Friday, August 7, 2009

Becoming an Eagle

Twenty five years ago our son prepared for high school graduation and entry to college. With only a couple months to go he realized that he was just a few merit badges lacking for his Eagle Scout award. And this needed to happen before his 18th birthday. With a sustained burst of effort he completed those badges and his eagle tree-planting project.

For the past two weeks I have listened and watched along our lakeshore as one and maybe two eaglets have fledged. We saw the nesting pair of adult eagles return to their tallest white pine this Spring. Then for weeks one of the eagles was delivering food from lake to nest.

Imagine if your very first step was out of a warm comfortable nest into thin air ninety feet above ground. Instinct and parents prepare these young birds. They grow and exercise their new wings day by day, gaining strength. As a pilot I recall my very first time alone in an airborne cockpit, maneuvering towards an airstrip with no alternative but a safe landing on the ground.

For about two weeks we have seen a young eagle - all dark brown, with a few light blotches on its chest - flying above the trees along the lakeshore.
Sometimes he lands on a dead branch or a covered boatlift. Always he gives a loud high-pitched squeak every few seconds. Today I heard a second distant squeak while watching the first eaglet sitting on the neighbor's boatlift and squeaking. It appears that a second eaglet has now left the nest. As the air show continued, a parent (identified by its white tail, neck, and head) circled above.

Yesterday out on the lake I saw the young eagle occupying the same bare branch on a tall tree on the island where the parents regularly roost. This perch gives them a clear view in all directions. Flight school will continue now with training in searching, diving, grasping, and carrying fish.

This is the second year we have watched as eaglets are shown by their parents how to become full-fledged eagles. What a delight to observe up close the development of this majestic bird with its graceful and powerful flight.