Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 190, Wednesday, 7/16/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

I arrived in the valley late today because we had to put a new radiator in my truck.
We had a choice of a used one from a recall, or a new one. That was a no brainer.
Luckily, they were able to get the truck in and out in the estimate two hour wait that leaked into four, but I got my truck back before late afternoon and made it to the valley just as it cooled down to the low 80s.

The humidity was another story, but maybe the storms will come in tonight as predicted and cool the area down.

I hiked out to my west post and found no eagles on the nest. I waited for any trace of a call of an eagle so I knew what direction to go. Finally, I heard the eagles crying out and from what I could tell they sounded like they were down on the sandbar.

That was a good thing. It's much easier to see an eagle on the tan colored sand than in a tree where they blend into the shadows.

I hiked over to the river quietly because I didn't want to scare them up. They cried out and I thought maybe Dancer or Daedee was near but I never saw either pass me.

As I brushed through the nettles on the sandy embankment, challenging myself to create the first chigger sensor that lights up if you are in the company of them, I heard the eaglets cry again.

I folded the grasses that loomed several feet above my head off to the side and when I did Daniels turned his head right to me. He watched me from his perch, then he signaled to D'ODEE who turned and looked at me too.

"Well if you both know I'm here, there's no sense hiding behind the grasses." I thought to myself. I moved into the opening I cleared just the other day.

For the first time since the Twin Tree blew across the river I found a purpose for now it held the twins of 2008, the once eaglets now eagles I have slowly allowed myself to love.

I try not to get too attached because in a blink they are gone, or so it seems.

They will be 14 weeks old this week and that means our time left is short, maybe a month, maybe 6 weeks and as I looked down on the eagles, and for the first time they had to look up at me we all met again, and I think they sensed my desire to be close to them for they didn't fly off, but simply went on with being newly fledged eagles learning to fish from a fallen tree.

It was obvious from how wet D'ODEE was that he had already fallen into the river. Still, he tilted his head down as his eyes caught the shimmering silver fish passing past him. Catching him was another story.

After awhile Daniels moved back to the lowest branch of the Twin Tree, which is still growing peacefully, sideways up and out of the river. I told Dave, "What if the reason the tree fell there was so when the next flood came it created a dam, and changed the course of the river? I think God loves those eagles so much that he would change a river to spare one nest. The river will bend around the tree and wash out, carve the east side of the bank away sparing the west bank where the tall cottonwood waves its leaves like a flag.

I got the shot that I had waited over 13 weeks for. I got a shot of the two eagles
sitting together fishing the river with all the summer yellow flowers painted into their story at dusk.

As I through my bag over my shoulder and turned to leave, D'ODEE lifted and flew off to the south. I knew that meant Daniels would follow, and I just aimed my camera and followed him, following D'ODEE's path all the way to where the river ended in my viewfinder.

Then I heard the two of them crying out because they were together again.

That was a perfect ending for today. Every time I think of the 2008 twins, Daniels and D'ODEE I'm going to recall that flight I saw tonight. I'm going to remember their cries and how peaceful it was to know they had one another to play with, to fly with and to share a fallen tree or sandbar, or just sit and watch the river running by.

Nest 2 was empty. I have to admit that it was hard to see the nest empty again after spending the last two days with Terry Gail.

I found the mother white-tailed deer with her fawns. The filed had been plowed under but they were still scratching for the delicate greens that grew there.

The mom ran half way up the bluff and turned watching me. I could hear one of the twins wrestling with some heavy brush to the left. I moved on as the mom walked deep into the neck high flowers on the clearing of the bluff, pausing only for a moment to see if her fawns were following.

Nest 6 eaglets were not visible.

Nest 5 eaglets were not around.

I found no activity on nest 3 or 4.

However, as I back tracked the full moon was rising and I stopped to photograph it's path over the steep bluffs behind nest 5 and I could hear the eaglets crying out.

Then I saw a large bird passing, and another, and then two more. With each large bird the twins cries pitched higher and I would guess they may have thought they were their parents coming in with food, because the great blue herons fooled me too as they flew across the back marsh in the last second of daylight.

I photographed the moon in several places on my trip back and then I pulled over roadside to listen for the calls of the coyotes or wolves that never came. That made me even more sure it had been wolves the other night.

I looked up the road, and remembered how that little red fox ran up to me, and I wished I could see him again.

I'm looking forward to day 191.

See you on the journey--


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 189, Tuesday, 7/15/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

It was a hot, humid day in the valley with temperatures topping 90 while I was in the field.

I found no activity on nest 7.

I hiked out to nest 1 and found the nest completely empty and that was a lonely feeling when I have been with one eagle or another since the start of this project out her daily.

I stood there in the silence looking up to the clear blue skies and found my eye drifting back to the dark empty nest. I hiked down to the river with a trail of chiggers following me.

I found myself in a silent prayer, "Lord, give me all the nettles and thistles you can grow, but please keep the chiggers for yourself."

Those invisible little bugs that find their way under your clothes where they bit all along the tightest grips of your clothing leaving you itchy, hard to reach welts that
inch for days.

I think I love ticks more than the chiggers.

As I was standing there watching the grasses slightly bending from the 1 mph gusts, I heard a familiar, "grk, grk and I looked up to find Dancer, the king of this valley in my eyes flying south.

What bothered me was neither eaglet was crying out, or following him which meant they were further down the river than he or I could have thought.

A few minutes passed and I watched Daniels Charlie flying over my head and heading north. His appearance brought on the calls from D'ODEE who I guestimated was about a half mile north in the woods.

I watched as Daniels flew across the river to the other side and soared above the woods joining up with another eagle.

I wondered if that other eagle was Terry Gail. I took several photos but he was too far away and so was the other eagle to tell if it was Terry Gail.

Then as he disappeared a fervent cry came out of the north and it was D'ODEE flying towards the nest. It was the easiest footage I've ever shot in my life. All I had to do was aim at the bird and hit record.

D'ODEE flew in with the grace of a sandhill crane, and with the landing of an elephant on a row of dominoes. For as he landed, branches, limbs, and sticks flew everywhere and the sound effects were crunching and louder than a scene from Journey to the Center of the Earth as the eaglet crashed down through the top of the tree to the security of the bottom of his earth.

I hiked to west post and shot images of him, winded, mouth wide open and panting.
Remember, he's only been flying a few days and that was a big flight for him to make non-stop.

I hiked out after this and moved on to nest 2 where we found Terry Gail again. This time she was feeding on what looked like a fish, a red horse or trout something with a hint of red on its tail fin.

Further up the road Dave asked, "Are those the twin fawns?"
"Yes. They are with their mom. Pull over."

The twins and mom stood in the meadow, but only for a moment before they fled.

When we arrived at nest 6 I found the twins up on the branches above the nest. It should only be another week or so before I see them flying confidently all over the marsh.

The nest 5 twins were at the nest too. I felt pretty fortunate to hit the dinner hour for each nest, but then when you watch the eagles and activities at each nest daily you learn each nests patterns.

There was no activity at nest 3, and for a moment I thought I had found a nest 4 eaglet sitting in a tree by the nest, but when I went in closer I found it was a young great blue heron hunched over with its back to me.

On our drive back some guys were flagging us down. They had been canoing and locked the keys in the first vehicle about 8 miles away, and wanted a ride.

There little girl was holding a small brown animal."Look, I found this mouse floating down the river."

I looked at the dark brown baby vole with barely enough hair to keep him warm in a nest, let alone floating down the river. "He is just a baby. Do you know how to care for him?"

"I do. I'm going to give him formula. His eyes aren't even open, do you think he is a muskrat?"

"No. He's a vole."

We gave her dad a ride back to his car and headed home. "Thanks you guys. That would have been a long, long walk."

With temperatures at least in the mid 90s, I had to agree, especially without a water bottle, or two.

Sometimes helping someone else in need is repaid with blessings that you just know are Heaven-sent.

There we were twenty miles out from Rochester when the temperature gauge starting moving up to the H and the red.

Dave pulled over. "See I knew there was a reason you were supposed to come with today."

"It looks like the radiator hose has a pin hole leak in it."

He started grabbing water bottles out of the back of my truck and pouring them in the dry overflow.

We drove a few miles and the steam poured like a locomotive while we drove down the highway.

We pulled over again. Dave poured more water in the overflow. "It's not taking the water."

The smell was like brown maple cured bacon on a hot grill, or in our case, radiator.

"We'll just have to drive and pull over every couple minutes, what choice do we have, do you want to walk fifteen miles?"

We inches along, mile after mile, stop after stop.

On one of those stops Dave noticed the pin hole leak in the radiator. He let the truck cool and then opened up the radiator which was as good as bone dry.

"Great. I used up all the water in the overflow. Do we have any more?"

I dug through my gear and found two more bottles, and the water that I had in my bottle from hiking.

"That'll work."

I felt better when we hit the edge of Rochester. At least if we had to walk it would only be a few miles.

As we pulled in the driveway to our house I turned to Dave and said, "See, it's a good thing I'm doing this eagle project, otherwise I wouldn't have had all that water in my truck."

I'm looking forward to day 190.

See you on the journey--


Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 188, Monday, 7/14/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Welcome back to the story of the eagles. It was another beautiful day in the valley, with temperatures in the mid 80s while I was there and not a cloud in sight. Dave and Em came with to hang out with me in the truck, but neither wanted to hike today in the heat, or fight the tangled grasses and bugs.

There was no activity on nest 7.

I hiked out to nest 1 and could hear the eaglets crying as if one of the parents had come in, and then I saw the beating of wings where they toppled each other on a branch in the top of the tree.

Daniels cascaded through the heavy foliage and caught himself on a lower branch of the nest tree. As I focused on him he was winded and yet I could see the eagerness in his eyes to leave the tree.

I was barely there a minute when he took off and flew to the north. He circled the fifty foot cottonwoods, and he flew between their silvery boughs back to the river where I could hear D'ODEE calling to him.

For the first time since the eagles began nesting, I was all alone at the nest tree for the first time in months.

As I have mentioned several times in these writings, this is where my journey becomes difficult. I know the eagles are there, somewhere in the 27,000 acres, but finding them is another challenge.

I broke my trail down to the river again and when I arrived I found myself twelve new nettle bites, and a couple deer fly nips.

D'ODEE was somewhere across the river but I couldn't see him. As I moved down the river I could hear Daniels, who sounded like he was back in the woods, at least a 100 feet off the river.

There was a fox squirrel that came out of the fallen tree and began drinking cottonwood flavored water from a crevice in the gaps of the bark. I thought he was a brave squirrel drinking, then eating something he found while two eaglets watched from their perches.

I hiked out and moved on to nest 2 but didn't find Terry Gail.

At nest 6 I found both twins above the nest on a perch that is appears to be about four feet above their nest.

Nest 5 had one eaglet perched above the nest.

By the time I reached nest 3 I felt like I had missed many of my usual evening opportunities coming out so early in the day I didn't get to see the fawns, and the buck and does, or the rabbits, the pheasants, the turkey, or those darling black-masked raccoons.

There was no activity on nest 3 or 4. It felt good to have my project finished for the day, and knowing I had the entire late afternoon and evening off, it was almost like having a day off after 188 days.

Still, on the drive out I wondered what shots I was going to miss tonight.

I got one of those twinges to recheck nest 2 and sure enough, there was Terry Gail sitting dead center, barely visible from behind the thick tree trunk blocking the center portion of their nest.

She looked great. Healthy, alert, and her cries could be heard up from the road. On my drive home I thought, and then Dave mentioned, "You probably wouldn't have got to see Terry Gail if you had not come down early today."

So the moral of this story is: Take each day gladly, expecting every good thing and your opportunities will find you no matter when you arrive.

I'm looking forward to day 189.

See you on the journey--


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 187, Sunday, 7/13/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

The weather was pleasant today with temperatures climbing into the mid 80s. The skies were blue with lots of sunshine making it a perfect day for taking in our second trip to find stories during the 150th anniversary of the St. Charles, Minnesota fair. The winds however, presented challenges to the exhibitors. Some of the smaller tents literally folded in half, crumpling their posts during periods of brisk winds.

We had returned for one show in particular, the Mitchell's Marionettes. By chance, we not only were lucky enough to get to observe one of the Mitchell's 40th year shows, but we also happened upon one of last performances of their opening shows' star performers, Valentine, the floppy eared rabbit puppet who officially retired with the ending of today's fair.

After the Mitchell's Marionettes stellar performance we took in a few games and rides, and I shot some images of the various fair scenes before heading off to my eagle project.

When we arrived at the eagle nest hike-in access, I hiked in while Dave and Em opted to wait for me in the comfortable air conditioned truck.

The twins were sitting side by side on the north limb of their nest tree when I arrived. They called out to the river where I believe their parents were hunting for their evening meal.

I hoped that I would get to see them both fly off together and I almost did when the winds picked them up on one strong gust, almost launching them.

Daniels has been sleepy the last two days, and I'm a somewhat concerned for his somewhat lethargic appearance and the way he is huddling in close to the nest.

D'ODEE on the other hand, at 13 weeks of age today, spent his evening flying from limb to limb, but I think he was trying to fly back into the nest to pick through fish bones but couldn't figure out how to get around Daniels who was blocking his flight plan.

I left and we moved on to nest 2 which was empty.

On our way to nest 6 we came upon a mother turkey with 6-8 chicks. She led them into the tall grass, then peaked out and ran across the road while the clutch of button-sized chicks trailed under the shadow of her tail.

At first glance I didn't see the eaglets at nest 6, but as I was shooting my video I noticed movement on an upper branch, and found them.

When I arrived at nest 5 I was pleasantly surprised to find both eaglets had made their journey back to the nest and it was like old times watching them wrestle each other for the perch that juts above the nest. One flew back into the nest and picked through the remains there.

I didn't find any activity on nest 3 or 4.

On our drive back I spotted the young buck and doe and spent some time photographing them. The doe was in rare spirits butting heads, leaping, bowing and lunging at the buck she seems to want to be with and a second buck who joined them.

I got some great shots and video of them and then I heard a vehicle pull up. It was my friend Chad who I had not seen in a long time. "Didn't know you made it down this far," came his greeting from his van.

He and his daughter were out taking evening pictures. We talked awhile and then both decided we better say our good byes, or the golden light will set before we take another shot.

I had put all my gear down and was looking forward to a quiet ride home while Dave did the driving. That's when I noticed all the geese and their mature gosling's on the edge of a muddy pond.

I shot their pictures down to my last few images on my flash card.

Then Dave noticed the two baby raccoons. I'm sure it was the same skinny little fellows I met there a week or two ago. The one let me follow on the other side of a slough, fifteen feet away and he would stop and feed on various twigs and shells in the water. He was a cute little guy and I wondered where their mom was. They were too young to be out on their own--yet they were surviving.

It was too dark to shoot any more pictures hand holding my big lens and trying to shoot at 1/20th of second is not something to brag about, quite the opposite. I only had 8 pictures left on my card and I spent more time pressing the little trash can icon on my camera, deleting everything I shot because the pictures were too soft or blurry.

I said good-bye to the little coon who impressed me with his curiosity of me and I walked back to my truck.

As we were heading out of the valley a red fox ran in front of us. "Dave pull over. I think I can get his picture."

He bolted down the edge of the riverbank and hid in the shadows, but I could still see him. Photographing him was another obstacle.

I got one blurry shot as he dashed up the side of a bluff. I know they have a den somewhere in that 1/2 mile area. I see them often there. As I walked back to my truck the coyotes, or wolves were baying.

That's when I noticed four fox pups sitting up on the edge of a grassy hill. I could see them even in the shadows, but pictures without a tripod were just not going to be possible.

The last I expected was to have one come tearing down the hill full speed ahead, and ran right up to me. I put my hand out, "WHOA! Little guy--where you going?" He stopped and looked up at me.

There was a truck coming and he would have been wearing the pavement had he not stopped. Then he turned and ran up the hill. I took a couple steps and he bolted again down to me. "What the heck are you doing?"

He almost brushed against my leg and then he jumped into the ditch.

We think he was trying to follow his mom or dad across the road. Maybe he was running from a coyote. If you didn't know, I'll tell you from my own observations that a fox is a coyotes favorite snack.

I hated to leave those cute little foxes but I'll see them again on another night when the moon is low in the sky, and the coyotes or wolves are howling.

I'm looking forward to day 188.

See you on the journey--


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Day 186, Saturday, 7/12/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

It was a gorgeous, sunny day in the valley with temperatures in the high 80s.

I found no activity on nest 7.

The twins were crying out so loud when I got out of my truck at my hike-in access point at nest 1, I thought I had missed a feeding. I barely noticed the rustling in the grasses beside me as a critter leap out of my view.

From the tracking around the puddle I thought I could sit there and write an entire book on who had visited since last night. There were rose-breasted grosbeak tracks, turkey, raccoon, pheasant, and two deer and what would a shallow puddle be without a couple whirly bugs?

As I shoved through the thick grasses, cutting me like sheets of paper, I grumbled my way to my grass coated path, still trying to recreate what took 4 years to keep clean.

I was happy to see my field camera had my favorite word on the LCD, FULL. It wasn't until tonight while downloading the images that full without an SD card only equaled
about 8 shots, three that were me--just to track the dates.

The camera's are notorious for batteries dying after a day or two, and the date stamp seems to always be off, so I don't bother resetting that every time I hang a camera either. I had forgotten how few images the cameras store without the SD cards.

The shots were, like I expected, waving grasses with a couple that I guess one could imagine were space aliens, or a big foot waving at the camera. Better luck next time I guess.

I was just thankful to see Daniels and D'ODEE. Daniels is 13 weeks old now, and Daniels will be 13 weeks old tomorrow. I don't know how these last few months passed me by so quickly, but I count every day I have with them a blessing.

I'm not finding the other eaglets like I have these two. Even when not on the nest, I'm finding them. I hope that continues, but it could change any day.

I sat with the twins until the sun went down and I watched Daniels take several eagle naps while D'ODEE watched for mom or dad and the food. Then I hiked out, taking my
field camera with me.

The anticipation of what shots I had weighed more than the camera bag itself.

There was no activity at nest 2.

I moved onto nest 6 and found the mother deer with her twin fawns. I have come to appreciate this little deer family, and I look forward to seeing them out in the meadow. I knew I wasn't going to get both video and stills just the way mom was cautiously watching told me I had about 12 seconds.

I filmed her with her neck up and eyes looking through me, a shoulder high rusty colored fawn on each side standing among the tiger lilies with the sun behind them. It was a sight that I'm glad I video taped.

I only got about ten seconds of video and she turned and called her twins to follow and in another few seconds they were all running through ten foot grasses into the woods.

Nest 6 was empty. I hoped one or both eaglets would have returned but they have some great places to hunt and fish so it may be a while before I see them again.

I was filming at nest 5 when one of the eaglets flew in and landed on the short perch above the nest. I wish I could find of them just to know they were OK.

There was no activity at nest 3 or 4.

I stopped and photographed a buck and a yearling doe out in a field. He was guarding her like bee to hive. Every so often he would bend down and butt heads with her, and she would roll her head all around his neck and lick his face.

They looked like a couple deer in love, and I've never seen two deer so fond of each other. I opted for video for most of this coverage, and I'm glad I did. I doubt you'll find more expressive, endearing coverage than what I shot.

Then three older doe's came into the clearing. The buck put his head down to one of them and they passed. They were the ones that snitched on me. I got a few shots, but it was disappointing that they had their senses turned up and all at once two shot past the buck as he and his doe looked my direction.

A moment later and all hooves were flying through the air.

That left me with the bats, dozens of bats diving and rising in the air eating up all those back-biting mosquitoes.

It was a great day in the valley.

I'm looking forward to day 187.

See you on the journey--


Friday, July 11, 2008

Day 185, Friday, 7/11/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Everyone knows how hot it was today! It was cooling off by late afternoon as temperatures dropped from the mid 90s to a cool 89 degrees in the valley. You would never have known that the storms we had yesterday could have ever clouded these blue skies.

I found no activity on nest 7, but maybe one day I will if I keep checking.

I hiked out to nest 1, and I guess I didn't do a very good job breaking my trail yesterday as I had to do it again in several places today to reach the nest.

The eaglets were crying out and I hoped they were on the nest tree. When I reached my west post I looked up and saw D'ODEE looking back at me. Then I watched a long leg stretch out and rest over the limb.

That third leg was Daniels. He was sitting behind D'ODEE and for the first time, ever, I had shots of the eaglets rubbing shoulders. I didn't think these two eaglets would ever bond, but they sure want to hang out together now that they don't have to sit together.

The winds were gusting tonight, nothing serious, but enough to keep the eaglets clinging to their perches. I was going to hike around to the north side but the eaglets kept opening their wings making me think they were going to fly off so I didn't leave my spot.

Daniels and D'ODEE were crying out to the turkey vultures that flew past them and then in front of the half moon. I wonder what they think of those big black birds with the pink fleshy heads. I wonder why they cry out--don't they know the difference between them and their parents?

I waited until the last ray of sun light splashed across their faces before I hiked out. They, like all the eaglets before them seem to enjoy watching that glowing sun go behind the bluffs. They get one last burst of energy like they know it's going to be a long night and start to flap around, or like Daniels and D'ODEE, fledge.

I was mildly disappointed that I had no shots on my field camera, but maybe tomorrow I will, and at least no one stole this one--yet.

I moved on to nest 2 and found it empty.

On my way to nest 6 I came upon those twin fawns again from the other day. This time they were galloping along the ditch, and drinking from the huge puddles in the road left over water from yesterday's storms.

Nest 6 had no eagle activity on the marsh floor or around the nest. I wonder where the
eaglets have gone.

Nest 5 had no eagle activity, nor did nest 3 or 4.

As I write this I find it hard to believe that 185 days have passed since beginning this year four story.

This is the part of the project that is the hardest. This is the season for letting go. That is hard to do when you get up every day and head east to the valley and make your day fit into the eagles world.

When I arrived home I found a nice email from Noel Sederstrom, the News Director of KTTC and he wrote they added my shots of Daniels and D'ODEE's fledging to their Website KTTC story on the eagle project.
and they were turning some news coverage to them on the evening news. If you didn't get to see the eagle story go check it out.

When I got home Em and me went grocery shopping, played some games and she fell asleep giving me some time to hand feed our frogs. The feature frog pictured above is one of my favorites. He has a cool frog personality. Guess you gotta feed a lot frogs to understand that one.

It was a great day.

I'm looking forward to day 186.

See you on the journey--


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day 184, Thursday, 7/10/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Today we had weather that kept the entire area on the edge-of-their-seats.

I was just getting ready to head down to the valley when the tornado sirens went off, and changed my direction. I thought I must have been the luckiest gal in the world, for if I had not worked all night, I would have been down there when the reported 50-80 mph winds whipped through the valley.

There were mudslides, semi's flipped, and clouds of every household name from shelf clouds to clouds with rotation. As I closed the windows I prayed for the nest and the eaglets that must have been experiencing the storm of their life.

It's one thing to be sitting in the storm with no option to get out, and quite another thing to be sitting inside where it's safe and trying to rip yourself from the clutches of your family who demand you wait.

I've sat through many storms like that out at nest 1, and for once, I was in the safe place at the right time when the storms hit.

The skies cleared and it actually turned into a gorgeous evening with the threat of more storms on the horizon.

So Dave cooked again, and did a quick drive through the neighborhood Kentucky Fried Chicken, and he asked for the desserts they stiffed us on Mother's Day, but they refused to honor that. I told Dave, remember, that's why the kid taking the orders said, "MMM that does sound good." He took them all and ate them. I just know it.

We both laughed.

I don't think they have passed any laws about eating KFC in your truck while your driving, so we ate on our way to the valley.

There was no activity on nest 7, unless you count the swirling clouds.

I begged Dave and Em to hike out with me to nest 1, but both decided it was going to be too wet. It was. I was soaked within the first few steps, but what choice did I have? I had to go find out how the eaglets were.

I had to re-break my trail which is an endless, tiring process of stepping down on the thick grasses.

However, when I got half way there I could see D'ODEE sitting on the north limb and he was looking back my direction. He probably saw me coming in long before I saw him.

I set up my cameras and recorded my openings while D'ODEE looked out towards the river, dipping his head down under the water heavy leaves of his cottonwood tree, looking for his parents, or Daniels.

I was looking for them too. Was Daniels okay? He's only been off the nest a week.

The only thing that was broken or damaged was the tall week with stems as thick as two
men's wrists put together. Folded right in half. I found a set of bear tracks, too.

Hmm. That might be my mystery animal, as I suspected. The one footprint is as big as my palm, with only one good right toe imprint in the mud, the rear foot in front of the right paw.

That screaming I heard a couple nights back, the one I told Em was a wild banshee--as a joke, was likely a cub that was running to mom. I really don't like the idea that they are out by the eagle nest, and I especially don't like that I'm hearing them nightly.

Of course, last year I found them around me in the afternoons. I guess we'll see what I get on the field camera for images, and hopefully it's not just leaves blowing across the lens and tripping the shutter.

You who use field camera's can probably relate to the experience of coming back and dumping your photos onto your computer and finding several hundred shots of leaves and no shots of your dream buck, or supposed big foot that took up residence in the back 40.

I wanted to hike out to nest 4, if there was enough light, so I started to pack my gear up when I noticed D'ODEE moving down the branch and studying Daniels exit path last week.

I looked away only for a second but quickly turned my head back as I heard D'ODEE crash land on another limb.

Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. I mounted my 75mm-300mm on the camera body and I hit record, and for once in my life I had 60 minutes left on the tape instead of running on the last two minutes when action happens.

There is a look that comes on an eaglets face the moment they are ready to fly. A subtle tilt of the head, maybe a silent prayer, but I know there must be hundreds of angels there too. Maybe the eagles sense them, maybe it is their arrival and not the winds they are waiting for with that expectant look on their innocent faces.

D'ODEE appeared confident while waiting for the winds, and the angels; the ones that took his brother. He bowed before his maker and then he summoned them
with a faint call and whether it truly was the winds or the angels, they wasted no time in arriving under his wings for they silently lifted him into the sky as the thunder cracked.

I was on the wrong side of the tree, but only for a moment, because he circled the tree and gave me time to shoot at least fifty pictures of him, all angles of his face and his flight.

I am honored to be the one to officially announce that on this day, July 10, 2008, Thursday, during the setting of the sun behind the bluffs, during a loud crack of thunder, one week to the date, and almost to the minute of his brother fledging; our dear D'ODEE Brian Michael fledged before my eyes at the hour of 19:22 and in that moment--Americas' Eaglet became an eagle.

In his flight across the sky I thought of all you men, woman, and families who are serving in the war, and I thought of all of you who are waiting for your loved ones to return from the war, and I thought of how many of you won't be seeing your loved ones return.

D'ODEE Brian Michael stands for our men and woman who have served, he flew tonight into the thunder, passing in front of the sun becoming a silhouette. He is the only eaglet out of all of them I have watched fledge, that flew in front of the setting sun and to me the blackness of his flying figure was symbolic and represented the unknown flight before Gods' eye.

I hope that his flight, the last eaglet to become an eagle in this valley, is an answer to some of you who may be waiting for sign in your own lives. I hope God uses this eagle to bless you in your life.

He flew off to the cottonwood grove where there are many trees to land on. I'll look for him again tomorrow knowing there is no guarantees I'll find him in the thick of the woods and rivers before me.

As far as I know, all the nests are empty now, and most of my journey is complete on this years' project. I'll keep looking for the eagles knowing that if I'm patient, and I keep searching with all my heart, I will find them again, and again.

I lifted my lens to a shadowy cloud figure over nest 3. "Dave, Em, look at that cloud.
That's the spirit of Whitewater."

I video taped this important scene of this 184 day journey of a shadow shaped like a man's figure and in front of his cloud body were ten eagle-shaped clouds.

"Under the light of half moon rising on the pinks and orange hues of the sunset, the Spirit of Whitewater came to gather up his eagles."

We went to the St. Charles fair after the eagle project. We went on some rides that still have me walking sideways waiting for the other half of my brain to ride back into place. Em won some neat prizes, and I met so fair workers with an incredible story of their grand daughter who are going to share it with me for a book on angels I've been working on for over 5 years, gathering stories across the country.

We ran into Kraig, and I told him I just shot some pictures of his co-workers in the barn. They were telling me a story of how one of the turkey's jumped out of his pen last night and causing a scene with the farm geese, and poultry. I think the bunnies were fine with this ominous big bird stalking their cages.

So I took a picture of the men who went beyond their call of duty to lock up a wayward
turkey who was probably trying to skip out on the blue ribbon and save his neck.

After the fair we went to the midnight special showing of Journey to the Center of the Earth. There is no way to doze off during this edge-of-your-seat feature.

I'm looking forward to day 185.

See you on the journey--


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day 183, Wednesday, 7/9/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Today was a hot day in the valley with temperatures in the high 80s. It cooled off by evening dropping quickly to the low 70s.

I found no activity on nest 7.

When I reached my post at nest 1, D'ODEE was there alone. He was facing the river searching each passing bird to see if it was a familiar face.

I thought I heard Daniels Charlie up the river. It could have been Terry Gail, too. Both their cries sound alike.

I sat for a couple hours waiting and waiting for any eagle activity, but no eagles came in and D'ODEE made no attempt to fly today.

That animal was out by me again. I followed it's path into some low hanging branches from a half dozen sumac trees, but I found no animal. I did find three places where it had made a place to stand and watch me through the tall grasses.

Three foot circles just ten to twelve feet by three of my mini posts. I can't figure out what it is. I heard barking, a muffled bark in the distance again and I am sure it has to be a coyote or a wolf. I'll have to put my field cameras out again and see if it triggers them.

I left when the last of the sunlight was splashing through the leaves across D'ODEE's face.

When I arrived at nest 2 I saw movement on the nest, and by the time I got my camera focused the movement had stopped. I don't know if it was a big crow, or if Terry Gail was there and just left but I was disappointed that I didn't get a shot.

At least one of twins have fledged at nest 6. I could hear one of them on the marsh floor up in a tree, and if there had been more light and more time perhaps I would have found at least one of them.

Nest 5 was quiet. No eaglets had returned and for the first time in all these months that nest looked like the quiet tree that I first came upon during the winter. For even with it's leaves and and green head dress, it was just as bare, just as silent
without the twins.

I had barely focused in on nest 3 when a large brown eaglet, our Victory Bell, came dropping in before my eyes. Even in the low light I was able to get one shot of him returning home.

That only leaves nest 4, and D'ODEE. Maybe D'ODEE will be our last eaglet to fledge, maybe that is a sign in itself that let no eaglet be left behind so he is waiting.

I'm looking forward to Day 184.

See you on the journey--


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Day 182, Tuesday, 7/8/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Today was another wonderful sunny day with the eagles. Temperatures were in the mid 80s when I arrived in the valley but dropped lower as the afternoon turned to evening.

I found no activity on nest 7.

It was much more enjoyable hiking out to nest 1 today, no need for a wet suit anyways.
I could hear both eaglets close together, and I hoped I'd find them on the nest tree when I arrived.

The grasses are 8-10 feet, so trying to see the nest while hiking in isn't impossible, but you do have to wait for a good wind to part the grasses ahead.

I arrived and found Daniels Charlie in the nest and D'ODEE out on the north limb. I wasn't there long before Daniels flew off the nest and joined D'ODEE on the north limb, perched side by side.

They each called out, one after the other as the parents flew by in their attempt to get D'ODEE of the nest and into the air. From what I was watching, it truly was a family working together to help D'ODEE overcome his fear of falling.

After Dancer flew past with food, almost coming into the nest, he got the eaglets' attention and caused Daniels to fly into the nest. I think Dancer wanted D'ODEE to
try coming off the nest.

Then Dancer left. Next a huge wind blew in, it was so unexpected it lifted and blew D'ODEE forward where he almost fell off his perch. He was quick to regain his post and from the look of fear in his eyes, I knew he had not been off the tree yet.

Then Daedee came by about a half hour later and was just checking on the twins. The twins were hungry, and finally after the sun had disappeared behind the bluffs they must have started wondering where their food was.

Daniels lifted off the nest and flew up and down the river a couple times and then circled the nest, not one, not twice, but three times. I thought at first he was trying to figure out how to land, but then I realized he was trying to get D'ODEE to follow him.

When that didn't work he flew in from the top of the tree and dropped perfectly into the center of the nest. This is something I've never even seen his parents do, of course they haven't spent their first months of life staring straight up trying to figure out a path out, either.

I was able to get some good footage of this, and some good still shots. D'ODEE was all excited when he returned, and I thought for sure he was going to try and leave the tree. He flew down the north limb, spread his wings and called out--just like Damian used to do before he would launch, but just as he was ready to go, he'd just stop.

It was dusk by the time I walked out, barely enough light to see the other nests let alone photograph any activity on them.

I guess God must have known that I would use up all my light at nest 1 for when I arrived at nest 2, that was empty.

Nest 6 was empty. Nest 5 was empty. Nest 3 was empty, and I couldn't see anything on nest 4.

I didn't see any bucks, raccoon tonight. Just a handful of rabbits and a great snowy egret in a tree.

I left knowing I got some important footage tonight, and I left knowing that D'ODEE is finally ready to leave and I strongly sense he will fledge tomorrow.

As I pulled into my driveway I realized I had fifteen minutes before the Barnes & Noble closed so I ran in and told Em, "Hurry up--we can get your book you wanted."

Dave cooked tonight, dinner sat on the counter in a brown paper bag and the contents of John Hardy's BBQ permeated our kitchen. But, dinner had to wait a half hour as I promised Em a trip to the bookstore if I got back in time.

I'm looking forward to day 183.

See you on the journey--


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--


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day 180, Sunday, 7/6/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

It would have been a gorgeous day had the humidity not been so high making it difficult to take a deep breath. The temperatures were only in the low 80s but with the high humidity it felt much hotter.

I found no activity on nest 7.

As I reached the willow trees on my first leg of my hike, I came upon a small red squirrel with a black walnut cinched in his yellow teeth. He watched me closely, peering out from behind a broken branch, I think he may have thought he was hidden from my view, as he kept ducking back behind the broken branch.

Two other red squirrels chastened him from their perches in nearby trees, either warning him to get away, or sit still. He sat perfectly still, only his eyes moved and then he slowly slunk down again.

I hiked out to nest 1 and found, surprisingly, both twins together on the north limb. I was closely observing how Daniels Charlie would spread his wings, forcing D'ODEE further down the limb and I wondered if he wasn't trying to encourage him off the nest tree entirely.

This went on for several minutes and maybe Daniels was just trying to find his way around D'ODEE who was blocking his exit path off the tree that he has been using.

Then with little warning to get my camera's ready, both eaglets fell into a submissive pose. For the first time in several days D'ODEE was trying to figure out his way to jump over Daniels back into the nest as Dancer dropped off a "bloater".

Dancer sat on the edge of the nest, winded both from the weight of a water-swollen fish, and the exasperating humidity stealing his breath. Daniels had already snatched up the fish and was crying out as D'ODEE neared the nest.

Dancer flew off after a few minutes and went back towards the river. He takes good care of those eaglets, both on and off the nest. Like a good father, he seems to always know when they need water over food.

The thunderstorm never hit, but the light was so low I could barely get any "keeper" shots beyond Dancer's departure.

I looked for the red squirrel on my hike out but didn't find him.

Nest 2 was empty and today it began to feel like a January day out there, but then again, in January I was at least seeing Judy or The Mayor on the nest, feeding, building or resting.

The twins were up on nest 6, but the light was so low I could barely see them.

Fourteen weeks, and the nest 5 twins are still at more at home on the nest than in the air. We'll see what this week brings.

Nest 3 I didn't see Victory Bell, and I wonder if he fledged off that upper branch sometime today and I missed it?

I found no visible activity around nest 4.

It was a wonderful day in the valley.

We have another monarch hatching tomorrow. It'll probably come out of it's chrysalis around 6-7 AM.

Em and me stayed up playing cards late, and watched a couple movies.

I'm looking forward to day 181.

See you on the journey--


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day 179, Saturday, 7/5/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

I think this has been one of the best weather weeks we have had in almost a year. We had periods of brisk winds, while the temperatures dropped to the low 80s when I arrived in the valley late this afternoon.

I found no activity on nest 7.

I hiked out to nest 1 and found both 12 week old eaglets, Daniels Charlie, and D'ODEE Brian Michael sitting on the nest tree. Daniels was sitting on the north limb, and D'ODEE was on the west limb.

There were people hooting and yelling on the river. I wondered if they had gotten tangled in the Twin Tree that blocked the river and forced unwary canoeists into a dangerous current if they didn't jump off on the sandbar.

The twins became silent and both strained their necks to see what all the commotion was, then they looked back at me to compare "humans" I guess.

I could hear Cindy, the white-tailed deer crunching around me in the tall grasses.

The people on the river found their exit, and I knew this by watching the heads of the eaglets turn and follow them. These eagles miss nothing, absolutely nothing in their territory.

When the winds picked up again Daniels stood up on the north limb and opened his wings crying out to D'ODEE, almost like he was trying to show him how to leap into the winds.

D'ODEE answered, but just was not interested in leaving the nest tree yet. Still, Daniels encouraged him. He folded his wings back down staring across at D'ODEE, waiting for him to look his way, then he opened his wings again and called out.

Daniels moved down the north limb and jumped onto his fledging limb, an offshoot of the north limb and opened his wings again. This time, a strong wind came in and he barely had to jump at all--for the winds picked him up and took him to the south, and I watched him fly beyond the river bend.

I couldn't get any shots as the grasses were towering over me blocking 99% of my view.
D'ODEE only watched, not even crying out.

Just before the sun was about to set I heard Dancer nearing, and the distant cry of Daniels calling in his hunger cry. I looked up to see Dancer above me, circling, and checking on D'ODEE.

Both eaglets were crying out, and D'ODEE began to fluff up his feathers, and he was about to jump into the nest when Dancer flew by him.

I could see that Dancer had no food. He was just coming in checking out where everyone was. He most likely saw Daniels fly off, or heard him crying out. Dancer keeps a close eye all that is going on.

I hiked out and moved on to nest 2. The nest had a golden glow cascading across the well-used, and nibbled branches and boughs. I listened and searched for Terry Gail, but I didn't find her today.

At nest 6, Linda or Dick was on the nest and I could see he or she was tearing food off for Freedom or Soar.

At nest 5 I could hardly believe that the twins were still there. Maybe they will leave tomorrow?

At nest 3, Victory Bell was sitting above his nest. He made it to the perch above it and he looked so proud sitting up on it.

I could see one eaglet on nest 4, but only briefly.

There were several great snowy egrets fishing the shallow edges of the marsh as I drove back through on my way out. One was wading in water up to his neck, which surprised me as usually these white giants are no deeper than their knees--which is still a deep pond.

The deer were out everywhere, and I stopped to photograph about 8 of them in an open field but they were just to hard to see.

As I drove past the river between nest 5 and 6 I saw an eagle sitting on a bare branch over the river. He was so handsome.

I paused to watch a couple baby raccoons who were stumbling up and down the edge of a stream. I wondered where their mom was. They were hardly bigger than two hands high, but very thin and wobbly. I wondered if they didn't have distemper, or maybe their mom did and died.

They stood up and watched me, then jumped back in the tall grasses.

I took Em to the book store tonight and we got some good books to read. Then we came home and played board games, and cards.

It was a great day.

I'm looking forward to day 180.

See you on the journey--



Friday, July 4, 2008

Day 178, Friday, 7/4/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Happy 4th of July! It was one of the best 4th of July's I remember. The weather was gorgeous, a perfect mid 70s day with blue skies almost all day. The evening was cooler, but even the biting insects were not as aggressive today.

Dave and Em came with me on my project today. I was hoping they'd get the opportunity to watch D'ODEE fledge. Instead when we arrived we found Charlie had come back to the nest tree and D'ODEE had no intentions of leaving.

We waited for a long time for any activity, but mostly all we saw was two eaglets sitting and hoping for a big, juicy fish to be brought in. Daniels watched us intently,
and as shot the picture above he was watching Em who was sharing her leaf collection with me.

As we moved on to nest 2 Dave spotted the evening fawn in the small slough by nest 2.
I pulled over expecting he trot off to his mom, but instead, he turned and looked at me with his lovely big eyes. Then he lowered himself, barely cowering above the water, creeping, slowly back into the tall grasses as a loud motorcycle drew near.

It was so loud the mom popped her head up and was watching as her little one darted through the ten foot grasses joining its mom. Then they both jumped off into the distance.

There was no activity on nest 2. No sounds or cries of an eaglet and I keep trusting that she is OK, and that all is well.

At nest 6, I could see both twins behind the trunk, but not enough to get any good shots of them.

I hoped and hoped for a fourth of July fledging on nest 5, and I shot all my controlled burn shots, day 83, and lifted my lens to the empty nest, and the empty limb, but then I saw them. Both eaglets still tethered to the upper limb sitting opposite of each other--waiting for the other to go first.

Maybe tomorrow they'll fledge.

I took some time and photographed Em in the wild tiger lilies and they were some of the most beautiful images of her that I've ever taken.

At nest 3, Victory Bell was sitting on the north side of his nest. Nest 4 had nothing visible to record.

On our drive back I noticed an eagle sitting up at the very tip of a tree. "I'll bet that is Dick, the nest 6 male." I told Dave and Em. I pulled over and shot a handful of pictures of this handsome eagle and as I did he noticed something flash off to my left at the same time I did.

So I shot his pictures leaving his perch, and I rather like this low-light, blurred shot of him in pursuit of independence.

We could see the fireworks all the way out in the country driving back in to town. We
barely made it to the river where hundreds of others had discovered our quiet spot this year.

I'm looking forward to day 179.

See you on the journey--


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--


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 176, Wednesday, 7/2/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

It was another hot, humid Minnesota day. Temperatures were down to 80 when I left for the valley late this afternoon, but I heard they will be in the 90s tomorrow.

When I arrived at nest 7, at least a dozen turkey vultures were circling above the nest at the top of the bluff. I thought for a moment there was an eagle on the nest, but it turned out to be the leaves on a branch tilting up which made them appear white like the head of an eagle.

I decided to cover all my other nests first before heading to nest 1. I found no activity, not even a peep from Terry Gail at nest 2, and I wonder if she is okay. I did see The Mayor or Judy circling the marsh to the west and I stopped to see if Terry Gail was trailing but I didn't see her.

I could see one of the twins at sitting up on nest 6.

When I arrived at nest 5 I hoped to see the eaglets at least one more day and at first all I found was an empty nest. After a few moments I noticed, the bright yellow feet on the upper limb. There they were, side by side looking out my way.

As I focused in on nest 3, I could see Victory Bell on the north side of his nest. I wanted to hike out again. Nothing in view at nest 4.

On my way to nest 1 there was a group of orange flowers that caught my attention so I hiked to them to get a closer look. I remember photographing these when I did my 580 day marsh project, they were one of the "new" subjects I covered. Then a yellow sulpher butterfly passed me so I followed him to get his shot, but every time I got close he flew again.

His trail led me to a dragonfly and the dragonfly led me to a stink bug. The stick bug lead me to the shot I was sure I was supposed to get but probably would have never found had it not been for the sudden appearance of those orange flowers.

A little brown and white skipper butterfly resting between live and dead plants that matched his coloration.

Further up the road, I noticed that male red-breasted grosbeak again. This time he was with a female, or perhaps one of his offspring. I'm not sure what the female grosbeaks look like. I watched him fly to one of the long grasses and pick out a few seeds, turning them in his beak and then swallowing them.

A few seconds later and a young male, his son flew in and knocked him off the grass stem and began eating on the exact place his dad was just eating. I watched him peak out from behind the grass and that is what I had been waiting for, so I snapped that picture.

I didn't expect a female bird, possibly his sister to come in and knock him from his perch and feed exactly on the same grass seeds. I shot a few pictures of this female and then in a flutter everyone was gone.

There were a half dozen deer I wanted to stop and photograph, but the light was changing and I had to get to my main nest.

I listened carefully as I hiked out, hoping to hear Terry Gail again, but I didn't hear anything but the rustle of the grasses.

When I reached my main post I noticed Daniels Charlie had made it to the far east limb. Once the eaglets make it to this limb they are ready to go--they are ready to be eagles and now we all just wait. We may have our 4th of July fledging.

D'ODEE is not ready to go. He is hardly even exploring the other limbs. I don't expect him to leave before next week, unless he falls out, or is pushed out by Daniels while trying to hold the food portions.

I stayed until the great horned owls began calling and the muffled barks of the coyotes drew near. The grass was already covered in dew and the sun had gone behind the bluffs at least hour before I left. I wanted to be there until the last of the light was on the eaglets. I wanted to be there just in case Daniels tried to leave.

Then as I packed my gear he turned on the branch and he walked to the outer tip where the limb narrowed to circumference of
a ladies wrist. He opened his wings facing the river and for a moment he just shared with the moving waters his his heart and his soul and in his cry he told the winds I am an eagle and I am ready to fly--just come pick me up.

But the winds didn't come, not tonight, for every eagle has to want it bad enough that even God can see it in Heaven, in his desires of his heart.

I'm looking forward to day 177.

See you on the journey--


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day 175, Tuesday, 7/1/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

It was a beautiful day in the valley despite the mid 80s temperatures and humidity. I arrived later in the day hoping to catch some of the evening activities of the valley.

I found nothing going on at nest 7.

I hiked out to nest 1 and heard the calls of an eaglet to the south cottonwood grove. It had the higher pitched cry like Daniels Charlie and I fully expected to only find one eaglet on the nest tree when I arrived to my eagle post.

However, when I reached my west post after pushing through the 10 foot grasses that are beginning to collapse together over my path due to their weight, I found two eaglets in the middle of the nest batting each other with their wings.

I was sure I had just missed the feeding and the eaglets were grabbing the last bites when I lifted my lens to their nest.
Then out of nowhere I heard this deafening rush of wings and when I looked up I saw, then felt the downwind of Dancer
dropping down to the nest to deliver a fish.

The twins beat him with their wings and pushed him to the edge of the nest. He sat on the west side of the nest panting from his flight and the weight of carrying the fish through the even heavier air. He sat for a few minutes and then hopped up to the west perch to watch his boys.

As usual, while I was photographing the twins he slipped away silently to the call of the river.

I wondered if that eaglet I heard on my hike out was Terry Gail. If I could have found the eaglet, I would have known for she has a lot more white on her than any eaglet I've seen.

I was shooting images of the twins spreading their wings out across the nest when I saw the white head of Daedee flying into my view. The twins rolled her into the nest, with Daniels underneath and D'ODEE hopping on her back knocking her to the south side of the nest.

An eaglet has but two seconds to grab the incoming food from the other eaglet and this time it was D'ODEE who was on the right side of the nest at the right time.

Daedee flew off and I watched both eaglets tear at the fish, literally splitting it in two.

I watched them swallowing down softball sized chunks of the fish as fast as they could. The next thing I saw was Daniels pushing D'ODEE from under his right wing. He kept rooting underneath, trying to push his way to the fish, but D'ODEE held his ground even when pushed to the outer limits of the nest.

Then both eaglets lifted their heads and both had part of the fish in their mouth. Daniels had the tail end and slurped the ten inches of fish down his expanding throat. I watched it going down in five large gulps it was gone.

In only a few minutes both fish were gone and the twins settled down fed, but never really full. Daniels moved to the west perch and D'ODEE remained in the nest watching for his next meal.

It's a rare day that I am able to get so many action shots with good lighting. The lightening is always broken on the nest, but
I left today thankful for this opportunity to capture a small piece of the eaglets private lives.

I moved on to nest 2 and found the nest empty. For a moment I stopped shooting and sat wondering if perhaps I had walked right by Terry Gail while hiking out to nest 1.

On my way to nest 6 I found a raccoon fishing in the creek. I thought my appearance would scare him off, but he or she was too focused on whatever it was fishing for in the creek. I watched this curious little critter reaching forward in the small rapids trying to grab at something floating away in them.

He jumped into the moving water and grabbed with his little hands the long stick covered with grasses, and snails. I wish the lightening could have been better, but then again, coons aren't something you find out before dusk too often either. This is the fifth coon I've seen this week. Maybe it is the heat that is bringing the coons out to the rivers earlier to satisfy their thirst.

I only saw one eaglet on nest 6.

At nest 5 I didn't see any eaglets at first, but I heard them. Upon further examination f their nest I saw them both huddled together so close they became one. I sat there briefly but neither moved while I was there.

At nest 3 I found Victory Bell up on the nest and eating something inside. I couldn't see anything at nest 4. I began to hike back and had full intentions of going to nest 4, but at the divide I decided to follow nest 3s path.

I heard the ailing cries of the mother wood duck, a warning call she gave as she lifted a foot of the lily pads and sent her ducklings in an opposite direction. The ducklings knew to scatter and they did. The mom moved on calling out trying to draw me to her and away from her ducklings.

I shot a few pictures but kept hiking as the sun had already gone down and there was only 30 or 40 minutes of light left.
I found Edward of Elaina, Victory Bells mom or dad on a perch by the nest tree. The eagle was tearing at the flesh of a huge
sucker. I don't even know how that eagle carried a fish that big up to its perch.

By the time I reached nest 3, Victory Bell had gone back into the nest and I could only see the nest. I could have felt disappointed but I had barely put my camera down when I heard, then saw a pair of sandhill cranes rise in front of me, flying against the powder-pink clouds.

I followed the path further from my truck and deeper into the mosquito's to the sound of more cranes ahead. I should have brought my tripod, and now had to use every muscle I had to steady the weight of my lens against the slowness of my shutter in the low light.

I actually got a few shots that looked good.

I was enjoying the hike and thought about continuing for a little while yet, but decided I better turn and head back or I would be swarmed by mosquitos instead of just a bite every few seconds.

As I took my last turn I heard a sharp bark of a coyote. He was in the grasses by me, somewhere on the edge of the slough, but I couldn't see him.

Then I noticed a heap of yellow and black dung beetles beneath my step. Upon further examination, I noticed the dead vole under the beetles that clean up the deaths. The poor little mom ripped open with her little babies pressed into the grasses still attached to her. It was a sight that saddened me.

With as much death as I see in this valley, I never get used to it.

On my drive out of the dark valley I stopped several times for deer and their fawns, and then there was the angelic look from the fox who sat on the edge of the road for a moment before darting into the grasses. Something in his stare gave me reason to pause too, and thank God for all I had seen today.

I'm looking forward to day 176.

See you on the journey--