Editor’s Letter, June 2023: Appreciating Our Local Ecology

This month, we explore the animals and plants that inhabit our environment.

I saw a wild bald eagle in Cincinnati for the first time back in December. OK, it was sitting in a bare tree next to the Kroger parking lot off of Mitchell and Spring Grove avenues, but it was thrilling nonetheless. As I parked my car, I noticed the teenager who collects carts standing with a couple of women, chatting and pointing. I looked around and saw a huge bird just sitting there, doing nothing, but with that signature white head. I said to them, “That’s an eagle, right?” They nodded, transfixed. I broke away after five minutes and went in to do my grocery shopping. When I returned to my car, it was gone.

Not exactly a rousing nature story you might see on the NatGeo channel, but I still think about it six months later. And it’s one personal anecdote confirming a nugget of reporting in this month’s “Down to Earth” (page 34): That bald eagles are among nature’s “comeback kids.” Only 417 pairs of bald eagles were believed to exist in the lower 48 U.S. states in 1963, but a 2021 count estimated 71,500 breeding pairs—including in almost every county in Ohio. I can vouch for Hamilton County.

I know many of you live in areas where you see bald eagles, wild turkeys, coyotes, hawks, deer, and maybe even river otters on a regular basis, and some of them have actually become a nuisance. So you likely find it odd that I’m so excited about watching an eagle hang out in the Kroger parking lot. But I’d previously only seen a live eagle in the zoo, so it might as well have been a polar bear.

I think I got excited because it reminded me that nature always finds a way to survive our attempts to pave it over, pull it up by the roots, or dump our waste on it. And that, even in the most overdeveloped urban neighborhoods, like mine, nature is our companion. It feeds us, shades us, pollinates the flowers, controls the pests, and decorates our homes. And it reminds us that we don’t own the world, it owns us.

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