Listening to See

As winter finally begins to relinquish its grip on northern Minnesota and I am able to open my own windows to the sounds of nature, I have been checking in with the Explore livecams less frequently and for shorter durations.  Today is day twelve since Dad Decorah went missing from the nest at the Decorah Eagles Cam in Decorah, Iowa provided in partnership with The Raptor Resource Project (RRP) in Decorah, and while the camera’s community continues to hold out hope it is safe to say that nature is taking its course.

Mom Decorah on the nest while UME perches on the Skywalk - Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)
Mom Decorah on the nest while UME perches on the Skywalk – Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)

The unidentified male eagle (UME) has been persistent in what only looks like his courtship of Mom Decorah.  The UME has been respectful of her wishes and the nest while trying to win her over, and seems to pose no threat to Mom and the eaglets.  The UME has even been witnessed helping defend the nest from a third eagle – another adult male who has also been confirmed to not be Dad – while he continues to aid in defense against other intruders as well.  To my knowledge, and from the reports of the RRP researchers, camera moderators, and other viewers of the camera’s community, the UME has not delivered any fish for Mom or the eaglets, but Mom has also been insistent that he not invade her nest just yet.  However, she has been witnessed – on camera and by observers on the ground – to gradually be more accepting of his companionship.

Mom Decorah vocalizing her displeasure with the UME attempting the inside perch to the nest - Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)
Mom Decorah vocalizing her displeasure with the UME attempting the inside perch to the nest – Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)
Mom Decorah and the UME perched together off the nest tree - Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)
Mom Decorah and the UME perched together off the nest tree – Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)

When referring to the dynamic situation unfolding at the nest since the disappearance of Dad and the relationship between Mom Decorah and the UME, Sherri Elliot from the RRP continues to remind the camera’s community that:

“We never doubted Mom’s abilities to carry on in Dad’s absence, but she continues to amaze and astound us with formidable tenacity and strength of purpose, nurturing and providing for her little’s while keeping interlopers away. Despite what each of our own personal opinions are about the Unidentified Male Eagle (UME) who is doggedly determined to win her over, he has shown he’s capable of being a strong-arm to protect her. So far there seems to be a mutual acceptance by both, or tolerated boundaries, but Mom continues to voice her displeasure if he comes too close to her dividing line on the nest. Ultimately this will be Mom’s decision, and only her opinion counts as to ‘when’ and ‘if’ that changes.”

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad Decorah’s three eaglets, D29, D30, and D31, are nearly one month old and doing fabulous as they are now “about 1 ft tall or more, with nearly 2 ft. wingspans [in] what I affectionately refer to as their 5 lb bag of sugar stage” (Sherri Elliot, RRP).

Mom Decorah feeding her three, healthy and growing, four-week-old eaglets - Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)
Mom Decorah feeding her three, healthy and growing, four-week-old eaglets – Decorah, IA (Explore/RRP Decorah Eagles Livecam)

Last Thursday the RRP made this announcement as well:

“We will be holding a remembrance of Dad Decorah on our Facebook page on Wednesday, May 2nd. We will open the page that day so watchers can post memories, poems, stories, and artwork of our beloved Dad. In the meantime, we will be watching Mom and the eaglets. She has been doing a wonderful job of caring for and protecting her eaglets in Dad’s absence, and we wish for nothing but the best for all of them.”

Logical reasoning suggests that this period of transition has been even more stressful on the researchers at the RRP than it has been for the camera’s community as they continue to be bombarded with inquiries pertaining to the unscripted situation provided by nature under the scope of our humanizing scrutiny.  Even though nature has provided us with no definitive answers as to the whereabouts or story behind Dad’s disappearance, offering the opportunity for a memorial service of sorts will help bring closure for some as nature transitions to the next chapter and hopefully alleviate emotional stress for everyone involved.

Meanwhile, news from some of the other Explore cameras I’ve mentioned in the past couple weeks includes this announcement from the Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS) in Arcata, California about the Sauces Bald Eagles Cam on Santa Cruz Island, California provided in partnership with Channel Islands National Park where the three eaglets are nearly seven weeks old:

“Due to predicted high winds at the west end of Santa Cruz Island today, we will not be banding at Fraser Point or Sauces today. We will band at Fraser Point Tuesday morning and at Sauces Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning, depending on wind speed.”

The three Sauces seven-week-old eaglets are about to be banded - Santa Cruz Island, CA (Explore/CINP Sauces Eagles Livecam)
The three Sauces seven-week-old eaglets are about to be banded – Santa Cruz Island, CA (Explore/CINP Sauces Eagles Livecam)

The banding for the single six-week-old eaglet at the West End Bald Eagle Cam on Catalina Island, California provided in partnership with the IWS is estimated to take place sometime in the next two weeks.

West End's Superman watches over his six-week-old eaglet - Catalina Island, CA (Explore/IWS West End Bald Eagle Livecam)
West End’s Superman watches over his six-week-old eaglet – Catalina Island, CA (Explore/IWS West End Bald Eagle Livecam)

And just today Explore and the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Montana established a new Great Gray Owl Nest livecam in addition to the one they had established at the waiting tree (as my two-year-old son literally just climbed in my lap and asked “Owl?” as I wrote this paragraph).  Given the newness of this camera, background information is limited, but the initial post from the Explore moderator states:

“This nest is located in Mission Valley, Montana. While we are not sure how many eggs are on the nest, Momma has been nesting for 3-4 weeks and hatching should be anytime (if they haven’t hatched already).”

The new Great Gray Owl Nest livecam female incubating her clutch - Mission Valley, MT (Explore/ORI Great Gray Owl Nest Livecam)
The new Great Gray Owl Nest livecam female incubating her clutch – Mission Valley, MT (Explore/ORI Great Gray Owl Nest Livecam)

One final note about the camera community of the original Great Gray Owl Nest livecam is that they have expressed their desire to have the camera at what is now referred to as the waiting tree left functioning even though it appears no active nest will be established there this year.  For some, their devotion to that window into the forest has built a bond between them as much as it draws them to that spot in the wilderness.  While others take comfort in knowing that the bond built between them will carry over into the new camera where they will watch and listen to another miracle of nature.

For me, this began as just an audible enhancement for reflection while I researched and analyzed (among other subjects) methods of electronic rhetoric in our stewardship of wilderness.  What I didn’t expect to find was a dynamic interaction between nature, the non-profit research and communication organizations that brought this new type of education to the masses, and the interpersonal relationships built between the members of the camera communities.  Nor did I expect to be able to draw from these observations a relationship between the dynamic I have found here through Explore’s cameras to the various dynamics playing out between the actual rhetors who argue their interpretation in the stewardship of wilderness.  However, the longer I listened to sounds of nature emerging from beyond the scope of the camera while observing the relationship limits the camera provides and relationships it builds between members of the community, the more I began to realize I was watching the stewardship of wilderness unfolding before my eyes through a portal into the forest – a portal into nature.  Nature is the implied rhetor – a rhetor that never speaks a word in indirect argument.  As an audience, we become the actual rhetors who attempt to persuade others our perception of preservation and conservation in direct argument.  Because we are surrounded by nature, we are all part of the audience.  We witness the effects of our arguments when those actions are reflected in the wilderness.  Therefore, the kairotic situation, like nature, is constantly evolving.  While our presuppositions of what wilderness means to us as a society in a cultural context continue to evolve, the deliberative discourse is constantly evolving as well because of the judicial discourse ingrained in our evaluation of nature’s response to the effects of past and previous arguments.  The actual rhetor depends on the ethos of wilderness to play on the pathos of their audience in their attachment to wilderness in order to develop the most powerful statement in logos for their particular goals in stewardship.  Our perceptions of nature and our personal relationship with wilderness dictate how our society continues to evolve.  Are we listening to what this non-verbal implied rhetor is telling us?  As I have found, the more we listen, the more we will hear; and if we hear, it will allow us to see; not only persuading our perception of nature, but also allowing us to envision beyond the periphery.

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