This editorial appeared in our local paper the Centre Daily Times on Monday, March 31. It's just beautifully written, and the sentiment is oh so close to my heart. Also--I know Dave Brandes' brother; he's my birding friend from work, Hillel, whom I've mentioned on the blog before, the one who showed me brown creepers for the first time on the walking trail at our workplace. Hillel is such a great guy, and he sent me this piece. I'll have to go there for a Hawk Watch soon and get some photos.
Eagles in flight offer a reward
A mere seven miles from the oblivious rush of downtown State College, a few hearty souls, hot chocolate in hand and binoculars pressed against anxious eyes, patiently but excitedly scan the sky.
Is there a more majestic, a more inspiring sight than an eagle, riding unseen seasonal currents on its annual journey northward in spring or south again in autumn?
Thirteen years ago, Dave Brandes, a Penn State hydrology and engineering student, was walking with his dog along the Mid-State Trail when he spied a golden eagle circling overhead.
He returned the next day and was rewarded: He saw 15 more golden eagles and —eureka!— four bald eagles, and thus, with a fortunate discovery by an observant lover of nature, began the annual spring raptor count on Tussey Mountain.
Gradually, more bird enthusiasts got involved and, in 2001, it became a full-time, February-through-April effort to tally hawks, ospreys, falcons and, yes, eagles on, as it turns out, one of the busiest raptor migration routes east of the Mississippi River.
As of a week ago Friday, 215 goldens — a record — had been observed and counted at the hawkwatch site, just a short walk from the Jo Hays Vista, named for a legendary Centre County educator, in the Rothrock State Forest south of Pine Grove Mills.
The Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, the State College Bird Club, The National Aviary and others now sponsor the watch, which Dan Ombalski coordinates.
It is one of those rare endeavors that combines the pure research of the scientist with the enthusiasm and passion of the volunteer hobbyist.
And it came about almost by accident. We say almost because the careful observation and appreciation of our natural surroundings is never accidental.
And those who do take the time and make the effort enrich not only their own lives, but ours — those of us who are too busy, too involved or too unaware to notice.
Just knowing that hundreds of eagles have silently passed by only a few miles away is inspirational.
Seeing them, of course, is even more so.
One, alone, is worth the effort.