Monday, January 16, 2017

On Eagles

I need to get back to blogging-- we've had turducken, chicken lollipops, and Peking Duck; there are posts to be written about books concerning turkeys, infertility and love (yes M, I received the book and owe you many thanks and a bunch of correspondence); I've seen falcons, geese, hawks, and a flock of very little birds eating the seeds off my lawn during the current "icepacolypse"; and then there is a whole YA subgenre of books that reference "To Kill a Mockingbird" and I've read several.

I've been busy, bird wise and otherwise, but I've also avoided blogging because I simultaneously feel I must talk about politics and simultaneously I feel I don't have anything to say.  So maybe I'll talk about eagles.

Bald Eagles are a symbol of the country I live in and love.  They are magnificent birds and I have seen many in my adult life-- in and around waterways and forests in Colorado, California, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, British Columbia, and Alberta, and I'm pretty sure I saw one flapping against the wind as I drove past Mount Sunflower two weeks ago.  Eagles are scavengers.  Females are bigger than males.  Pairs return to the same nest year after year, adding sticks until a single nest can weigh over a ton.  And they normally don't kill their siblings*.  It takes them just a few months to go from fluff ball to awkward to soaring, yet several years to grow into their adult plumage.  They are fun birds to observe.

Most of the twenty-year-olds in my ecology class have seen a bald eagle in the wild, which wasn't the case when I was a college student back before they were born.  In the 1980s, eagle sighting were for serious bird-watchers or people who went to Alaska.  The recent abundance of eagles can be attributed to the banning of DDT and habitat protection following listing on the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (part of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which falls under the Department of the Interior, but much associated with the Environmental Protection Agency, which also came into being under the Nixon administration).  Based on information from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, banning lead shot in waterfowl has not reduced the percentage of eagles suffering from lead poisoning as much as anticipated, perhaps because eagles also scavenge from injured rodents and deer who can still be shot with lead (science, as it happens is a never ending process).  Bald Eagle populations have recovered so well that they were de-listed in 2007.
Oklahoma City Zoo, MLK Day 2017***

The recovery of the eagle population, like the air quality in Denver, which is much better than when I was growing up, despite several hundred thousand more people in the area, is due to science and legislation.  I know nobody with polio.  I have friends in mixed race marriages with beautiful children and friends who I karaoked** with in the late '90s who can finally legally care for each other in the hospital as a spouse.  Among the many worries I have as a parent of a child who was born a stroke survivor, I have not worried about being tied to a particular job because under some rules my son was uninsurable.  Had he been born ten years earlier I would have been****.  These are all due to convergences of science, technology, policy and legislation, compassionate decision making and someone's hard work.  Great things can happen when we work together.

Just as I am not being "anti" anything when I do my work job and talk about the correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature (despite what my snowball wielding senator might think), I am not being a whiny loser (despite what my President Elect might Tweet) when I do my citizen job and remind those elected to represent me that what they do matters.

Obviously, (I hope) what you do matters as well.  The country we want is not just up to our elected officials, It never has been. Like it or not, we're all in it, too.  Let's give it our best.

The bald eagles and all they represent will be on my mind as I march Saturday.

*Successful herons apparently routinely kill their siblings.  MB, I did not choose them as a symbol for that reason.

**I watched.

***Aster asked why this Eagle did not fly away at the zoo today.  I mentioned that only hurt eagles are in captivity and we read that this eagle was shot in the wing.  "Why would anyone shoot an eagle?" asked Aster.  I do not know.

****And yes, am again now.  And no, that the president-elect has told me not to be worried is really not reassuring.

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