By Dan Shaver/The Nature Conservancy
It is not always easy to explain to our children what we do for a living; some professions may be easier than others. But as a project director who does forest and wildlife management work for The Nature Conservancy in Indiana, it is not always easy to explain.
The book “A Stranger in the Woods” is a beautiful picture book that is dedicated “to those who protect wild places.” When reading this book to my kids, I always point out that I protect wild places in Indiana. This helps them understand what I do, but it is still pretty abstract. I was able to reinforce this concept of why I protect wild places a few weeks back.
While conducting and ecological survey on a property that The Nature Conservancy is trying to protect, my colleagues and I had the pleasure of watching pair of eagle calling and flying near our position. We were fascinated by the show, but did not take time to investigate. A few days later one of my colleagues went back to finish up the survey. He found an eagle’s nest on the property. The nest is five to six feet in diameter and 60 to 70 feet up in a gnarly, old beech tree and appeared to be actively used by the pair of eagles.
Into the Wild
On spring break, I took my wife and two kids, Jacob and Winter Wren out to take a peek at the nest. Jacob and I made our way up a ravine until we spotted what we thought was an eagle’s nest high in a treetop. We then climbed up a steep hill trying to get a better look at the nest. The excitement was infectious as Jacob would sneak from tree to tree, stopping often to look through binoculars to see if there was an eagle on the nest. After the third or fourth stop to catch our breath and look through binoculars, Jacob exclaimed in an excited whisper, "There is an eagle on the nest--I can see the its white head and yellow beak!"
He and I took a few minutes to view the eagle while peeking around a tree to avoid disturbing the eagle. We then took a shortcut back to the car to find my wife and daughter. The excitement was building. My son’s enthusiasm was bringing tears to my eyes as he led the girls up the hill, from tree to tree, to take a peek at a wild bald eagle contently sitting on its nest.
I was proud and amused as he instructed them on which trees to sneak up to and how to use the binoculars. The binoculars looked huge when my daughter held them up to her little face, but the big smile told me she actually got to see the eagle up close and personal through the eyepieces.
Upon returning to school, both of my children were asked to write about what they did on spring break. The hike to the eagle’s nest made an impression. They both wrote about the experience in the simple and beautiful way only a child can do. The concept of Daddy protecting wild places is now permanently etched in their minds. They can picture the wild place; remember the spring air and the majestic eagle sitting on the nest.
I cannot place a value on the memory of my kids sneaking up on an eagle’s nest, the excited whispers or the glowing smiles. The experience was better than any high definition, professionally filmed nature show. It was real, tangible and a treasured experience that my family can remember for all times. To know that experiences like this are available to all Hoosiers across the state and will be for our kids and grandkids is very comforting. The property where the eagles nest amazed my kids is now protected. The property was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in December 2011 and will be permanently protected from subdivision and development. If it had been developed, the disturbance by home construction, vehicles, pets and other intrusions by people could have caused the eagles to abandon the nest.
Helping to Protect Wild Places
I protect wild places. It is what I do. Protecting places like this is the goal of The Nature Conservancy. And a key partner in our conservation work is the Indiana Heritage Trust program, whose iconic bald eagle on a blue license plate graces many vehicles across Indiana.
Please consider becoming a member of the Conservancy, so that we can continue to protect wild places.