Oh, the horror! A lesson learned in child rearing.

After the birth of my first child, I felt certain that every moment with him would be a joyous learning experience.  His curiosity in nature made me very happy, being a nature lover myself, and I embraced this opportunity to expose him to the outdoors.

Over the past year, his obsession with birds, specifically bald eagles and hawks has played a part in our every day conversation.  "I love bald eagles."  or  "There is a bald eagle." would be repeated 1,000 times a day.  He would carry around pictures of bald eagles and now sleeps with a bald eagle stuffed animal.  

My response to the ever mounting factoids about bald eagles started to be the same, "Oh, yes.  Bald eagles are great.".  Every bird we saw was a bald eagle.

Trips to the zoo were full of excitement, but we never could quite experience any of these majestic birds up close.  Until last summer.

I will preface this story with three words.  Blood and carnage.

It was a lovely summer day.  The kind of day where you open all of your windows.  The warm sun lovingly shining down on my home, I could hear the gentle breeze filtering through the open windows.  Little Raymond (my son), Anne (my daughter) and I were upstairs innocently doing laundry and playing when I heard the dryer bell ring to alert me of freshly dried laundry.  I quickly sped downstairs to collect the laundry when I heard a rustling outside.  I glanced out the kitchen window to find the biggest hawk I have ever seen standing on our patio.

I immediately turned, forgetting about my clean unmentionables and flew upstairs to retrieve my bird loving son.  "Oh happy day!", I thought!  A real live (and giant) bird on the patio!  

I plopped my daughter in her crib with a book and scooped up Raymond, telling him on the way downstairs that there was a beautiful bald eagle in the back yard.

His gasp and squeal at the news was exhilarating. I had done it!  I had found a bald eagle for my son!

The scene upon my return was slightly different from the majestic bird I left moments ago.  As we rounded the corner, mounds of white feathers blowing in the wind caught my eye, but only for a moment.

As we faced the patio in full, I see why the hawk had stopped to visit our humble back yard.  The carnage that we were now observing was not the image I had envisioned in my mind minutes earlier.  Under our outdoor table an innocent mourning dove helplessly hopped around, wounded beyond repair.  That's about all I can describe without becoming ill.

In shock, I stood at the window with my son, not realizing he was witnessing the "circle of life".
 
"Oh, look, mama!  The bald eagle has a baby!"

My son's voice shook me out of the horror of staring at this mighty bird conquering his lunch and I covered Raymond's eyes, turned and headed to another room.  Raymond pulled my hand down to get one last glimpse of the bird and said, "Look at all the milk!"  I could only assume what he meant was the red milk of life that runs through our veins...

So, how do I handle this situation?  I avoided dealing with it and decided to go with the story Raymond tells over and over to this day.  A bald eagle was in our back yard and he was feeding milk to his baby.  Done.

No sugar coating and no explaining.

My children have become more and more interested in birds especially since we had an actual bald eagle family living nearby this summer.  Raymond and Anne sport binoculars whenever we leave the house and they observe every where we go! 

There are several places for birding in the Fox Valley area, so before the weather turns on us and we hunker down for the winter, check out these sites with your little explorer!

The Red Oak Nature Center, North Aurora

Morton Arboretum, Lisle

Peck Farm Park, Geneva

The Kane County Audubon Society also has a list of favorite birding spots in Kane County

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