Of Eagles and Men

Part 1 – Da Doc

Friday morning started with me working from home because I had a Dr’s appt at noon… my cheeks had  red “stripes” like I was wearing rouge and  was painful to the touch… I’d been fighting a  sinus infection for about a month or so and it finally got to the point where my body needed some assistance… chemical assistance..  so off to the  Dr. I go… My Dr.  has been “my Dr” for roughly 15 years, she’s  seen me through some nasty stuff…a Pulmonary Embolism that nearly killed me,  ruptured  disks in my back, several  cysts that have had to be removed, along with  my normal  high blood pressure and cholesterol… along with many other thing over the years…we always  spend some time in our appointments just catching up and  chatting about her life and my life…it was another  good visit and then we got down to  biddness, “I see you’ve diagnosed yourself (again), with a sinus infection (I’m usually right in my diagnoses)”….Yep BUT Doc  I also have this, whipping out a nice shiny laminated orange CDC card…”What’s this?” she asks,  That my dear Doctor is my latest habit…..I’m volunteering with Wild animals…”What kind of wild animals?” all different kinds,  pretty much anything that is native to Washington and some that aren’t  I laugh, but mostly  Raptors, I love the Raptors but I help them all….she makes a note of that in my chart in case I come down with  something crazy and she quizzes me as an EMT on my  “infections diseases”  that are animal related… West Nile, Swine Flu, H1N1 etc…. verifies that my  Tetnus  is  up to date and then checks me out… deep  breath..yikes that’s cold Doc… oops so sory she says between giggles…let it out, again deep breath in….. cough cough hack…sniffle… ugg…. Open up and say ahhhhhh…uh huh yep… peek in the ears and nose (eeew)…and yep she agreed with my diagnosis and  called in the antibiotic  prescription along with  strict orders  to take it easy and heal  blahblahblah..she knows me well enough to know that’s not going to happen..it’s an hour drive to get to my Dr since she moved to a different practice so I always “save up” stuff to  talk to her about.. a lump here, an issue there whatever…  this time I had a couple other things to talk to her about and  checked them out….she wants me to do a sleep study…yeah not happening either… and while I’m here can I get me semi-annual  blood checks done….so  off to the lab… as we’re walking down the hall  saying our goodbyes and hugging her assistant  is nearby and overhears us talking about  “raptors” ….. “You mean  like birds of prey? What kinds?” All  kinds… Eagles, Owls, Falcons, Hawks etc…. a Raven did this to my ear( showin’ off my scab).. “Oh WOW that’s  crazy” she says, “I’m working on my falconers license, I want to do rehab for  raptors”…well  of course that  was the sign for the Doc to  take her leave hahaha… take care Doc…so the MA and I chatted for a few about Sarvey and  her “dreams” of doing the same someday, she hugged me and thanked me for  doing it  and handed me off to the lab…  time for blood draw(s)..but I won’t drag you through that…I’m not shy about  needles, I think they are super cool…thankfully so because I always seem to have to get “stuck” multiple times… this was no exception. I walked out of there looking like  a  wounded warrior… kling and cotton  wrapped around both elbows and my entire left hand….but they got their  blood…… time for the drive to the pharmacy  for the medicine then home to get ready for the  Football game later!!…..

 

Part 2- Da Bears and Da Boy ( young man really but just doesn’t have the “ring to it” of Da Boy)

 

7PM Varsity Football Game time!! French  Field in  Kent , WA  for KentRidge High’s Homecoming vs our very own Tahoma  Bears, Starring  none other than Easton Cunningham  on O and D Line as a Junior!! The  game was great!!  We ruined their homecoming and  Easton got his 1st sack of a QB   in a game where it was blatantly obvious that it was just him!! ( the last time he did it  there was other players there and they didn’t credit him with the sack…angry daddy)…this time… loudly on the  PA…THE QB WHATSHISNAME is  sacke by TAHOMA NUMBER SEVENTY FIVE: EASTON CUNNINGHAM , a loss on the play of 6 yards it’s now fourth and  forever….(DAD and Christy go crazy in the stands for a long time…)  a blocked punt and a recovery for a touchdown by Tahoma was the  name of the game… we ended up winning ( duh…)  32 to 23, great  game, especially Easton!!! We get home and  wait up for Easton to  get there, he walks in an get’s mauled by us,  big hugs and  pats on the back…we sit and talk about the game for a bit and how biased the refs were ( they really were bad, but we won anyway neener neener) ..had some late night  snack/dinner and off to bed…Saturday…ugg the  drugs aren’t working yet… oh well  we gotsta go! We have …uggggggg shopping to do..eeew…. and not the fun kind (food/Costco)… clothes shopping…  yuck…. And our fashionista ( Christy)  isn’t going with …she’s trusting  Easton and I to  pick out a  suit, shoes, belt, shirts, ties etc… for him for his big homecoming date……gulp….ok well I was voted  best dressed in 1987-ish…so let’s  go for the Don Johnson look…what?? You don’t like that style? You don’t want a peach jacket, white pants, teal shirt, white shoes and no socks?? What’s wrong with you boy?? Oh you want to look like AL Capone? No, no Al Pacino… ahh ok a pin striped suit?  Hmm well  maybe we can compromise…how about this lovely  black suit and matching pants…ok good….. pick out a shirt you like and a plain white one  just in case… OK you need to go with your date to get your tie….you have to be sure it matches her dress…. Let’s go get shoes….holy moly  is this the checkout line???How do women do this for fun???…thirty minutes later…we check out…. And go to lunch-ish….Wendy’s..mmmm the  Baconator….and the boy… nice  talk and sharing a meal…ok back on the road home… gotta  get home for “Winged Planet” on Discovery!! We watch it together as a family  and  it’s really a great show!!  Off to bed tomorrow’s Sarvey Day!!! SED all…….

 

Part 3 – of  Birds and Man

 

It’s still dark…but need to get up, want to get to Sarvey while  my honey is still asleep..so it won’t seem like I’m gone that long. Hit  the shower, scrub and buff, brush and flush…get dressed, coffee and  hit the road… 39 Degrees…brrr first time we’ve see that 3 since April I suspect….. been awhile 30’s  can’t say that I’ve missed you…and fog to go with it ok  well let’s hit  the road, stop  by Safeway and grab the “usuals”  bleach, paper towels,  meat, fish etc….and head out on the highway.

 

Meanwhile in a  tree  in the Cedar River Watershed, 90,000 acres, or 143 square miles, of  ecological preserve, a 6 year old  Bald Eagle ruffles his feathers to shake loose the dew. The sun is  just starting to peek up  over the  horizon. The  Eagle begins to preen his  7000 plus  feathers,  meticulously  placing each one in his beak and running  it through from stem to stern to remove any dirt and bugs. He spots his mate in an adjacent cottonwood, she is still sleeping.  He stretches his wings and glides off the branch without waking her, so he thinks. She opens one eye and follows him  as he glides to a calm section of the river below to bathe. She closes her eye and  gets a few more winks before the sun is fully up.  He, on the other wing,  is enjoying a  quick , if brisk  dip in the river, he spies a Coopers Hawk eyeing him strangely,  must be  new to the area.. he gives a short warning  call aeewkk eeawkk eeawkk  and “Coop”  acknowledges the warning with a dip of his wings as he flies off in search of breakfast…..with his bath  complete the  Eagle gets rid of the water in one giant ruffling shake and flies up to a perch and preens a little more.. he has to enjoy the baths when he can as in a few weeks he won’t be wanting to bathe  because the  rainy season is just about upon the  area and all he’ll want to do is be dry…  This particular Eagle “couple” only met one year ago, they  bonded and found a territory of their own near Renton, Washington a  bit further down the Cedar River and close to Lake Washington.  They built an “ok” nest for their first shot at it after he found what he thought was  a decent tree and she had approved it.  They mated and had two offspring. They were proud parents, raising their young together. Until one to many nestorations combined with wind and rain ,  the  branch holding the nest on the cliff side breaks…SNAP, creeeeakkk, tilt…the nest tips up to 45 degrees one Eaglet falls out and down the cliff and is instantly killed in the fall. The Nest continues to slide, Mom and Dad  take flight in a panic, what is happening ? what has happened?  Mom is circling the sky,  Dad flys by and squeezing loudly he stoops over the broken body  below until he realizes it is no longer of this earth and sky.  The nest bumps and  slides it’s  way to the base of the tree with the other eaglet  riding out the fall in the  basket of the  nest. Branches and grasses, nest parts coming apart around and under her. Slamming onto the ground , the nest explodes in a million pieces and falls down the cliff.  The Eaglet is stunned and  presumed lost to the parents who let out simultaneous cries, the only  sign of grief they  allow themselves….they  fly off in separate directions to come to terms with the scope of their loss…

 

a young man who lives in the area and witnessed the demise of the nest rushes to the  cliff edge and sees the stunned eaglet in the rubble, precariously close to tumbling down the incline.  He doesn’t quite know what to do, the eaglet is roughly two months old, already 2 feet tall, weighing in at 8 pounds and a 5 foot  wingspan and already with  a very sharp beak and  talons.. intimidating up close even at this young age. The young man thinking quickly finds a collar and leash and manages to secure the eaglet to a sign post near the cliff edge , hopefully to keep it safe until  someone who knows  what to do can arrive…  he calls it in to the police who  then contact Sarvey Wildlife Care Center. Sarvey sends their rescue team down, about 90 minutes later they arrive on scene and find the  Eaglet just as the man described, except much more alert now… they professionally capture the Eaglet, remove the collar and leash , get her into a carrier within the ambulance and up to Sarvey where she is checked and treated and  placed in a dowel cage to recover  until she is able to be moved to a flight.

 

Back in the  area, the  parents  regroup and have already  “moved on”  nature is cruel, they know this well as they mete out that cruelty to other “families” daily, it’s the  circle of life in action.  They follow the Cedar out to the  watershed and  feed off the salmon that are migrating upstream to breed…they will return to their territory later or risk losing it to another pair..it’s prime real estate in eagle terms, Lakes and  Rivers, woods and watersheds… they have their pic of  prey and plenty of  nesting locations. Dad has learned his lesson the hard way, mother natures way….

Back to the present day…. Dad Eagle is done with his  bath and preening and takes to the sky. The air may be warmer a little higher up, the sun turning the sky pink and orange.  About a thousand feet below him he spies a dusty blue thing following along one of the main “man paths” with strange, but not unpleasant  sounds emanating from within, he decides the sounds coming from the thing are intriguing and perhaps he will follow it for a bit… they travel along together, following the Cedar River west. They are progressing  down what humans in the pacific northwest know as the Maple Valley Highway, to I-405 and  they turn  North  along Lake Washington. The Eagle circles up higher to scan the way ahead, he looks to the  east and sees  when men would consider a beautiful  sunrise coming up over fall colors splattering the foothills of the cascade mountain range, with the pink and  red sunrise in full swing,  the oranges, reds, yellows interspersed with the  evergreens leading up to the purple mountains with fog in the valleys and clear skies above it’s truly an  amazing morning for a flight, or a drive……..

 

Meanwhile in the truck on 405,  I’m oblivious to the  Eagle soaring above and behind me, I’m cruising along  smelling the bleach  and the meat in the back seat, listening to  a special album by the Boss.. “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” it’s old school  Pete Seeger  remakes and similar folk-style tunes, songs like John Henry, and Jesse James, My Oklahoma Home, an Irish Folk song or two and some gospel-ish  songs like Jacobs Ladder and sea shanty’s like pay me my money down…great sing-along songs  for a Baritone voice with a sinus infection!! It makes the bass notes sound even  cooler!   I have that “Rasp” going and am lovin’  the wind in my face and song on my tongue. Cruisin’ on  up the road along Lake Washington, the road curves North–East  and eventually joins I-5.  I exit Northbound, now with Puget Sound to my left and the Cascades on my right,  with the sunrise nearly complete I have to add shades to my singing which  makes me even  louder… because you can’t see me with my shades on so I can really belt it out now……”Oh Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn, Oh Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn. Pharoah’s army got drownded Oh Mary don’t you weep.If I could I surely would stand on the rock where Moses stood…….”

 

1000’ above the  dusty blue thing rolling along….The  Eagle  smells Salt Water in the   air and  looks  back to his right he can still  tell where “home” is, even if he currently doesn’t have a “home” per se….he figures the sounds that have gotten louder from the blue thing are much nicer and louder than before so he’ll keep following it for a bit longer…the blue thing turns off of the large “man path” and  heads up into the foothills, away from the salt water….sounds are still ok, so what the heck…..up into the foothills hmm a Red Tailed Hawk  come flying by not sounding pleased…HA doesn’t he  know I’m an Eagle?? See this white head, Red Tail?   “yeah I see it  big guy but this is my space”,  no it’s ALL MY SPACE Red Tail,  but I’m just flying through now back off and leave me be, I’ve got to  follow this blue thing…

 

In the truck  below I  enjoy the  drive up the hills through the forest towards Sarvey …I arrive and pull in, shutting off the  truck and going inside to check in,  I notice a shadow  fly across but all see is a lazy Red tailed hawk making some circles in the sky…in I go to  check in and  unload… I day hi and  am surprised with a huge hug  from  the lead…she say that was so sweet thank you, I’ve already started to read it… oh yeah… you’re  welcome I say , really though , thank YOU!! Thank you for helping me  learn Baxter and  thank you for “saving” me from the Raven LOL….. ( she had mentioned to  me that she really wanted to learn  about Bobcats and try to become and educational handler for Baxter, so I went on Amazon and bought a Bobcat Biology  and Behavior books and had them shipped to her as a way to say thanks for all her help and guidance) …so smiling,  I  unload my  truck and  get ready to work!

100’ up the Eagle hears the calls of  others of his kind…hmm two females  locked up??  Sucks to be them… oh, wait they are saying it  doesn’t suck… they can’t fly which makes them sad, but they are treated well, they eat great,  they stay warm  and dry when they want, bathe whenever they want, have maids  that clean up after them and people who talk to them and they feel  the “love” …and they teach silly humans  all about  our kind and  help save us from Man stuff…. Oh ok I guess that’s  better than the alternative ….hmm I spy with my Eagle eye  a  Juvenile that looks eerily familiar… I’d know that beak anywhere..squeeeeeeee that’s my  baby girl….so you weren’t dead Baby girl?? No Dad I wasn’t but it’s ok you didn’t know…. The man things here  actually  are pretty scary but sometimes when they leave my area there is food!!  I’ve grown as you can see, I can even fly now…look at me Dad, I can hang upside down  and I can  squuuueeeeeeeeee like a Boss! I have  beautiful brown and white feathers and I’m doing good Pop you can  rest easy , tell Mom I said Hi and maybe I’ll see you guys  again someday if I can get outta this joint… Hey  Kiddo there’s a rat in there with you… Yeah I know Pop, he’s my  friend… NO HE’S YOUR LUNCH!!! EAT  HIM!!! Oh  really Dad?  YES REALLY, we eat them!! And anything that is smaller than us for the most part… got it Ahhh GOT IT, OK thanks POP, Maybe now they’ll  let me get outta here!!  Ok take care young one….farewell I’m going back to give your mother the great news, we our genes will live on through you..….ok Bye Dad, hey what’s a gene??

 

Back down on terra firma…  I get busy!! I start with my pretty friend Ista the Peregrine.  Good Morning Beautiful, How was your night?  Oh I see you have your  quail sans glass for breakfast Madame…  please  enjoy I’ll just be cleaning…..crunch and munch, she  now let’s me get to within less than 1 foot of her before she starts to look  slightly  uncomfortable… she’s really starting to trust me… it’s a neat feeling. I don’t abuse her trust,  I  continue cleaning  and wrap up, thanking her and wishing  her a beautiful day….next up….the Raven… not Rex, my wife’s  buddy, but  THE RAVEN, the  ear biting  fiend from Hitchcock…if you recall I “named” him Arthur…. So it’s Arthur time…. They’ve changed the to-do board and  made him a “Staff or  Approved  Volunteer ONLY” so I check with the lead who helped me last time…she say’s  “oh yes” you can  feed him and clean his flight you’re “trained” on him and  Baxter too”…sweet OK Arthur it’s on! Grab my rake and hose, buckets and  brushes and in I go…but I have a secret weapon… I brought food with me this time, I cut him up some of the steaks I brought, plus fruits, peanuts and “raven mix” ..he’s digging that before I even get in the door … he lets me  put his  food dish ona platform (stump)  and we  have a full on conversation! Call me Arty he says..we’re buds now… he makes a few moves, but I easily shoo him off and explain that he’s being a  bad raven…I’m his friend… he seems to pick up on that..as long as I don’t turn my back on him…we’re building trust…. He even goes as far as to  fly over me with two pieces of steak in his mouth and drop one of them at my feet as if to offer a peace  agreement…huh cool….. He’s somehow managed to flip his water dish over….so I ask him if he’d like some hose time…he marches over to my boot and  PECK PECK PECK HECK YES I’m READY…..ok then…  here we go…..  flip the water dish over and  start the game…  he hops up and down  and  tries to catch the stream flapping and playin’ in the water and loving life….well Arty thanks  for all the fun, conversations and the games…but I have to get crackin’ on  the rest of my chores. Have a wonderful day friend!  Next up for me is the  giant Eagle flight… head into the  clinic and mark off that flight,  check in on  “Bob” who’s  nearly ready to head to Ohio for his forever home… he sees me and if you’ve ever seen and eagle  “Squeee” they kind of bob their head and open their mouth and   do likea nudging motion  as they squeee… well Bob does all of that towards me  with the exception of no sound, just a very quiet  breath  sound, it was  really kind of sweet.  He wasn’t scared or shying away  while I  stood in front of the dowel cage he was in while I told  him how  beautiful he is and  how happy IK am that he’s  healing well….back out to the giant  flight. Hello Lovelies!! In this flight is my friend the Osprey,  the Turkey Vulture and another Juvenile  Eagle that is  nearly done being “raised” by SWCC and is nearing release I suspect.  The Eagle is a huge gorgeous  specimen,  flying  back and forth and all around the  flight.   She’s afraid of me which is  wonderful! She will  do well in the wild!   I clean  all the poo  off the walls and perches,  scrub out the large cement pond and leave the hose in it to fill, rake the  gravel areas, collect all the “gunky parts” in my yuck bucket…I find it interesting how man  intact, but picked absolutely clean “backbones” there are, every time  I clean this flight….must be the Turkey Vultures work??  They are 100% intact  but picked perfectly clean…interesting….  hose down everything, thank each critter  individually for letting me  clean their home, have a great day! Next up…not sure..let’s go see what needs to be done…all the coons are gone now, the chain links all need to be deep cleaned and sanitized I could do that… oh a group of a few young kids ( 15 ish I’d guess) is here.. hey guys you guys want to team up and  sanitize the chain links?  Nah we’ll handle it mister.. Mister?? When did I get that old?/ please call me Mike..you sure you got it? Ok  all yours guys..Hey Mike, the  lead says,  would you mind  feeding  Freedom and cleaning her flight?  Oh I guess I can do that ( cartwheels and  76 trombones are blaring  through my  head) ….I don’t think I can sign the sheet quick enough to mak sure my name is credited for that task…I go back and get the key and  gather my things.. drag the hose down the hill and  well hello there pretty  lady,  squeee squaaaaaaakeeee eee eee eee awk awk…hi back to you Mike.. weak kneed  I love this majestic  Raptor Queen… I also give  the beautiful Askate a hello as I pass by her flight ( another beauty but we haven’t gotten up close and personal yet I’m not trained on her flight yet, maybe next time) ..in I go to  Freedom’s  flight. I walk up her  hill  to where she is perched and I deliver her a whole  whitefish. She looks at it, looks at me and squueees to tell me to place the fish on the stump and back off mister…. Get to cleaning so I can get to chowin’!! Yes’m… so I take extra special care with this flight, not that I don’t doa good job and my best on every flight I clean,  but this one is like a shrine….I know it’s weird but  I’m weird… so in this flight, I  crawl around on hands and knees picking up ever scrap, every  feather every pile of “stuff” and put it all in my yuck bucket… I drain her lovely  concrete pool  scrub it and rinse it out and refill it, I scrub every  speck of poo and guts that I can find and just take my time  cleaning  as good as I possibly can, I rake out all the gravel  and  move it around to cover any bare spots…. She’s getting rather impatient with me by now but I explain that I want her home to be spotless when I leave… so I finally wrap up and thank her  for letting me clean,  I tell her I love her and wish her a fabulous day… gather my things and lock up her flight..  as I exit her enclosure I have a view of a lovely valley  and mountains in the distance, closer to me down a slight hill lined with cottonwood and maples that are turning beautiful colors it’s very peaceful. With Freedom  behind me and   the beautiful view in front, I take a  deep breath of the   clean fall air , a slight breeze stirs the  trees and leaves begin to fall  all around.  I’m at peace for a few minutes enjoying the ambiance of where I am and what I am doing. …ok snap out of it there’s still work to be done and we’re burnin’ daylight! Back inside to  get my next “to-do”…I’m glad I took those brief moments of peace though because as I go in, the lead pulls me aside and say she needs to talk to me…. uh-oh did I screw something up?  No, no…nothing like that…  I just wanted to let  you know  that “J”  was let go  a few days ago..  “J” was the lead that  showed me the ropes, that  honored me with allowing me  to do the releases that I’ve done, the leader by example that I admired, a real hero, angel to the wildones and an inspiration to me… she’s the one that I accidentally soaked with the hose on my 1st or 2nd day….also come to find out she’s a close friend of my wife’s  cousins and Uncle so she was  practically family.. (very small world!!)  I was devastated by the news…  they couldn’t give me any details other then there were no hard feelings and it wasn’t under  bad terms or anything  the lead just wanted to  let me know because she knew that “J” and I were close..  I thanked her for telling me privately and  she and I both expressed how  sad it was…. So I  went about the rest of my tasks with heavy heart…I did the  Yurts – Talking Crows and  Rex the Raven,  I had my usual  conversations with them  because I didn’t want them to know I was down, they don’t need that burden….they need upbeat and love! So they got it,  nice chats, clean their flights, play with them with the hose (it’s  up to 73 degrees  by now so  it’s pretty warm) tell Rex Hi from my beautiful wife who misses him, thank them for letting  me clean their flights and wish them great days… and move on…my next and last task fro the day is  for  an Educational   Great Horned Owl. I hadn’t met this beauty before… so  I cautiously  enter BONK OUCH ….. that was my head  hitting the LOW (6’ tall) overhang on  the entry way… aaaarrrrgh…that smarts…. Ok  brilliant one… let’s try this again, get my stuff and put in inside.. oh forgot the hose go back out and  grab it and drag it in and BONK OUCH SON OF A…….. yep did it again… and it hurt twice as much! That left a nice lump…I am one accident prone DORK….. so  hopping up and down rubbing my noggin’ I  introduce myself to  the very attractive lady in the  flight…the Great Horned Owl….. she’s not impressed she sits on a branch in  the corner, hissing and clicking away… sorry Ma’am… I’ll just  clean one handed while rubbin’ my head I’ll be out of your feathers shortly.. nice to meet you. Thanks for letting me  clean, ouch your flight, ouch…ok  time to hit the road my head hurts, my back hurts my  sinuses hurt…and I’m done for the day LOL feeling satisfied with my  work and  that I did something to make a difference  but still a bit sad,  I make the  drive in  record time for a Sunday afternoon….I need a  hug and maybe a  bath….and Nascar…’Dega Baby….

High above Lake Washington   the Male Bald Eagle  is  looking for a new nest site in  he and his mate’s territory, it’s time to start building a new nest….he wants to find a few spots before he delivers the news to  his  mate that  one of their offspring from last year survived, the were successful parents, and they can do even better this year…… out of the corner of his eye he sees the same dusty blue man thing roll down the road…no sweet sounds coming from within this time….

To be continued……

3 thoughts on “Of Eagles and Men

  1. Pingback: I wish I could Jess that girl…. | Mikey's Ramblings

  2. hey mikey wish you well. if you or any of the older- ha sorry-volunteers remember a volunteer named arthur or gypsy, I’d like to know.

be so kind as to tell me what you think... good or "constructive" is appreciated... and if you have suggestions for topics.