Friday, April 22, 2011

Life Lessons Learned From Eagles

I have been mesmerized the last few days.

By this:

Online video chat by Ustream

It's a live feed of a family of eagles in Iowa and it has been observing the family since the hatching of three eagle-babies earlier this month. Millions of people have tuned in, and I've found that it's an incredible time waster look into the lives of a majestic animal: the bald eagle. But it's so much more than that.

It's a lesson in life.

I've seen a lot of things watching those eagles. Things that have taught me. Things that have entertained me. Things that have bored me. Lots and lots and lots of things.

For example, when the mommy was there feeding the three babies and it was tearing the flesh of a rabbit to feed to its hatchlings (ps, according to Mozilla's spell check, hatchling is not a word. Discuss.), and it tore off a piece that was too big and tried to place it in the hatchling's mouth, and that hatchling looked at it, did a Z-snap with its eyes, then said "I know you didn't just try to feed me a piece of rabbit leg the size of your wing!" and then sat waiting expectantly for the size of the scrap to be reduced, and then the mom tried to tear the piece and make it smaller, but it didn't work, and she tried to put it in the hatchling's mouth again, and this time the hatchling just sat there defiantly like "I will not be bothered to respond to this pathetic attempt at parenting..." and finally the mommy eagle got the picture and actually made the piece smaller and then ate the big chunk herself and then the baby deigned to take the smaller scrap. This moment of bird-watching taught me that when my kids give me attitude, it's time to eat a steak and then give them a small piece of it.  And also that birds, or at very least eagles, can Z-snap with their eyes.

Or there was the time that I was all impressed because the mommy was taking care of the hatchlings while the daddy bird was ostensibly out hunting for food and I was like "there's something so wholesome about this," but then the male came flying back to the nest in a flurry of movement (called flying) and dropped a pathetic stick on the already completed nest and his family looked at him like "Seriously? You were gone for four hours and you brought a stick? To a nest made of sticks? Located in a tree which is the source of all sticks?" and he just strutted around like he was da man, and then pooped over the side of the nest. That one taught me a lot of lessons like 1. it's okay as a provider when, instead of food, all you can bring home to your family is a stick. If you strut around with enough confidence, maybe they won't notice and 2. eagle marriages are probably seventeen times more successful than human marriages because even when the husband does something really, really stupid, the wife just accepts him and loves him and 3. what was I saying again? I just got distracted by this really cool webfeed of eagles sitting intrepidly in a nest.

Oh yeah. Lessons.

Probably the most poignant lesson was directly following the lame "stick" moment. The Mommy eagle, not knowing quite what to do with a random stick, just kind of shoved it to the side. But what she didn't realize was that she trapped one of the babies by the neck so that it couldn't move.  At this point, I had grown attached to the little guys. I mean, I wasn't like some people on the message boards (shut up and stop mocking me that I visited a message board--I really enjoy watching these eagles, okay?) who, when they see rain, say stuff like "I'm catching a flight tomorrow to bring those little tykes an umbrella to shield them from the cold." But, I was actually kinda starting to stress out. I was talking to the screen. "Mama eagle. Hey! (tap tap tap on the computer screen) You moved the big stick onto your baby's neck. Baby is contorted now and not moving. He seems pinned to the ground. He might be dying. Hello? (tap tap tap)." But mommy bird just sat there. And time kept passing. And I kept getting more and more uncomfortable, like "am I really going to witness the death of this little chick right now? Death by neglect and strangulation? Is this actually happening? Are none of the other 100,000 people tuned in to this concerned??? Why is nobody doing anything to save the..." and then, out of nowhere, the little eagle started rustling, trying to get up. And at first he couldn't. But then so many prayers were uttered for him/her across the world as we all watched that he/she got the strength needed and... stood up almost effortlessly and the stick rolled off him as if it were made of Styrofoam. And that's when I realized the hatchling had actually just been sleeping, and was never trapped at all. From this  I learned that when your children struggle with life-threatening situations (falling into a river, getting trapped in a car trunk or freezer, etc.), it's best to let them find their own way. It makes them stronger. Okay, that's a lie, I didn't learn that. What I really learned was that it's important to place large sticks on your children's necks. To promote growth. Okay, also a lie. I really learned that sometimes things are a lot less serious than they look, and sometimes parents that we might judge as incompetent know what they are doing a lot more than we give them credit for, and we should be a lot less judgy. (In other words, STOP JUDGING MY PARENTING, OKAY?)

Other observations:

1. It is clear to me that I am a product of youtube and Nature-like shows because for the entire first 10 minutes of watching I kept waiting with dread for some calamity to occur, like one of the fledgling birds falling out of the nest or being eaten by the mommy, or the nest disintegrating, or a fire burning the birds to a crisp, or something else tragic and heart-breaking and cruel and interesting.

Instead, the birds just... kept living their life. And it was awesome.

2. This one is actually kind of real. You might get uncomfortable because It's so real and also cheesy. One day it was bright and sunny and the birds were very active and it was cool to watch them throughout the day and be like "All right. Apparently this is what eagles do on a random Tuesday." I felt this kind of solidarity, like "I'm doing my human thing, and they're busy doing their eagle thing, and this ol' world's a spinnin' and there are good things happening on this planet because somewhere in Iowa a pair of eagles is taking good care of their babies." But then, the next day, it was snowing really hard, so hard that you often couldn't see the birds. And for most of the day they were all huddled up together in the nest waiting for the storm to pass, and for things to get clear and warm and sunny again.  And it was interesting to see. They weren't being "productive." They weren't impatient. They just waited. And (I'm getting nauseous myself, this is so cheesy) it really made me reflect on life and how sometimes the sky is blue and it's sunny and you live hard and do productive things and feel good, and other times you're just an eagle in a snow storm, bundled up with the ones closest to you in your nest, waiting patiently for the snowstorm to pass so you can get warm again.

In closing, I hope you watch the eagles a little bit today. And I hope they inspire you.

Welp, I'm off to watch eagles for 8 hours work! Do you think my own three little eaglets would mind if all I brought home for them was a stick?

I think the youngest Weedling has most aptly expressed her feelings on this matter. (This joke would be more effective if the finger raised was actually the bird, ha, get it? bird, but I think her disapproval is also pretty evident in her expression.)


  1. Loved your post! Now I'm afraid I'm going to watch eagles all day instead of work. Thanks for that :)

  2. I totally thought she was flipping the bird! I have yet to see the eagles since I do most of my computing on my lunch break and my silly office has the eagle site blocked :-(

    They must be on to it's time wasting capabilities!

  3. What kind of place would block the eagle site???? It's our National Bird!! Christine should protest that she is being denied some civil right or something. LOVED the post. And I don't live too far from Iowa. We have had eagles around here for several years and they are awe inspiring. Very big, and if I was an indian on the plains with a baby I would RUN!

  4. Unfortunately all video streaming sites are, porn, bald eagle footage, etc.

  5. Love the pic! That's the best kind. Much more interesting than everyone smiling.

    Sorry, but if I was mommy eagle, " da man" would have bludgeoned with the stick.

  6. I can see that I will be revisiting this link to watch eagles many more times this week. The hum of the camera is kind of soothing in an overhead projector kind of way.

  7. @Susanna--No problem! Always happy to provide eagle-based entertainment ;-)

    @Christine--I actually got notification of the eagles from an school-wide (I do mental health therapy at a school) email. It's actually very soothing and enhances productivity (not joking). I'm like "if daddy eagle can catch a mouse, I can see three students. Go!"

    @momiss--They are seriously awesome. Never thought I'd be such a fan of eagles. But I am. Die hard.

    @Chrissy--Kinda like hatchling, but also kinda like Weed. Weedling. (I should do a publicity campaign.)


    @Christine (again)--Bummer!

    @Lisa--I totally agree! Candid weird shots tell such great stories. And no need to be sorry, I think "da man" deserved a good blunt-forced trauma to the head. Sadly, I have often been in his shoes...

    @The Onion--It's so true! I've even left the sound on during therapy sessions because I really do think it's soothing to hear the sounds of nature mixed with the electronic hum of modern technology.

  8. Hahahahahahahaha "what I really learned is that its important to place really large sticks on your children's necks."

  9. Hahahah I love this post I'm sending this to my dad. You are hilarious.

  10. @loriel--It's a very important lesson. Clearly.

    @Just Another Girl--Aw, thanks. I appreciate the sharage.

  11. thanks for getting me hooked on those damn birds.

    my fav part of the livestream? when they wake up and launch a shit over the side of the nest.

  12. @TILTE--I know, it gets me ever time! Such a perfect mixture of cute and repulsive.

  13. What the internet was made for! Featuring this post today on MDB. Thanks, Josh.

  14. This was such a nice read --- now where the &#** is Part 2 of the previous post!

  15. I'd be lying if I said I wasnt eagerly awaiting the second installment of the colon post. Just saying. I like to keep it real. But eagles are cool too : )

  16. @Dennis--Thanks a ton! I sincerely appreciate it!

    @Tokenblogger and @Sunny--I was seriously tempted not to post Part II because, seriously, people want to hear about my colon? But, your comments have let me know: seriously. People want to know about my colon.

    You'll have your post very soon. Thanks for the constructive feedback.

  17. Token and Sunny I agree. Colon me up!

  18. LOL - at three weeks old, my second had crossed eyes and a raised middle finger when we landed in UofU student housing for a couple of days while trying to nail down a rental. It became her birth announcement photo, naturally.