Friday, June 10, 2011

Fly Away

When my children were small I pretty much lived in the moment. Together we made it through one day after another doing the things that families should do when their children are young. Watching the kids play, dance, sing and quarrel with one another, teaching them how to play, work and love. Through each phase of development I embraced the moment and enjoyed them right where they were. Many of these moments are recorded on video. I am so thankful that we have "Kalie can't dance" forever etched on DVD along with many hours of music, song, dance and just plain silliness.

Not once do I remember thinking about how my life would change when my children 'flew the coop.' Thinking about having an empty nest was not something that occurred to me when my children were young. It's not like I wanted them to always be with me but I just never imagined my life without them living in my home with me.

This spring some of my time has been consumed with watching two eagle nests and one red-tail hawk nest. The red-tail hawks nest has been the most rewarding because I have been actively watching since the eggs were laid. Also, since the nest is located in Portland, last weekend Wade and I went searching for the nest. A well placed camera angle gave me a clue to its whereabouts when a local business appeared on my computer screen.

From the moment the first chick hatched the drama of life and death has played out for anyone interested to see. This is 'reality T.V. at its finest! :)

The mother hawk laid four eggs. Each day through the cold early spring I watched mom and dad take turns keeping those eggs warm. Then as predicted by the Audubon Society moderator of the site, the female began turning her eggs in preparation for hatching.

During the nesting period plastic bags would appear in the nest. Their presence really bothered some people but there was nothing we could do. Speculation arose as to weather it blew up there (15 stories? not likely) or did the parents bring it to the nest?

The first chick hatched a few days before the other two. (The fourth egg never did hatch and would become a marker for us to compare the growth of the chicks.)

That first chick was strong and confident.

Once the three chicks had all hatched that plastic bag was used by the mother to protect the two small chicks from their oldest sibling. He was a mean and vicious creature! About day 5 after they hatched every time the mother got up that oldest chick would peck the young two siblings. It was so violent I couldn't watch! Others on the site felt the same way.

But then one afternoon I watched the mother get up off the chicks and she pulled that plastic bag over the two smaller chicks. The oldest sibling looked for his prey but they were not to be found. They were safely hidden from view. Momma to the rescue!!! Soon, the violence stopped and the chicks all got a long fine.

Several times each day food was brought into the nest. Most of the time the carcass was still and death had taken place in the air or at the time of the attack. Once I saw slight movement on a rat that was brought. The diet of the city birds was mostly pigeons and rats. The chicks all ate with great enthusiasm, each taking turns as the mother or father ripped small pieces of flesh to feed their young.

At first the three chicks stayed smack dead center in the nest. They didn't venture far from the safety they knew from birth. But soon, one by one, they began to wander out towards the edge of the nest, but well away from the edge of the railed staircase. Our moderator assured those who were fearful of their falling out of the nest that although it could happen, it was very unlikely.

In the same way it was exciting to see how the parents taught them to rip their food apart. As the blood feathers appeared and the white downy feathers gave way to the brown fledgling feathers, the parents would bring their meals to them and leave it in the nest. Gradually the parents had been weaning them from being fed by the parents and the chicks were expected to eat the meat themselves. It started gradually: First the parents would feed half the rat and then leave the remaining carcass for the chicks to figure out what to do. As you might imagine it was the oldest who showed the way for its younger siblings.

Eventually the chicks, starting with the oldest, began to practice flapping their wings. One by one they worked to stretch their wings in preparation for the day that we all know would come. Even though there was a bitter-sweet acknowledgement of the facts, I encouraged them when I saw them flap their wings. I cheered them on and felt a sense of pride for them.

Life in the nest atop the 15 story building must have been grand. But as all children must (or should) do, the day was approaching when one day it would be time to venture out on their own. I knew that one day I would log onto that web cam and the chicks would be gone. That day has come.

Yesterday I logged onto the site and the two younger chicks had left the nest area. Their older (and meaner) sibling has been absent from camera view for 4 days. If we were to go to Portland today we would likely find them in nearby trees or buildings, but they are no longer confined to the nest...their wings have strengthened and they have the freedom to fly wherever they care to go.

For a time they will follow mom and dad around and at least once a day ask them for food. For a awhile the parents will oblige. However at some point mom and dad will stop feeding them and force the 'teens' to start hunting the plentiful bounty of food on their own. And they will.

That's the way it is with human children. For a time we do everything for them. And then seemingly one day they want to fly by themselves. (Or drive in a car with a boy.) :)

I always have the memories of the past to warm my heart, and videos to remind me when my mind fails me. The best part of my parenting life now is watching them live the lives we tried to prepare them for. Tears of pride well when I hear stories of their lives now, whether they are delivering babies or teaching young men to live independently or flying (alone) to New York or participating in jury duty.

Although they are not all living in the nest, I don't have to look very far to see them flying around the trees and buildings, living and loving as I hoped they would.


Wade said...

Honey, this is awesome! What a great illustration. There are so many human life lessons to be learned from these "lesser" creatures we share this earth with, and you have captured a good one.

JereAnn said...

Thanks honey! :)

Anonymous said...

Your are also a good writer. :-)
I enjoyed that very much!