Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eva And Albert Taking Good Care Of Their Eaglets Above SR520

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time photographer and birder. 

Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work

Eaglets At Play
By the middle of June in 2016, Eva and Albert's young eaglets were nearly as large as the parents and occasionally catching some wind above the nest. As the year progressed, I wondered if the construction of the new 520 bridge would have an impact on the adult's reproduction in 2017.

In early February, there wasn't much going in the eagles' nest. From a human perspective it was hard to imagine that it was time to prepare for Spring. However...

...a week later I saw fresh nesting material being delivered. 

Soon after, the eagles began mating.

The duet which followed their parental preparations sounded like music to my ears. Sadly, I was unable to decipher their vocalizations. I must say that to me they sounded rather proud. If my calculations are correct, about one week later Eva began laying eggs in the nest.

It was mid-March before I was able to catch a photo which confirmed the situation. That small white spec in the middle of the nest is the top of Eva's head. The rest of her body is sitting low in the nest covering eggs and maintaining the optimal temperature.

It was early in May before I actually saw the two young eaglets standing in the nest. After studying my photos and other online accounts I suspect that at this point the eaglets were approximately four or five weeks old.

The next day, a closer photo showed the tiny remains of white fuzz on the head of one of the eaglets.

Eva was alert and vocal while defending her young from the slightest perceived threat.

Once again I had the impression that they were proud of their efforts.

By mid-May, Albert was doing most of the hunting and Eva was tending the home fires.

 Eva's efforts included tearing off bite sized pieces of food and...

 ...offering them to the eaglets one piece at a time.

This photo shows the young eaglet's flight feathers just starting to develop.

A week later, one of the eaglets let me get a few quick shots in the early morning light.

It is obvious that the parents had begun the process of distancing themselves from their young. For the adult who is doing the baby-sitting, usually Eva, it must be a relief to move out of the nest. The adults are no longer needed to provide warmth or shade but they still provide protection from predators.

The beaks and talons of the inexperienced young birds are no doubt sharp enough to cause damage and may also motivate the adults to maintain some distance, whenever possible.

Earlier this week it was good to see that this year's eaglets are now also nearly as large as their parents. At this point, both adults may leave the nest for extended periods. I suspect they continue to watch the nest from a distance, however I do not think they are particularly concerned with the smaller creatures, e.g. crows, harassing their young. 

The young no longer require any assistance with eating. As a matter of fact, when Albert landed it looked like one of the eaglets grabbed the food from his talons and pulled it quickly into the middle of the nest.

This was done in one swift motion and ended with the young bird's wings spread across the nest from one parent to the other. The second sibling was left with a view of the first eaglet's backside and most likely not even a whiff of the food before it was gone. The development of predatory eagle behavior appears to be well on its way.

Apparently, the 520 construction had little or no impact on the adult's ability to reproduce. I suspect they may have done a little more land-based hunting than in previous years. Still, it is reassuring to watch them pass along their genes, in spite of our presence and activities.

My best estimate is that the eagles are about nine to ten weeks old and may fledge sometime between now and early July. If you happen to be driving east on the old 520 bridge, please watch the road very carefully, however you may catch a glimpse of one or more bald eagles on the light poles. You might check quickly to see if the head(s) are white. If not, you may be one of the first to see the eaglets after they leave the nest.

Learning to fly is very dangerous for young eagles and hunting from light poles above speeding vehicles is most likely the last thing they should be doing. However, since that is one of their parent's favorite hunting spots, it is a likely location for them to begin their airborne endeavors. Maybe in July we should ask for flashing signs on the 520 bridge - 'Slow - Eaglets At Play'.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where eaglets grow up in the city!

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