Eagles' Nests

Paul and a fellow we hadn't met before- named Daryl- pulled up mid-morning. Paul and Daryl were planning on driving along the West Fork of the Cedar River to look for eagle nests. They asked us to come with. We had a lot of laundry to do, so we put a load on before jumping in the back of the mini-van.

Paul and Daryl are old friends. They went to highschool together, and then reconnected a couple decades later.

As we were leaving Thornton, Paul noticed some cars downtown and figured there was an auction. We parked and investigated. A room filled with people- mostly over 50- were sitting in wooden chairs, as an auctioneer with a quick voice jumped from box to box of items for sale. Stuff like porcelain dolls, salt and pepper shakers, pyrex bowls and jewelry boxes. In the minutes we were there, about 8 sales were made- nothing more than $6. Paul later explained that these types of auctions usually happened after funerals.

Daryl spotted the first eagle's nest. It was towards the top of a very tall tree. Paul, Andy and Daryl are all avid birders, and the excitement in all of them was contagious. We took turns looking at the nest, and then started driving away when Andy spotted an eagle on a nearby tree. These are large, commanding birds. Up until a few years ago, eagles were rapidly decreasing in number. DDT- a chemical used to kill insects- was discovered to be the root cause. We stopped again and looked at the bird. By the way- stopping on country roads is totally fine. There's little traffic.

We continued to follow the river as best we could in a car. The grid of roads is rectangular, and the river meandering, which meant many stretches we were without direct vision of the water. Eagles nest near water.

Paul saw a beaver dam, and we stopped again. Paul, Andy and I went to the river to explore and Daryl took a call from his sister. The dam was impressive, hundreds of sticks fit together. It spanned the width of the river.

It was different to see land that wasn't being farmed. Trees, grasses, rivers. It made one wonder what the land was before.

As we drove and drove- there were a lot of abandoned farm plots. Daryl and Paul talked about how there used to be lots of family farms. When they went to highschool each of the small towns had their own school. Today, at least seven schools have consolidated into one, and instead of listing out all of the community names- Thornton, Sheffield, Meservey, Swaledale, and some others that are escaping memory- they call the school West Fork- after the part of the river they all share. A lot of the homes that used to be here have been completely swallowed up by the corn. The last remnant usually being the old driveway.

We found a second eagle's nest- and then got lunch at Casey's- a gas station chain that also serves as a grocery store and restaurant for a lot of rural communities out here. Daryl was kind enough to treat everyone to lunch, which was eaten in the car as we continued on the river.

Before heading back, we saw a third and fourth eagle's nest, including one with an eagle in it. Paul and Daryl were really surprised and happy. Just a few years ago this would have been unthinkable. But since we stopped using DDT- eagles have been growing in number. They are finding habitats and thriving. It's a reminder of resilience. As we continued back to the farm, endless stumps of corn stalks passed by, and I couldn't help but hope that one day we'll see the small family farms return like the eagle has.

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-18 11:34:37 -0400