Not long after completing our move, I retired as I had planned and devoted myself to caring for our horses and other critters while finally beginning something I had wanted to do for much of my adult life, embarking on a writing adventure. I soon realized that our new setting offered much to write about, for nature was up close and personal and little things that I had never really notice were ever present. Our own animals offered many opportunities for writing, but the wild things around us, the raccoons, wild turkeys, possum, coyotes, gators and even on rare occasions a black bear, provided a smorgasbord of things to write about and even use to expand the imagination. But none of these, absolutely none, offered such a grand opportunity as the eagle family to watch with curiosity and amazement a great example of how a young creature is taught to survive.
Early one afternoon on a bright, sunny spring day, I was walking about the property when I spotted a new nest high up in a towering pine. It was nestled among three branches coming off the trunk two thirds of the way to the top. It was still a work in progress and I watched one bird piece it together using materials brought by the other. It was like looking at the Home Depot delivery truck dropping off materials to a construction team which put the materials to perfect use in crafting a new home. Over a two day period they crafted the home, obviously a male and female pair, then they tried it out and then followed he next phase which was the birth of their eaglet. The mother bird stayed in place, sitting on her eggs, from time to time repositioning herself and being very patient. Over ensuing days her partner would return with food for her and she just persisted in sitting in place, but on occasion flexing her wings with a short soaring flight to flex her muscles.
Then a day came when I sensed a change. I took my powerful binoculars and focused on the nest and the movement which was noticeable. I knew something new was in the nest and that something had to be a hatchling. It took several weeks of watching but finally I could actually see a beak, searching hungrily for sustenance with his faithful mother obliging him with food. As time passed, the hatchling grew into an eaglet and could be seen with the binoculars to be growing feathers which would eventually provide the bird with the splendor shown by the symbol of America that we love today. And then, now closing in on twelve weeks after birth, the moment I had been waiting for would arrive.
It began on a beautiful morning as I came out of the barn after feeding the horses. I looked up that now familiar tree and was surprised to find the eaglet standing halfway out the branch, looking back at his father. He just stood there, started flapping his wings, looked as if he would take off and then, just stopped flapping and walked back toward the nest, then just perched on the branch. The father bird didn't challenge him, just left him alone and allowed him to repeat the same steps the next day. On the third day, however, it was different. As the eaglet stood on the branch, farther out than before, but hesitated, the father bird came toward him. He wouldn't allow him to turn back. The eaglet stepped out two more steps, looked back and then, suddenly, he jumped off the branch, wings flapping. I felt a lump in my throat as for a moment the young bird was rushing earthward but suddenly, he knew what he had to do and he caught the rushing air correctly and the flailing wings became a steady and graceful action and he soared. He returned to the branch and then the father soared with Junior following him. For the next two weeks I would see the father and son fly together with the father actually teaching him how to hunt and then, just as suddenly, the young bird was no longer seen on the branch. He was now on his own.
As I thought back about the chain of events that had taken place, I realized just how much we can learn from that family of birds. When the young one was ready, he flew from the nest and he knew that he was on his own to survive as best he could. The parents had done their job and now they were empty-nesters and it would never be the nest for that young bird again. Compare that to so many of we humans, where we so often spoil children by giving them what they want instead of what they need. I think we can learn much from the eagle and if we could apply it correctly, we would all be so much better off, both parents and children. At least it's something worth thinking about.