Late spring and early summer are the seasons when life renews itself in the wild. Leaves burst from their buds, wildflowers break through the forest floor to carpet it in colors and the blessing of babies award the birds and animals for their courtship ardor.
The richness of reproduction is all around me at my haven in the woods. Down by the creek, a yellow warbler tends her nest and somewhere between the log garage and the house, a chestnut-sided warbler does the same. Much to my surprise, a chickadee has set up housekeeping in a Peterson bluebird house and a batch of babies is nestled snugly within. Several sets of phoebes duck in and out from under the overhangs to tend to their youngsters. A flotilla of wood ducks keeps in tight formation behind their mother near the shoreline of the lake.
But it is the eagles this year that have caused us to ooh and ah in sheer delight. Their new nest is highly visible in the dead top of an aging and elderly white pine. This spring we watched the adults add to the skeletal eyrie they started last year, but never nested in. Since the tree was one we could keep a close eye on, we were hopeful the couple would relocate to this new site. And indeed they did.
With binoculars in hand we maintained a vigil during the weeks that followed, always checking to see if the raptors were remaining on the nest. Soon we were convinced eggs had been deposited and hatching would occur. And indeed it did.
As time passed we peered at the nest in hopes a little fuzzy head would appear. And indeed it did. Then we wondered if there could be more than one eaglet. And indeed there was.
Our next concern was whether either or both young would survive. And indeed they have. Now both siblings are large and capable of moving from the nest to perch on nearby bare branches. I checked them this morning. One youngster was in the nest, the other and an adult were on branches in the same tree.
Now the danger of winds toppling the nest tree and plummeting the eaglets to their death has passed. We're relieved since this scenario had played itself out once a number of years ago and both eaglets died.
The only discouraging news on the reproductive success of the birds in our "backyard" was discovering the decaying bodies of the hatchling tree swallows. It was particularly sad because the same thing happened last year to the swallows that occupied the birdhouse.
It's been baffling to me because initially I watch the swallows build the nest, deposit the eggs and incubate and hatch the young. All appeared well. Then I went away for a few days and upon returning, checked the box only to find dead baby birds. I don't know what to make of it.
While we've revel in witnessing the joyous blessing of babies on the home front, I've anguished over the millions of birds and animals that have perished in the ranging wildfires in Colorado and Arizona. I can only hope their deaths were quick and painless.
As we sympathize with our fellow humans for their misfortune, I'd like us also to remember the death of millions of butterflies and bats, turtles and toads, snakes and salamanders, rabbits, raccoons, coyotes, cougars, raptors and ravens and countless other animals. In addition, the loss of habitat will affect hundreds of species of wildlife for years to come and it'll be some time before the blessing of babies graces the charred remains of the forests and fields.
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