By Charles Towne
You might have seen it there on that high bluff overlooking Michigan’s Muskegon River. The tree has dominated the site for how many years?
The two mature bald eagles perch side by side in the top of the great white pine.
Their nest is most impressive. Six feet wide and eight feet tall it has been added to each year by the pair of large raptors.
Some of the branches that make up the nest are as large as a man’s arm and over four feet long. The resulting nest weighs over half a ton.
Built strong, it has survived many a storm and it will stand many more.
How many chicks have began their lives as fledglings, way up there?
There were those early years when the eggs were fragile, so very fragile that they broke just from being brooded, or they would break as they were being rotated, but the adults did what they do, they laid more eggs and sat their silent vigil.
The eagles didn’t understand D.D.T., only what they must do, and so it was since the deadly pesticide diminished in the food chain many young eagles have survived and thrived.
This particular year the female had brooded three eggs. The first to hatch was a female followed a short time later by her brother. It didn’t take long for the female to set herself to the task of eliminating any competition for food.
With determination, she rolled that last egg over the edge of the nest.
The egg dropped some twenty feet before it smashed into a large branch, its contents to fall lifeless and unknowing to the ground below to feed the ants.
Once the egg was gone the female turned her attention to her sibling, and with a hungry gleam in her eyes she attacked him, determined to either kill him or force him from the nest but he was more determined to live than his sister was that he should die.
The parents spent much time making countless trips back and forth from the river to the nest, carrying salmon to feed their rapidly growing, ravenous charges.
Yes, the eaglets grew and gained strength.
Whenever possible the female, never satisfied, stole scraps of fish from her brother, but he persisted and survived.
Nearing that time when they should leave the nest they practiced flying.
They would stand on the edge of the nest and grasp it with needle-sharp talons, flapping their wings, building strength in preparation for that day when they would no longer be confined to the only home they had ever known.
Time passed and the eaglets grew and more time passed until one day the young male, tired of fending off his sister’s savage attacks, stood on the side of the nest, and stretching his wings wide, he launched himself from the familiar, from death at his sister’s behest, into a new life.
More days passed and then weeks but the young female, now flying and able to fend for herself refused to leave the nest.
The youngster, easily distinguishable from the adult birds by the absence of white on her head, sat on the edge of the nest. She dozed, now and then awakening to gaze out over what she considered her domain.
The two mature eagles sat side by side, close to each other not far away. Clucking and chirruping to each other the female expressed her need, her concern, for she was again ready to lay her eggs.
All of her maternal instincts were directed now toward what would be.
A few more faint chirrups and the male leaned forward and spreading his wings he launched himself from the perch.
Dropping a few feet he caught an updraft and soared, up, up, and beyond.
The impertinent young female dozed in the warm sun. She shook herself, fluffing her feathers and with closed eyes she groomed herself, raking her soft breast feathers with her powerful beak. She slept.
The adult male, casting aside all paternal instincts, came in low and from the rear of the unsuspecting youngster.
Holding his feet in front of him, talons curled inward almost like a fist; he swooped in and struck the youngster from behind, knocking her from the nest.
Dazed, surprised, the young female tumbled almost to the ground before she was able to catch herself. She rose, wondering what had struck her.
Circling around she was about to approach the nest again when her father struck again, this time from above.
As he dove down on the younger bird he screamed in anger, the cry unheard more than two hundred yards away. For such a powerful bird the eagle has a surprisingly weak call, but the young female heard it just as she was struck that second time.
Again she tried to approach the nest but this time the adult male struck her such a blow she was forced to settle on the ground to gather herself.
She had learned her lesson. That night she perched in the top of another tall pine some distance away but within an easy flight of the river. The river after all contained fish and those fish were life itself.
Back at the nest, the female sits contentedly while the male perches protectively nearby.
Nestled into the female’s breast feathers are two eggs. And so life goes on.
THE NATURE LOVER’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, please help us to be teachable. Help us to listen to your voice and learn. You are so very gracious Father. Teach us that we can be a blessing to the world, to all we meet. We praise you Papa, and we thank you for what you have done for us and what you are going to do. In Jesus Holy name we ask it, Amen
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.