Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Great Eagle Escapade

. .that nearly wasn't!!
This golden eagle is missing her right wing secondary to an accident earlier in her life. This necessitates that she be in captivity for the rest of her life.
I can happily say that I can check Eagle watching off of my bucket list!!
Last weekend, Devin, Cami, and I headed to mom and dad's. The plan was for them to play with the cousins. .and Mom and I would go to Milford Lake, north of Junction City, to attend a birdwatching extravaganza, featuring eagles.

Justice is a bald eagle who was found by a ranger walking down the road after being shot in her right wing. The ranger was killed a short time after while working a poaching case. They named the eagle in his honor!

I had been planning this trip for weeks. .after missing opportunities to go for the last couple years. And after realizing early last week that weather and the calendar were two things that WEREN'T going to interfere in the trip, I seemed to forget that there were still interferences that could and WOULD occur.

Tristan was out from school Wednesday with a diarrheal stomach bug. I don't know how everyone else mentally deals with that. .but I automatically counted down silently in my head, realizing that the excursion could easily be cancelled because of illness.  But, with the dawn of Friday. .and no further casualties. .we took off after lunch. We shopped. .Cami got her ears pierced. .we had ice cream. .and all was well. I woke up at 1:00 am with that "feeling" that something was amiss. About 30 seconds later, it came to my attention that the 4 year old in bed next to me was going to be sick.

I often wonder what mom's look like as they scoop small children up and haul them to the bathroom trying to get them somewhere safe to evacuate all those stomach contents. .all without their feet touching the ground!

For the next several hours I lay, listening to her breathing. .wondering when the next episode would hit. I was surprised to wake up around 6. .without a second episode. Cami awakened shortly after. .hoping aloud that her cousin Taryn was feeling better too (she had gone home with a tummy ache the day before). By 7:30 I was calling my sister in law, who was graciously watching the kids for the day. .to cancel out, not wanting to send over a sick kid. She reasoned with me that after 7 hours of not vomiting. .the likelihood of vomiting again was fairly low. So by 8:00. .I was changing my mind again. .and was so glad I did. 
About the time we reached Milford nature center, Tina had texted me a photo of the kids and assured me that Cami was doing fine. .which made my stomach feel better too!
The people at Milford Nature Center had quite a day set up. We went to a live eagle program first. We enjoyed all the information given about eagles. .and got to view both a golden eagle and a bald eagle that they keep in captivity secondary to wing injuries. Magnificent creatures for sure!
They had lots of things lined up for kids too. .and there were a lot of kids there. This was a replica of an eagle nest.
Each year, nesting eagles return to the same location and add on to the nest they used previously. In one instance in Florida, the nesting eagles had a nest that was 20 feet deep and weighed more than 2 tons (3200 pounds). It eventually collapsed the tree that it was sitting in. .a typical nest is around 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
Then we got on a school bus. .and chased eagles around the lake. We saw 13 eagles on the morning tour that we took. .but only one eagle on the tour we caught after lunch.  The guides report that usually they have 200-300 eagles around between November and February. .but with the unusually warm winter. .the  numbers are down. They fly south as the lakes north freeze over to nest and raise a brood of eaglets before returning north later in the winter. Since the lakes aren't frozen up north yet, the migrating numbers are down.
Here's a juvenile bald eagle resting from it's morning hunt. They don't get their characteristic white head until they are 4-5 years old.
The bald eagles weren't hard to spot in the trees with their bright patch of white. .but they were far enough away, that it was nice to have the binoculars to view them a little more close up. We saw them gracefully flying, and learned how to differentiate their flying from other large bird species. My next eagle expedition will be just going somewhere where they reside in the winter and watching them on my own. We didn't actually see them hunting. .their diet consists primarily of fish. .and I would love to watch them do that. When I started paying attention. .it was evident that there are programs all over the state of Kansas at different bodies of water during different weekends that promote eagle viewing.
Milford Nature Center has a large variety of caged birds.  This little American kestrel stole my heart. As I talked to him, he got closer and closer to me. .just daring me to take his photo! The Center has great learning activities available for the old and the young, a cool "bird wall" with woodpecker holes cut into it so you can look through the fence to see an amazing variety of wild birds eating at their feeders!! They also had the best playground there and some nature trails. I am thinking springtime cousin trip to appreciate God's handiwork!!
Cami was healthy all day. .the kids had a fabulous time playing together. .my mom and I had a fun trip (though she says she will not be going on any more eagle trips. .once was enough for her apparently). .and though Devin cried before he went to bed that night because of his stomach hurting. .he didn't get sick and woke feeling fine! We made it home after some more shopping. .and no one barfed in my car!
God is certainly good!! Better than I deserve, without a doubt!

So that is the end of the post on my first official birdwatching field trip. .there will definitely be more field trips, God willing. .Thanks for stopping by. .have a GREAT week!!


  1. WOW!! Will have to try to get up there for sure next year! Looks amazing!
    I've got 2 babies that are sick with that junk today! =( And Cami couldn't wait to show me her ears this morning!

  2. Sounds like a great eagle adventure! Hooray!
    They are really magnificent, aren't they?

  3. Glad everything worked out and all are feeling better.
    You saw a lot of bald eagles. I know their numbers are up but didn't realize one could find so many together in the area.

  4. Well, Mel, I found out that a local kid went to our reservoir this week-end and counted 40 eagles. Maybe next time we will just go there.

  5. I am amazed at the size of eagle's nests! That is crazy about the one in Florida you mentioned. I glad you got to go to see the eagles...that's wonderful. You must have been thinking for sure you weren't going to get to go with all those kids getting sick. Glad everyone is on the mend! yay!
    P.S. I wonder what the effects of this warm winter will be on mother nature...example, the eagle's not migrating yet...wonder how that will affect the environment where they are supposed to be...you know...everything just has a trickle down effect. (Boy I really hope I properly used affect and effect..I'm sure I messed up! LOL!)

  6. That's neat about the eagles! And I'm glad the "bugs" didn't get the best of y'all. :) I hear you about carrying sick kids to the bathroom fast.

  7. Sounds like you had a great eagle adventure. Sure glad that illness didn't scrub the trip, when everything else was giving you the green light on it.

    You got some wonderful photos, too!

  8. I'm so glad you got to go on the trip with your mom. That will be a special time you can be glad you did. Also glad Cami is feeling better. I remember those times of sleeping with a sick child. At the moment you are tired but looking back it was a special parenting moment.
    I guess you can tell I'm missing my boys.
    Have a great week.

  9. Milford Lake Center is a great place and Eagle's day is the best. I went to Clinton Lake eagle day this year but liked when I went to Milford better last year.