Pair of Bald Eagles at nest on December 11, 2008, two days before the first egg was laid:
Our eldest daughter just paid me a compliment that I almost let go unnoticed. We parents want so much to provide good example and instill values and lofty aspirations in our children. So often, we fall short. We learn from our mistakes, and hope that our kids do likewise. We do a lot of preaching and coaching, but maybe the most important signals we send are much more subtle.
At the end of the school year, Karen and her husband embarked on an extended camping trip from Arizona through the heart of our nation, visiting our son Ken’s family in the Texas Panhandle, and then hopping from one campground to another to Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Montana, and the Dakotas. On their way back, in Utah, they parked the camper in a particularly isolated and scenic location. Deprived of a WiFi hotspot and unable to pick up a TV signal, her husband was a bit disappointed at being out of touch with the world. In the morning, Karen looked out the window and saw a deer browsing only a few feet away. She called Randy, “Look, a Mulie!”
Both of them immediately forgot about the lack of electronic entertainment and lavished the views provided through the courtesy of Mother Nature. First, Randy wanted to confirm Karen’s impression as to the species of deer, saying to look at its hindquarters for markings that separate white-tails from Mule Deer. Karen said, no, “Look at it ears– just like a mule! My Dad taught me that a long time ago”
After calling me to relate this little anecdote, Karen said, rather solemnly, “You know, Dad, one of the best things you ever did for me was to give me an appreciation of nature.” Our conversation then moved into a discussion of some of the great natural places we visited when we used to pack the kids into a station wagon and just go.
At 22 days of age, Hope, the eldest of the two chicks, peers over the rim of the nest:
On February 15, the 4 week old chicks delight the nest observers:
What opens one’s eyes to the wonders of nature? The great birder and author Roger Tory Peterson described his “epiphany,” when, as a child, he picked up an apparently dead flicker and it sprung to life in his hands and flew off. There was something about seeing the beauty of the bird’s intricate and colorful plumage so close at hand that ignited a passion that was to change the world, not only for Roger, but for so many who found, in his field guides, a portal that, once opened, would never close (Readers might be interested in how a similar thing happened to my wife, Mary Lou, upon first sighting an Elegant Trogon).
We have seen such a transformation occur among many of the people who visited our neighborhood Bald Eagle nest in Pembroke Pines, Florida. With a little help from the volunteer nest-watchers, “lookers” often turned into “observers” right before our eyes. As observers, they instantly developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge and understanding, that may lead to greater appreciation and concern, and spill over into a new ethic of conservation.
Hope flies freely on May 21, 2009:
In my Review and reflections on Liz Rosenthal’s biography of Roger Tory Peterson, I wrote:
…It was my mother who introduced me to Roger, unwittingly fanning a spark that was to grow into a flame. Only today, facing the irony of a recession and the specter of another Depression, do I realize what a sacrifice it was for my mother to spend $2.75 for the 1939 revision of the first edition of Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds. In today’s economy, that comes to $34.37, plus tax. The book supercharged my interest in birding and opened the door to a lifelong hobby– it might be called an obsession…
Father Tom Pincelli, the Brownsville priest-birder who serves on the board of the National Audubon Society, said it so well: “Openness to the natural world and our response to it lie at the core of what we do and why we do it.”
Related Blog entries on this subject:
“Discovering Birds” (how I evolved into a bird watcher)
How Mary Lou Became a Birder
“Birding is a fascinating, exciting, challenging game. It requires and encourages ever-growing skill. It may involve us in great adventures and wide travel, sometimes in difficult terrain. Seeking new birds to check off on our life lists may draw us further into the lives of these birds, challenging us to learn more about their life cycles, their behaviors, and ecology; and as our ecological perspectives expand, we may be stimulated to become more involved in conservation work, to protect the habitats of the many species we enjoy.” (Burton S. Guttman, Birding, February 2004)