part 4 (12 of 12)

Hopping from the nest to a branch nearby is one way to practice “flying.”

 

 

 

 

 

But once you get there you have to have a firm grip. Without it you could take a tumble.

The juveniles will be fledging very soon. Stay tuned.

 

The Eagle Family–Part 3

(Since January 2016, I have been observing and photographing a pair of bald eagles which nested, hatched two eggs, and nurtured the eaglets. The series of photo essays on The Eagle Family can be found at these links: Part 1Part 2.”)

 

The Eagles Part 3-6The young eagles are developing quickly. They are beginning to take on the look of more mature juveniles.

 

 

 

 

The Eagles Part 3-3

Testing the limits of the nest.

They are testing the limits of the nest as well. The first-born is more adventuresome. He/she has begun to peer over the edge of the nest and also move to a tree limb outside the nest.

 

 

 

The Eagles Part 3-2

Perching outside the nest.

It perches there before returning to the nest. I’ve read this exploration sometimes leads to a fall which, in turn, results in the first flight. Sometimes these flights are not successful and the eaglet cannot return to the nest. In such a situation the parents watch over the young bird, feed it, and wait until it gets the hang of flying and can return to the nest. I’m hoping this is not the case with these eaglets.

 

 

The Eagles Part 3-5

This morning’s meal is a fish.

The maturation of the two has been interesting. The second-born is slightly behind. Recently, father brought in a fish for the morning feed.

 

 

 

The Eagles Part 3-4

Begging to be fed.

The second-born tried to get him to feed her/him. I heard a low whimper that sounded like an animal whine.

 

 

 

 

The Eagles Part 3

Father eagle did not answer the plea and flew off, leaving it to the young ones to feed themselves.

But the father was having none of it and left the nest after dropping off the fish, leaving it to the young ones to feed themselves (which they did).

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagles Part 3-7

Male eagles are smaller than females, as you can see in this photo.

Mother and father frequently perch on the same limb near the nest and stand guard. Here you can see the difference in size between them. The female is on the right. She is much larger than the male. This is typical of most raptors.

 

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