Last week, I wrote about how my house needed some refurbishing -- some fresh refeathering of the nest, if you will. So it was more than timely to have discovered the honest-to-goodness nest inhabited by two eagles and three eggs just over the border in Decorah, Iowa. A webcam lets me and thousands of others keep track of the parents-to-be. The eggs may begin hatching by the end of next week!
The webcam, www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles, is run by Raptor Resource Project, a non-profit established in 1988 to help preserve falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks, and owls. Its mission is to "preserve and strengthen raptor populations, to expand participation in raptor preservation, and to help foster the next generation of preservationists. Our work deepens the connection between people and the natural world, bringing benefits to both."
It's true. I am benefiting from visiting, or eavesdropping on, these eagles. Why? It's hard to say, since the experience really is a matter of watching an eagle sitting on a nest. (Insert joke about paint drying here.) But it's more than that. I'm struck by the constant vigilance of the sitting eagle. I mean, what does an eagle fear? Especially when it's 80 feet int he air?
Or, perhaps, it's simply interested in what's going on around him. Or her. (It's difficult to tell eagle genders when they're sitting, says a helpful FAQ on the site.) So you find yourself watching an eagle who is watchful. After several minutes of watching "nothing happening" intently, it's as if the mind relaxes and my focus widens a bit to examine the nest itself.
What a home. What an intricate construction job. This particular nest was built in 2007, so it's withstood seasons and storms. It's about 6 feet across and 5 feet deep and weighs more than 1,300 pounds, according to the site.
Remember, this is all 80 feet off the ground. The nest is in a cottonwood tree on private property near the Decorah Fish Hatchery. You can glimpse Trout Run below the nest. When there's a good breeze, you can hear the wind in the branches, even see the tree sway a bit. Bird song is everywhere. My husband likes to keep the site in the background with the sound up. When he hears an sudden increase in the chatter and volume, that's a good clue that a nest-sitter exchange is afoot. He calls up the screen and has seen several interactions between mom and dad. He is unreasonably gladdened by this.
Not to push this too far, but it makes me think of how we keep on eye on our neighbors, their comings and goings, their interactions. We judge how they're keeping the place up. We rejoice at the sign of a new baby. We are not so different from eagles. Except for those wings, sigh.
As noted, babies may begin pecking their way to the sunlight by the end of next week. Life will become more active, more raucous, a little gorier. I will miss the Zen of the sitting eagles, but will watch the little feathers flitting about their nest with a sense of kinship.