Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Young Eagle Soars

I stand at this spot where the small lazy river splits around an island below a high sand bank. The Bald Eagle nest is not easy to see without binoculars now that surrounding vegetation obscures the view but it sits atop the tallest pine tree on the embankment.

July 14, 2014 - I estimate the eaglet is about 10 or 11 weeks old on this date. After watching the nest for half an hour around 8 AM, I see no activity at all. I move to another spot on the river and find the young bird sitting on a branch far below the nest. Note the excellent camouflage!

An adult bird lands near the nest and watches but the young bird does not move. I wonder how it got down the tree and if it will be able to fly back to the nest. I know some young eagles do not survive their first flight. Three rain showers pass over on this dull day and I finally leave because of mosquitoes and lack of an umbrella.

I return in the afternoon and find the eaglet on the same branch. It is nearly impossible to see without binoculars as it blends well with the trunk of the tree. Will it get back to the nest?

July 18, 2014- Another brief visit reveals the young bird did make it back to the nest. I watch it fly back and forth to nearby branches.

An adult bird drops in but the eaglet is not interested in flying far from the nest. It is amazing to see how quickly the young bird grew to adult size.

This weekend - I arrive to see the young bird flying above the tree tops close to home. It is about 12 weeks old now.

It circles back to the nest and has a rest.

An adult bird drops off a good sized rodent and leaves as quickly as it arrived. The young bird works away at its meal.

It is a full time job feeding this youngster. Bald Eagles may have two or three young and those nests must be very crowded and busy. The adult returns and perches as the young bird finishes eating.

They both sit outside the nest but in the next hour the young bird does not try another flight. It does its wing exercises several times though. It needs to work hard on strength, coordination and endurance. (That is a line I also use with my patients)

Now that the eaglet has fledged, it must learn to hunt for itself. The adults will continue to feed it for a while but it will be on its own before winter arrives.

It has been interesting and inspiring to watch this young Bald Eagle grow under the watchful care of its parents. Most birds nest secretively but there is nothing secret about this large eyrie where eagles perch confidently overlooking their territory. Many times this scripture from Isaiah came to my mind.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Enjoying Small Things

This is one of the places I sit along the river to watch the Bald Eagle nest. Yesterday I waited for most of the morning through a couple of rain showers and then in humid sunshine.

There are many birds along this bend in the river including nesting Bank Swallows, Belted Kingfishers, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Northern Flickers, Common Yellowthroats to name a few. Sitting still is never boring.

I saw only one Yellow Swallowtail butterfly but there were many Skippers and Cabbage Whites on the wildflowers. A small worm photo bombed the picture of a Skipper on a wild daisy.

The decline in native butterflies is significant. I haven't seen a single Monarch Butterfly this year.

These small creatures often give a picture of the health and balance of the ecosystem.

A pair of Belted Kingfishers entertained me with their warrior rattles and enthusiastic fishing techniques.

I have watched these young Mallard Ducks since they were small and sheltered by their mother. Today they swam boldly upstream with no adults in sight.

This river is ideal for canoeing and kayaking as it loops lazily around the countryside. These ladies were headed for a community about 15 minutes away by car, but the water route will take a couple of hours. We chatted as they passed downstream at a slow speed.

I was pleased to see a shy female Rose-breasted Grosbeak on a willow branch near my sitting spot. Her mate sang a loud, bubbly song from a leaf-shrouded tree top as she quietly looked for food.

I am never disappointed with the beauty and diversity of life around me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Eagle Watching

I spent the past month birding in the same location along a small river where a single eaglet is growing in leaps and bounds. We first visited the nest on April 26 and the female was still incubating the egg(s). Two weeks later an eaglet was barely visible over the edge of the nest. On May 31, the eaglet was able to sit up on its own and was exercising its wings. It had few feathers and a lot of fluff and both parents were vigilant, never leaving the youngster alone.

Things were about the same one week later. Only one parent was seen but it stayed at the nest for long periods of time.

Two weeks later I saw the eaglet alone for at least thirty minutes. It sat in the nest and rested out of sight at intervals. One parent brought some food and stayed at the nest for over an hour. Once again, I did not see the adult eagles together at the nest.

I visited the nest today in the rain and stayed a couple of hours until the skies cleared. The eaglet is about eight weeks old now and has its flight feathers. It exercised frequently and was able to lift its wings and get to a branch outside the nest. It is almost adult size but is not able to fly. The young bird sat out for a few minutes at a time and then returned to the nest for a rest. An adult dropped a rodent off once in two hours and stayed only for a minute or two before leaving.

The adults were absent from the nest but were vigilant from a distance. They soared above the nest as if demonstrating how to fly. I think the young bird will catch on soon. 

Composite photograph