Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 181, Monday, 7/7/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Today was a day full of constant weather changes from sun to thunderstorms, back to hazy skies and the threat of more thunderstorms. It had cooled down to the low 80s by the time I reached the valley late this afternoon.

I've enjoyed the evening life of the valley, having spent 4 years shooting the early mornings and day hours, taking the later part of the day has new rewards.

One of those was not nest 7, however. Still nothing.

I hiked out, maybe I should say, I swam out to nest 1. The tall, 8 to 10 foot grasses had collapsed across my path making my hike out a guessing game as to where my trail was, and soaking me to the skin while I stepped into the pool of green grasses trying to find it.

D'ODEE was alone on the nest tree. He was calling out from his perch on the north limb. I thought maybe tonight he would try to fly, at least stretch out his wings -- but he didn't.

I sat with him until the sky turned to a marbled black and gray coloration as the last of the sun set behind the bluffs. I heard the deer that stays close to me thumping around me. I even tracked it back to my main post and the tracks are small, probably just a yearling.

I hiked out and squeezed out my rain bibs for a few minutes before moving on to nest 2. Nest two was dark from todays rain, but there was a small hope in me that the shadow on the side was Terry Gail.

I moved on to nest 6, and on my way I came upon twin fawns playing in a meadow. One would watch me while the other dipped his head down and ate some grasses and then they both got the "snort" from mom that is, and trotted off into the tall grasses.

I found no activity except a silhouette of one of the eaglets up on nest 6.

On my way to nest 5 I stopped to shoot images of a huge buck standing off in the distance. His rack was impressive, and was already jutting forward and several inches above his big ears.

He stood motionless as I approached him and when I stopped and set up my camera he moved ever so slightly to the woods, inching his way to them and then leaping into them.

My eyes had already caught the sight of a mother raccoon with four plump babies trailing behind so I forgot about the buck and turned my attention on her. She seemed to be teaching them how to forage under the crevices and had them all sitting in a circle around her while she would reach down under the ball of grasses and pull something up.

I would have stayed all night watching her teach her young, but I still had the nests ahead to get to before it was completely dark.

As I set up at nest 5 I wondered what I would find when I focused in on the nest. I found myself chuckling at those bright yellow feet of the eaglet, as visible as a yellow flashing light to a driver approaching an intersection.

What I didn't expect, however, was that the moment I snapped the shutter the eaglet fledged. I got exactly three blurry shots of an eaglet making his first documented flight into the marsh, sinking down as he tried out his pair of wings. I did the best I could panning and shooting at 1/20th of second.

I was so surprised at that unexpected blessing to be there, right there at the right to see what I thought would likely be impossible from my 1/2 mile distance. I wonder if God used that buck and those raccoons to slow me down, otherwise I would have been there and shot the eaglet and had already moved on by the time the eaglet was ready, at fourteen weeks.

I didn't see the second eaglet. He must have fledged, and he was most likely the inspiration for the second eaglet to leave. Those two eaglets are very bonded and where one goes, the other is sure to follow.

I didn't find Victory Bell on nest 3, and I hope I didn't miss his big day, his fledging, but I'll know more as I go out tomorrow.

Nest 4 was, as usual, too covered up to see any activity.

The skies glowed with a hint of pink and orange fading into the lavender clouds. I could not have imagined a day so full of surprises ending with shades of any other colors.

I'm looking forward to day 182.

See you on the journey--


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