Thursday, July 3, 2008
Day 177, Thursday, 7/3/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles
Hello Eagle Friends,
Today we had beautiful weather. When I arrived in the valley later this afternoon, the temperatures were in the low 70s and the skies were mostly sunny.
I had a busy morning with four of our monarchs emerging and convincing my daughter why they needed to go free. We watched as three females and one male flitted off into the blue skies above. It was a tender moment when one flew back and dusted across Em's hand as if to say thank you and then flew away.
It was my father-in-laws birthday today. He's 29 again. Happy birthday dad.
I found no activity on nest 7. I was anxious to get to nest 1. I had the deep feeling today was going to be the day that Daniels flew and I felt bad getting out so late, and hoped I didn't miss him fledging.
I hiked to my main post, and met up with Cindy, the doe. Some guys yelled out the window at me as I entered the woods, "The eagles aren't there."
I didn't respond, but I sure had to wonder why of all days that someone would yell that out today? Just kids messing around.
By the time I reached my man post I was covered in grass seed, and hundreds of quarter inch seeds were pressing into my scalp and pasted all over my head. That is a feeling you never get used to. It's like getting sand in your mouth that gritty feeling.
I found Daniels sitting below the nest. He must have fallen down. There was only one way up and that was climbing up to the east side, but then he'd have to choose to hop over to the perch below the north limb, or try and fly up to the upper limbs to get back to his nest.
He sat for a long time contemplating his move, and I could tell by his peering around the tree he was going to try to go for the east branch. Then he did. He made it, but the real test was before him.
D'ODEE was centered on the north limb, and calling out, encouraging Daniels over and over to come up. I decided I needed to move to my north post, and fast, because I was just sure this was going to be the day he fledged.
I unpacked my gear again, shot a few shots of the twins. D'ODEE was perched directly above Daniels and he was still looking for a way up to D'ODEE. Several times he opened his wings and then walked up the perch that only led to the narrow end of the limb, then he went back to the thicker part of the limb.
I decided to finish breaking my trail down the river and and to my east post. I knew I'd need fast access to that side in the next few days when the eaglets fledged. I broke it all the way to the twin tree that was still laying down across the river.
The twins pitched and I thought I was going to miss a feeding so I went back to my gear. Cindy was back there now, too.
I found several places she'd been standing along the river, her secret hideouts under the trees left bare sand bars. I almost stepped on what looked like another massasauga rattlesnake, too.
It had been sunning on a two foot wide by four foot tall sand pile brought in by the 2007 floods when I came through breaking my trail. I saw the dusty maroon and tan colors and a stout 3 foot body slither to the south. I went looking for it in the grasses, but I never saw it again. I tried convincing myself it was a hognose snake, it could have been, but I doubt it.
I went back to my gear and shot a few more shots as Daniels opened his wings and then folded them back to his sides. He was looking up at D'ODEE and D'ODEE looked down at him and cried out. I zoomed in on Daniels with my video camera as he cocked his head looking up at D'ODEE once again, then back at me.
Then I pulled back on the zoom giving him lots of room in the frame to fly, if he wanted and would.
I shot a few more pictures, and I thought I heard Dancer chirp out a couple times behind me in the cottonwoods, but I couldn't see him. Daniels opened his wings again and he looked out to the east, pumped his wings as I clicked a few more shots and then he did what none of his siblings have ever done.
He flew off because the winds came back for him tonight and they took him with this time. It all happened so fast and unexpectedly, and sometimes I wish I didn't have to view these events through tiny, scratched rectangular viewfinders or by hitting replay. I have never seen an eagle so determined to fly on his own and then fly, fearless of the unknown.
He flew and flew with such perfection that you would never have known this was his first flight. I shot his picture fighting back a stream of joyful tears knowing that we have a new eagle. He landed in a tree on the river. A tree that is new to the rivers' edge due to the floods that carved away the river bank.
I decided to call that tree, Big Rog after my father-in-law. If I were an eagle and it was my first flight that's the tree I'd aim for, one with arms big enough to catch and uphold me on my first flight.
It is my honor and privilege to officially announce and record that on this day, Thursday, July the 3rd, 2008, Daniels Charlie an 11 week and 6 day old eaglet fledged from his nest tree to the tree I now call Big Rog, at 19:25 this evening.
I can't wait to tell Charlie Daniels his eagle fledged.
D'ODEE sat in wonderment, he never chirped, peeped, or called. It was like he was in a state of shock watching his brother go off the nest tree with such ease. I am telling you from experience, I have not seen any of the previous 5 eaglets go with such ease as they all misjudged their flight and fell, or were blown out, or eating a turtle and fell out.
The video captures what the still photos could not, and the still photos captured where the video cut off, and only by the grace of God was I able to shoot both cameras and get good footage on both.
I broke my trail back to my right turn to the eagle nest main post, and I shot a few more shots of Daniels Charlie in the Big Rog tree. He looked so proud up there, so regal and if he was scared it didn't show.
Then sun had set, and I decided to finish breaking my path up to the gully. I found another spot that Cindy had been hanging out too. I hiked back to my truck, still in awe of the nights big event.
Nest 2 was empty. I hoped to hear Terry Gail but I didn't hear any eagles.
I moved on to nest 6 and I found Dick or Linda, perched up by the nest calling out to the twins who were in the nest out of my view except for a quick head shot.
As I headed to nest 5 a big buck jumped in front of my truck. I barely missed him. He stopped in a field and stared back at me nodding his head at my long lens. I counted 8 points, on his tall antlers but they still have a long way to grow. I thought his face was so handsome with a darker coloration and his eyes were closer together. He was just a very beautiful buck.
At nest 5 I thought for sure the twins would be gone. They were still there clinging to that tiny perch, both eaglets still wing in wing. They didn't look like they'd even moved since yesterday. Harry was driving by and I talked to him a few minutes.
I showed him my buck shots and he though they were pretty good.
I told him that Daniels had fledged and how incredible that was to see him fly off. He said, "I can tell how wonderful it must have been just the way you described it happening."
At nest 3, Victory Bell was sitting on the north side of the nest with his mom or dad next to him. That was a shot I wish I could have been closer to them to get.
It was almost dark now, as the time was already after 9 PM. I shot my last pictures of nest 3 and 4 and headed back to Rochester.
I promised Em I'd take her to Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, tonight. The movie was a real gem.
Tomorrow my real work begins trying to track Daniels just by his calls.
I'm looking forward to day 178.
See you on the journey--