My wife, Sue, and I are finishing up surveying this season’s golden eagle breeding territories. “Finishing up” means we’re visiting eagle breeding sites we have been given the responsibility to keep track of by the Oregon Eagle Foundation.

Early in the season we visit the nest sites to determine if the eagles are going to raise a family that year. Then we return weeks later to see if they hatched babies, and how many. Then finally about the middle of June we come back and see if those babies made it to seven weeks of age and will fledge.

Wind farms are killing eagles, and we need to know what that will mean to the golden eagle population in the long run. (The wind generators also kill about 50,000 bats a year, but to date, not much has been done to mitigate that loss.)

I started to really become involved in the life and times of golden eagles in 1962 when I was granted a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to band birds — which has now become the responsibility of the Department of Interior’s United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Banding birds is commonly done by placing a numbered metal band on the bird’s leg. The band has instructions printed on it for anyone finding the bird to contact the USGS. The finder will be informed of who the bander is and when and where the banding was done. When I hear from the banding lab that one of my banded birds has been recovered, I write to the finder immediately to learn what the circumstances were/are of the bird’s discovery or capture.

That’s how I learned that osprey I banded at Crane Prairie Reservoir years ago spend their winters all over Mexico and Central America, and even at their southern-most destination: Volcan, Costa Rica.

Banding time for golden eagles is from when the youngsters are four weeks old to when they’re about six weeks. They don’t know they’re eagles at that point, and really don’t give the bander any big trouble when the band is placed on one leg. The parents never give us any grief, they just climb high in the sky and watch the process.

Bald eagles, on the other hand, will try to knock your head off!

This year I placed eagle-banding on the “not to do” list. Our climber called to tell us he’d not be available because he fell and broke his arm. I do not/can not climb anymore because Sue hid all my climbing equipment and I’m just too old.

My older sons, Dean and Ross, come every spring with their kids to play pinochle and band birds with Sue and me. During one of our many, wonderful pinochle games this season I mentioned to both Dean and Ross I did not plan to band birds this year. Oh boy did I get a thrashing!

“What do you mean, ‘No Banding!’ both boys got on me. “What about us? What about the kids?! We’ve grown up banding birds with you from the day we were born!”

Then Ross waved his hands at Dean’s towering sons, Sam and Tom. “And look at them,” he said, “They’re over six feet tall and can climb into and out of anything — be it tree or cliff!”

With that, Sue got out the banding maps.

“Let’s go do the quarry nest first,” she suggested, and everyone agreed.

Now, I’ve been banding eagle babies in that nest from way back in the mid-1960s. It’s about 300 feet above the parking spot and the only way to get there is to walk up a very, very steep rocky slope. My getting to the nest tree was nearly impossible. However, being an optimist, I started to make the climb.

After going up about 50 feet I was huffing and puffing, and my heart was shouting at me, “Enough is enough, Old Man!” and I popped a couple of nitro pills to relieve pain.

I was really wanting badly to sit down, but there was no big rock, and once I get down it’s tough to get all of me up and going again. At that very moment Ross, my Number Two jetpilot son, stepped in front me, put his hands behind his back and said, “Grab on Pop, we’re going to the top!”

With Tom on my heels (just in case…), Ross towed me almost to the top of the slope, where my oldest son, Dean, and his sons Joseph and Sam were waiting for me to band the first eagle they brought down from the nest.

During the banding I asked our OEF volunteer, Nancy Boever, who monitors that breeding territory, to hold the eaglet while Ross and I installed the rivet-on leg band, “Oh,” Nancy said, with her nose inches from the bird, “The eagle is so beautiful!”

That was the first time Nancy had ever been that close to a golden eagle. My granddaughter Mary-Catherine took photos with my Canon.

You just can’t beat family and friends!