In a few days, it will be the ides of February and the month will be just about half gone. Even in this year of drought, February is living up to its reputation for causing emotional confusion. For many months, it hasn’t rained enough to amount to anything. But inevitably the calendar turns to February and Mother Nature begins to send us a little rain. Then when the ground appears to be soaked, the sun comes out and warms everything up. Both serious and wanna-be gardeners itch to stick plants into the sod.
My stepfather, the best gardener I have known, called February “false spring.” With good reason. Every year on the first spring-like day in winter, Clyde would go out into his greenhouse and select fresh green sprouts he had coaxed into growing from stubborn seeds. With great ceremony he would take them out into his garden and plant them in neat, straight rows.
He knew full well most of them would wash out in the March rains, but he simply couldn’t help himself. When I asked him why he went through the same trauma year after year, he simply answered, “I just have to do it. That’s all.”
The force of nature compels all earth’s inhabitants to do certain things at certain times when conditions are just right. Thinking about Clyde with his annual pre-spring garden, I’m reminded of other species preparing for spring. February is the month bald eagles begin their procreation cycle. Although some eagles have been hanging around the nesting area for a month or so, this is the time they give serious consideration to mating, nest building, or, most likely, nest remodeling and egg laying.
I have been watching bald eagles since the mid-1980s when the population had been reduced to a very few in the lower forty-eight and we had to go to northern British Columbia to see them in numbers. It was a very long drive to get there. Days and days. The fall salmon runs were over in no time and then we had to head south again before snowy season.
In recent years, the local bald eagle population has been rebounding. Properly placed, non-intrusive and non-obstructive modern technology allows us to sit in front of our computers and watch eagle families’ day to day activities from the comfort of our easy chairs. I begin to watch them at first light and love to grab screen shots as they do their thing. I will post them here for you to see.
I will observe several nests in the Channel Islands off Monterey Peninsula and a nest in Humboldt County California, where I reside. The local nest is the farthest north and thus, the latest to begin the ritual. We have new placements of new cameras this year in several locations, so I’m hoping to see lots of activity.
The most notable thing about all the nests is the view. Eagles live and raise their families in the penthouse of nature. You are welcome to join me.
To be continued . . .