By Greg Martin
Liberty Wildlife Contributor
In the year 9 AD, a Roman army met annihilation in the foreboding shadows of the Teutoburg Forest in northern Germany. As many as 30,000 died in that Germanic ambush, a rare and horrific defeat for a burgeoning Empire just entering its prime.Arguably worst of all was the fact that Publius Quinctilius Varus, still infamous in 2019 for having led his force to complete destruction in year 9, lost his eagles.
A life was a life, but those eagles were sacred, and Augustus spared neither time, expense, nor soldiers’ lives in seeking both bloody vengeance and their swift return. Every Roman legion carried an eagle standard, and to surrender such a symbol of Rome’s vitality to an enemy was worse than losing an actual battle: such was the belief of the Romans, and such was the preeminence of the eagle as their symbol. That reverence is not unique to Western Civilization; the eagle is the human ideal of all that is noble and powerful, regardless of culture or continent. The only two eagle species of North America are also its most iconic emblems: the Bald Eagle graces the Great Seal of the United States, its talons bearing both the olive branch and the arrows of war; the Golden Eagle with a snake in its beak is a Mexican icon dating back to the Aztecs, who saw that same bird as a divine sign from their god well before Columbus was even born. They never knew about Rome or its eagles, yet the symbol was to them the same.
Crazy Horse wore a single eagle feather tied in his hair, all the power he needed at the Greasy Grass or Little Bighorn.Eagles embodied just as much for his people and for other groups indigenous to the Americas as they did for anyone in Europe. Mongolians on the other side of the world still hunt on the steppes of Asia with Golden Eagles, just as their ancestors did – and as Genghis and Kublai did – in a tradition of partnership and awe that dates to time immemorial.There are more than sixty kinds of eagle to be found in the world, which makes our North American pair seem rather paltry, in quantity at least.As might be expected, that many eagles invariably leads to some specialized examples, famously illustrated by the Harpy Eagle of South America. This massively strong terror of the treetops boasts almost comically short wings, at least in comparison to its more traditional cousins; in this sense, it resembles the Accipiters of North America, short-winged hawks whose forest environments require hunting at breakneck speeds and with hairpin turns, where even the slightest miscalculation means immediate death. The Harpy Eagle, living in the rainforest, relies on the same concept of movement, even if one of its favorite foods is the happy-go-lucky sloth. Hardly a speed demon to catch, but still: flying through the jungle, especially if you’re the size of an eagle, requires incalculable deftness.
In contrast to its South American cousin, and also to the Bald Eagle that only calls our own continent home, the Golden Eagle of Mexican flag fame is a true world conqueror. This is the bird of the Great Khans, the Holy Roman Emperors, the Russian Tsars, and the Caesars themselves. Theirs is the shadow passing overhead that makes even wolves think twice. Symbols of power, emblems of empires, eagles of all sorts are embodiments of human unity. And that is their most incredible legacy. After all, for all our differences, and for all the distances between us in life and in thought, it says something indeed if people across oceans, across time and across continents, can see the same bird and all think the same thing.
**Previously published in March 2019
Haven for Youngsters
By Gail Cochrane
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
A couple of juvenile mockingbirds have settled in our backyard. When I first noticed them, they were still growing adult feathers, and looked like awkward teens, scrawny and rumpled, all of the parts not quite in alignment. In early September they perched in the open shelter of the creosote shrubs squawking for mom and dad to feed them. Waiting impatiently, they panted in the heat, cooling themselves with gular flutters. They looked like little dinosaurs.
Now the mockingbirds strike me as the 20-somethings who find life is fine in the basement of mom and dad’s house. Why not just stay on here where things are familiar and there are plenty of insects to be found in the native shrubs? Even the patch of Bermuda grass holds insects and grubs to feed the hungry pair. Throughout the day the two can be seen perching on handy lookout posts around the yard, darting down occasionally to nab a tasty treat.
I always felt proud that my kids struck out on their own as soon as possible. Whether we raised independent souls or made things uncomfortable enough to inspire them to move on is up for question. I certainly prefer the first theory. Now that they have kids of their own, I wish with all my heart that they still lived nearby. Surely, it’s a human luxury, the desire to remain a part of the lives of generations twice removed. But do we know that mockingbirds and all animals don’t recognize their progeny and look in on them when possible? Visit Whitewater Draw and witness the families of sandhill cranes searching each other out among thousands and you will believe so.
Another recent fledgling hanging around the yard is a Greater Roadrunner. This is a thrilling and flashy visitor, but also a scraggly one, with feathers not yet smooth and even. I know why the roadrunner checks in daily. Easy meals! A healthy population of lizards shelter under shrubby native bushes and among the piles of river rocks that edge the landscaping. The roadrunner’s beak is heavy and outsized for the bird, clearly an effective tool for grabbing and crushing insects and small reptilian bodies. Even larger lizards and snakes will be subdued as the fierce roadrunner pummels her prey against the rocks.
But the weather is cooling. In a few weeks the insects will be gone, and lizards and snakes safe in underground burrows. With adult plumage in place and survival to attend to, these first year birds will move on. Next spring when an adult male mockingbird sings through the night to attract a mate, I will wonder if it might be one of these two goofy youngsters, fully mature, and come back to continue the cycle of life.
By: Carol Suits
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Here at Kid Stuff, we encourage you to share the ideas and activities we publish each month with your kids so they might become stewards of the Earth by being Nature’s Superheroes. Even the youngest among us can make a difference and that realization provides the self-confidence kids need to be successful adults.
The Superhero Club had its first meeting in September. They helped nature this month by making bird feeders from egg cartons. If you would like to make one here’s what you will need:
- 1 cardboard egg carton
- Bird seed
Cut the top and the flap off the egg carton leaving just the bottom that holds eggs.
An adult will need to make a hole in each corner of the egg carton
Measure and cut 4 pieces of string the same length – about 10 inches
Tie a string through each hole and gather the strings together at the top and tie
Color the egg carton blue, green and/or brown to blend with trees/bushes
Add bird seed to each egg hole
Place in a tree or suitable place for the birds to find.
Here are the Superheroes making bird feeders.
Part of the Superhero Club meeting was visiting Sonia and Snickers, the Liberty Wildlife Great Horned Owl Ambassador. Sonia told everyone about Snicker’s history and why she was not able to live in the wild.
Sonia and Snickers with the Superheroes.
Here are some things to know about great horned owls.
- They are active from dusk to dawn
- They eat small mammals,
- They have twice as many bones in their neck than people so they can turn their head pretty far around to see what’s behind them
- Their eyes stay in one spot, not like ours that we can move up, down, and side to side.
Next the Superheroes met Grayson, a member of the Liberty Wildlife Teen Club, who introduced “Speedy” the desert tortoise.
What can you find out about desert tortoises?
Introducing “Vulture Culture”!
Be part of a cool cleanup crew!
Vultures know how to keep the environment clean. They are nature’s janitors! Dead and left-over animal parts are yummy meals to them and when they eat them, they clean up the area. Like vultures, you can clean up around your house, your school, and your neighborhood. You can reduce waste, reuse things rather than throw them out and recycle almost everything!
Be a 3 R’s Superhero
Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!
What is reduce, reuse, and recycle? This video will give you some great hints on things you can do to reduce waste, reuse things, and recycle almost everything!
The Superhero Club will be learning about the 3 R’s next time, and like the vultures, they will be cleaning up litter along the Salt River with the help of the Litter Critters organization and City of Phoenix, Ranger Brian.