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Real-life drama in real time

By PATRICK T. SULLIVAN - Dances with Skunks

One of the many joys the love of my life has shown me since moving to Connersville has been watching the Decorah Eagles laying and hatching their eggs, then providing for their eaglets, live on camera. The eagles are displayed on camera as a live feed 24/7, starting in springtime and ending when their eaglets have grown strong enough to leave the nest.

For nature lovers, it is a must-watch experience; but even if you are not, it is the best meditation available on the internet.

This year, however, the peace has been shattered by an ongoing real-life drama. The Eagles return to the same area every spring to rebuild their nest, then lay and hatch their eggs. I have affectionately nicknamed them Ozzie and Harriet. This year, they hatched a trio of eaglets that are happily occupying their nest.

Ozzie and Harriet are an unbeatable team. They are so strong that the Las Vegas duo of Siegfried and Roy pales in comparison. Some of you may remember that Roy suffered disaster when his favorite tiger, Montecore, mistakenly fearing Roy was in danger, dragged him offstage during a performance and paralyzed him for life.

As it turns out, the comparison of Siegfried and Roy to the Decorah eagles is truly fitting.

For the last 10 years, Ozzie and Harriet have dutifully and faithfully shared parenting duties, with each eagle fulfilling his or her role diligently. Harriet’s main job is to keep the eggs warm until they hatch, while Ozzie stands guard over the nest, keeping his family safe from any predators that might want to harm them. After the eaglets hatch, they take turns hunting for fish and small rodents to feed their young. Ozzie often spells Harriet on the nest to give her a break from her duty. The hunting duties become more and more demanding as the eaglets swiftly continue to grow.

A couple of weeks ago, Ozzie failed to return to the nest after a hunting trip. Unlike human couples that sometimes quarrel and separate, eagles that have mated are inseparable, so the alarm bell sounded after Ozzie was missing for only a few hours. The Decorah team sent out a search party, but no sign of Ozzie has been found.

With the eaglets growing more rapidly than a small town rumor, Harriet was crushed by the loss of her partner and has struggled to overcome her dilemma. She has been pulling triple duty … tirelessly hunting for life-sustaining food, feeding the eaglets and providing them with warmth, plus perching on the tallest branch of their tree to warn away any predators, just as Ozzie used to do.

The other night, as I watched the nest during a thunderstorm, it became apparent that the eaglets have grown too large for Harriet to cover all three comfortably. She compensated by spreading her wings to protect her babies from the storm; thereby sacrificing her personal warmth by not tucking her wings into her body. The camera operator zoomed in giving us a view so close, it was like sitting in the nest right next to Harriet. With the wind whipping her feathers up and exposing her skin to the cold, she never strayed in her duty.

While some people might consider watching Harriet’s struggles heartbreaking, I am inspired by her triumph over adversity. She is an inspiration to us all. The picture of her standing tall and majestic on the highest branch and knowing her three eaglets are anxiously waiting for her to return, fills my heart with joy.

The eaglets have not yet started to grow feathers but that time is rapidly approaching. This is indicated by the tiny bones starting to extend from the backs of their wings. Watching the eaglets fly from the nest for the first time is a thrill that few people have witnessed. It’s not too late to check out the drama and beauty unfolding. The live feed continues 24/7, and I would encourage everyone to check it out. It does not require constant viewing, but having it on in the background as you attend to your daily routine will soothe your soul and lower your stress level.

The eagles are located in Decorah, Iowa, and can be watched live online by entering “Decorah Eagles” into any search engine. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Patrick T. Sullivan is a Connersville resident and freelance writer. Contact him by email to the Connersville News-Examiner, news@newsexaminer.com.