In Our Own Backyard…I can fly nowI’ve totally fallen off the wagon. I had pledged I would never again get hooked on something that consumes me, causes me to neglect other important things in life, and all too often it ends up breaking my heart. But it didn’t work.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
I’ve totally fallen off the wagon.
I had pledged I would never again get hooked on something that consumes me, causes me to neglect other important things in life, and all too often it ends up breaking my heart.
But it didn’t work.
I’m still completely addicted to reality shows. I’m not talking about watching Emily Maynard and Brad Womack breaking up after last season’s edition of “The Bachelor,” nor am I pining away over the fact that Skylar got voted off “American Idol” last week.
Instead, the kind of reality programs that invade my soul and leave me craving for more have names like “Den Cam,” “Loon Cam,” and “Owl Cam.” They’re the ones that feature live web cameras observing wildlife in their natural surroundings as they raise their young. I’ve wept tears as a baby bear cub was abandoned by its mother and later, as another wasted away from malnutrition. I looked on anxiously as a wave washed a loon’s egg out of the nest, and I grieved vicariously as a clutch of owl eggs failed to hatch.
This year’s “reality show” habit pretty much took the cake, however.
I quite by accident stumbled upon “Eagle Cam,” a production of the Minnesota Bound network. When I first tuned in a couple of weeks ago, a pair of American Eagles was sitting on a nest 75 feet off the ground in central Minnesota. Not long afterward, a pair of twin eaglets hatched out, dubbed “Kirby” and “Harmon” after the famous Minnesota Twins baseball players.
One day last week, Kirby backed up too close to the edge of the nest and toppled out. He did not survive the 75-foot fall. It was sad watching Harmon, the remaining eaglet, huddled in the midst of the giant nest while his parents were off hunting. The days and nights were chilly and I had to wonder if the chick could maintain enough body heat to survive without the other chick to cuddle with.
That was the least of Harmon’s worries. When I tuned in again, the young eaglet was flopping around in the middle of the nest, looking lethargic and squawking frantically. The adult birds circled it and scratched futilely at the nesting materials, but it seemed that Harmon had one of his legs hopelessly stuck in the sticks that lined an indentation in the center of the nest.
The experts’ blog that accompanies the Eagle Cam explained the eaglet appeared to be failing, and if he wasn’t able to get unstuck soon, the folks from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center were planning to get a permit to send someone up to check out the injured baby. I felt a small trickle of fear well up in my throat, and I found it difficult to turn off the Eagle Cam and go to bed that night.
As it turned out, that’s exactly what they did. A volunteer climber rode part way up the tree to the eagle’s nest in a bucket loader and then hefted his way by ropes up the rest of the distance. He appeared over the lip of the nest where a very miserable-looking Harmon crouched in the middle, and as the climber reached out to him he softly uttered, “Hey, buddy!” The lump in my throat threatened to shut off my airway.
Harmon was whisked off to the Raptor Center in pretty bad shape, and it was unlikely he was going to survive. After being tended to for his injury, treated for parasites and fed and hydrated, they left him for the night only to discover the next morning that he had made a miraculous recovery.
I sat down at my computer on Sunday afternoon and logged on to Eagle Cam just in time to read that Harmon’s rescuers were on their way to return him to his nest! I sat there mesmerized as they sent the man in the bucket loader back up the tree, with Harmon tucked into a canvas bag securely attached to his side. And when they reached the nest, the man tenderly placed a rather dazed-looking Harmon in the middle of it, built up the sides of the nest a bit so he wouldn’t risk toppling out, and then left him with a parting, “See ya, buddy!”
I could barely tear myself from the computer screen to fix dinner that night as I watched Harmon sit all alone in the giant nest, looking scared and miserable and crying out for his parents. When I booted up my computer the next morning, nothing had changed and the little bird was still alone. I braced myself for the inevitable outcome, realizing his parents had decided to abandon him after and he would likely fall prey to some predator if he wasn’t rescued once again.
I fleetingly checked the Eagle Cam several times during the day on Monday, until I couldn’t bear to look at the abandoned chick any longer. After dinner that night, I decided to go for a walk, trying to make sense of it all in nature’s grand scheme of things.
By the time I got home and sat down to work at my computer. I could stand it no longer. I booted up Eagle Cam and as the live view spooled up, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Perched on the side of the nest was the male adult eagle, who had apparently just landed there. Harmon’s weary head flew straight up and he took a few awkward hops in the direction of his father before falling over. The male eagle swooped up one of the fish heads left behind by Harmon’s rescuers and he had just begun to feed the elated chick when the female landed on the edge of the nest and began “spoon feeding” the little chick as well. The tears streamed down my face as I looked on for the next hour, unable to look away.
By the time darkness fell, I could barely make out the form of one of the adult eagles with its head burrowed under one of its wings, and tucked up next to it was the very exhausted and satiated form of little Harmon.
He had come home – and so had his family.