Nature Notes

I never intended to write an article about nature, but I found two items that were just too good to pass up.  So consider this a Book Notes Plus extra.

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For years I have enjoyed watching a pair of bald eagles [Sorry.  An earlier link did not work in this post.] raise their young in a nest high above the ground in a cottonwood tree near Decorah, Iowa.  I can enjoy this marvelous experience because some nice people have installed a camera just above the nest.  As I write this, the mother is in her nest.  The wind is blowing, and the nest around her is covered in snow.  Yet there she is keeping one or more eggs warm.

Along the way I’ve learned that bald eagles mate for life and that the male eagles assists in rearing their young.  So, I suspect that I will see Dad relieving Mom for a while from time to time.

Seeing the eaglets develop is priceless.  Some are aggressive when it comes to getting food, while others are more laid back.  Somehow, they all get enough to eat, and grow rapidly.  The parents will provide their young with fish more than anything else thanks to the presence of a fish hatchery nearby.  Eagles love fish hatcheries, but the owners of fish hatcheries are, understandably, not so keen on eagles.

As the days get warmer the eaglets will begin to move around and the parents will leave the nest for a while each day.  During that time the eaglets will move around and even look over the edge of the nest (which is about 70 feet above the ground).  You would think that one would occasionally fall to its death, but in the years I’ve watched the growth process, none have ever toppled out of the nest.

When their feathers develop they begin flapping their wings while hopping around the nest.  When not exercising their wings (wingercizing?), they sit at the very edge of the nest for hours at a time, but never attempt flight until, somehow, they know that the right time has arrived.  Then they start a series of short flights.  Soon you will find them sitting on nearby limbs rather than returning to the nest between flights. You can tell the parents from their young easily since the young eagles lack the characteristic white head and tail feathers of a mature bald eagle.  I’ve never seen an eaglet take its first flight, but perhaps this year I’ll get lucky.

There are many videos of the Decorah eagles on Youtube.  There are two that you may find particularly interesting.  The first shows the female bald eagle laying her first egg of the year on February 23rd.  The other tells us how to tell the male from the female – and it’s easier than you think.

This is a marvelous way for children and adults to learn about nature, so take time to watch these beautiful birds throughout the coming spring.  And be sure to pass the Decorah eagle link along to someone else.

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I look forward to the CBS program Sunday Morning because most of the stories are upbeat.  I particularly enjoy their “Moment of Nature” video at the end of each program.  Invariably the photography is gorgeous, and you leave the program with a relaxed feeling.  I found the site where CBS posts some of the recent segments, and I think you will find all of them worth watching.  I noticed that some of the videos are much longer than what was shown on the program.  The segment on the “naked” snails is a good example.

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