Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 157, Friday, 6/14/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

Today was a gorgeous day in the valley considering the weather we have had these past few days. I arrived in the valley while the sun was shining and the temperature was in the low 70s. I hope we can have a few days of sunshine to dry out the fields, and the overflowing banks of the creeks and rivers.

At nest 7 I watched a turkey vulture descend from the nest area. Still, I wasn't convinced that was a turkey vulture nest, maybe he was picking through old bones on it.

Dale, my German shepherd and me hiked out to nest 1. The twins were both up on the nest and D'ODEE was practicing his
flight across the nest while Daniels Charlie watched. Daniels Charlie turned 9 weeks old today, and the eaglets don't seem to be ready for fledging. They have hardly even begun to use their wings to practice flying.

We'll see what this next week brings. I think God and Mother Nature gave all the eaglets of this valley a short season to learn how to grow into their wings, with the foul weather this season. I'm sure God had a reason to slow down an otherwise very eventful weeks 7-10 with these eaglets, we just don't know what that answer is, yet, but will in time.

Maybe there will be a flood, maybe keeping the little ones on the nest longer will prevent them from drowning. Maybe there is another reason. I am glad to have the extra time with them if that is how it will be.

At nest 2, 68 day old Terry Gail had just finished practicing her flights across her nest when we arrived. I was there in time to grab a few seconds of video as she folded her wings to her sides and stared across the valley into the setting sun.

At nest 6 the eaglets were not visible nor were either of the parents.

When I reached nest 5 I realized how much the water had come up. The marsh was filled to the grasses and slopping over.
The twins were up on their nest back in the slough and for them, it was probably a good thing they had not fledged with everything flooded back there.

I could hear a slurp, slurp, sloshing in the tall grasses, and I knew it was a deer but I couldn't see it. I could tell that she or he was at least to the top of her shoulders in that cold water just by the way the water sounded sliding off its back. That's what drew me into the red-winged blackbird nest.

I had not mentioned that the nest was abandoned, the dad was there for several days, but the female never came back. I figured something happened to her. Three birds lives stopped short from the lack of incubation seemed a cruel sentence for
something so helpless, three eggs forever unborn.

Now, a few weeks later, I stood where I stood three weeks before, however, today all I saw was the water running over the nest like a "river of life" flowing onward, and what was to be the water of life instead became the bath for a passing deer.

How many times do I question what God has done, only to find later he had his reasons. Had the nest not been abandoned, I would have stood today knowing three baby red-winged blackbirds had drowned, with no hope for survival. Instead, God spared their lives.

That's how I see it. Of course, you all have your own ideas and opinions.

When I arrived at nest 3 and 4 I was shocked to find the highway shoulder eroded, and a rushing river pouring from one marsh to the other, a steady stream of fish, debris, and those lovely water lotus were nowhere in sight. I couldn't hike out as the river must have overflowed into the oxbows, which must have overflowed into the sloughs which must have overflowed into the marsh.

I shot my pictures from the edge of the highway with my tripod ankle deep in the swelling of the water. Then I noticed how the ditch had swollen and was overflowing from the culverts that run from the marsh into the ditch. I found a shaken and half-drown damselfly clinging to a plant stem.

How could I deny life to a creature dressed in such a vibrant blues. I reached down and he gladly accepted my finger perch.

That is when I noticed a tiny ditch fish swim past my foot. I guess now that they have risen to the shoulder, they should be called "shoulder fish" instead of ditch fish.

I took another look at the rushing water and as I watched a fish flopping up trying to stay in the first marsh I noticed the floating bog had risen to a new height, too. I thought about old Gold-Eyes, the bull frog who lived there and I knew he
had been washed away to bigger ponds, and I have to admit I'm going to miss that frog, but I know he'll be happier joining the bigger frogs in the bigger marshes.

I drove down to the last marsh and found the road was flooded in several low areas. When I arrived the water was rushing so fast and furiously I made Dale stay in the truck. There were whirlpools swirling in whirlpools. I watched a long thin short-nose gar get tossed out of the water and land by me on the grasses. It fought the current but was pulled back under the water, back into the whirlpools.

Then I watched as red horse, suckers, and trout were whipped out of the culvert into the air, others leapt from one whirlpool into another and it was horrifying to watch. I saw a pure black animal approaching the rapidly rising water, and it looked like
a black morph fox, but I couldn't be sure.

The noise from the rushing water was deafening and I stayed until filling my last few shots. I saved a couple, just in case I found something else on my way home.

As I traveled back I noticed four sandhill cranes on a dry spot on a flooded marsh. One was laying down, and I presumed that to be the mother. There were two little baby cranes, as little as three feet can be. The father was with them. What amazed me was a white tailed deer standing right behind the cranes.

I had little chance for a still shot, even pushing my ISO to 1600, but I had a chance for video and that is what I reached for. As I filmed I heard the slosh, slosh, slosh, slosh sound of four hooves stirring the seemingly calm marsh that is life to so many in this valley.

I'm looking forward to day 158.

See you on the journey--


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