Hanover eagle expert's newest book is the first in a trilogy
Local eagle expert Karen Lippy's feathers likely wouldn't be ruffled if readers thought her books were for the birds because, in a way, they are.
Lippy's goal is to educate people about local birds in general and about York County's internationally famous bald eagle family in particular. The better people understand eagles, the better they can help protect them.
The 68-year-old Hanover-area native has volunteered at Codorus State Park for more than three decades and in 2015 was one of the main volunteers to set up spotting scopes at the park's Lake Marburg marina so visitors could watch the mating pair of eagles raise their two eaglets.
"I've been studying (the eagle family) since 2005," Lippy said. "We had so many people come out (in 2015). In one single day we had over 1,000 people come to look at the eagles through our scopes. The reaction of people was amazing."
But despite her already extensive knowledge of birds, Lippy — like millions of people around the world — learned even more about the raptor family after the Pennsylvania Game Commission placed a high-definition streaming camera in the tree where the eagles nest annually.
Daily journal: She said she wanted to share with everyone the things she learned, the beauty of the park and the uncertain saga of raising eaglets. She also wanted to answer online viewers' questions about what was going on at the nest site, which is on private property adjacent to Codorus State Park.
So Lippy started keeping a daily journal of what she observed at the nest and posted much of what she witnessed on Facebook pages devoted to the eagle family. Eventually, she realized her extensive note-taking was a book in the making.
She self-published "A Year With the Eagles: The Unseen Story of the Hanover Eagle Nest" in 2015.
"I thought I was going to do just one book, but people kept asking for more," she said.
She followed up in March with "Growing Up Eagle," an illustrated book for children of reading age.
Newest release: Now, Lippy is preparing to publish "Two Little Eagles," the first in a three-book series of bedtime stories for little children. The trilogy will chronicle the 2015 eaglets from the time they hatched until they fledged, meaning left the nest.
"It wasn't something I was planning on doing, but then I got cabin fever (last winter)," she said, and rhymes kept popping into her head.
In the first book, which she expects could be published in as little as two weeks by Roller Printing LLC in Hanover, the slightly older eaglet, named Bonker by online viewers, picks on younger brother Peewee by "bonking" him on the head with her beak.
"Once mom and dad leave the nest, the little ones are alone and don't know what to do. Eventually, they come to realize they need each other to stay warm because it's so cold outside," Lippy said, which is basically an anthropomorphic retelling of what actually happened in the nest in those first few weeks.
The second and third books, "Dad Brings Home Lunch" (spoiler alert: it's a skunk) and "Big Feet," are written but not yet illustrated, she said.
Rapt attention: Lippy said she was amazed to hear stories about people watching the raptors online. She said she was told a group of Alzheimer's patients who didn't even recognize their own children anymore couldn't get enough of the eagle cam, and students loved it as well.
"It shows you how intensely involved people got watching that camera," she said.
A group of advanced-learning-class fifth-graders in Scranton watched the eagle cam daily as part of their study of the birds and read "Growing Up Eagle" in class before inviting her to the school to conduct two eagle-oriented assemblies, Lippy said.
"The children had built a beautiful eagle nest, and they told me all the things they'd seen on camera," she said.
The effect on people who traveled to the park to see the nesting eagles was even more amazing, according to Lippy.
Moved to tears: She recalled a group of tough-looking motorcyclists who came to the park, all shaved heads, leather and tattoos. As one of them watched the eagles through binoculars, his composure broke.
"Suddenly he had tears streaming down his face," Lippy said.
And the adult eagles' efficiency at de-feathering their avian meals so impressed a group of visiting Mennonite women that one joked she could use their help plucking her chickens.
Lippy is clearly proud of Codorus State Park and its man-made Lake Marburg. She said she goes there early to watch the sun rise and revel in her wild home.
"The blood and bone of my family are here," she said, explaining that farmland bought and cultivated by her great-great-great-grandfather John Runkle in the 1700s is now under the lake. In 1920, her mother was born in the 2½-story stone home Runkle built there.
"If the state hadn't had the wisdom to set aside that much land, who knows what it would be today," Lippy said.
The background: Nearly 1.5 million individual viewers from around the world tuned in to the Hanover-area eagle cam in 2015 and watched, occasionally with trepidation, as two eggs hatched into defenseless pink chicks that quickly grew into ravenous, demanding fluff balls.
People kept watching as those eaglets grew feathers, became large and boisterous, and eventually fledged.
By mid-May 2015, there were 23.8 million live-stream views of the nest, according to Travis Lau, press secretary for the state game commission.
The live-stream camera has not yet been turned back on, but Lippy reported that the parent eagles have been rebuilding their nest from the foundation up after it partially collapsed earlier this year.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.