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Nesting Eagles 2012

I was fortunate to find a new eagle nest in 2012. From the time that the adult eagles were sitting on the nest, I visited the nest regularly. There was one chick in the nest, and I enjoyed being able to document its growth and to follow its progress toward fledging from the nest. The photos below show that progress. As always when shooting a nest, it was a top priority for me to be certain that my presence was not going to stress the birds. 

I came to think of this pair of eagles as being quite special. When they built their nest in a county park during the park’s off season, they could not have imagined that, during the spring and summer, there would be people fishing, camping, and having picnics within a short distance of their nest. Those in authority showed no willingness whatever to do anything to restrict or even discourage human activity from the area of the nest. Thus, these eagles were subjected to stressful conditions that would have caused many eagles to abandon the nest and the chick, but, even though the adult pair did show visible signs of stress, they stayed with the task of caring for their chick. 

The photos below document the nesting process. Often, I had to deal with light that was either less than ideal or horrible. Thus, many of the pictures lack artistic value, but they do document events at the nest. There are separate sub-galleries for different phases of the nesting process. When you come to the last photograph in one of the sub-galleries and if you wish to continue to the next gallery, you will need to come back to this page to do so.

From Sitting on Eggs to a Two Week Old Chick

The two adult eagles began sitting on eggs on March 15. Most likely, there were three eggs in the nest, but only one hatched. The chick was born around April 24, and it stuck its head above the rim of the nest for the first time about 8 days later. 

The Chick from Two Weeks Old to Five Weeks Old

During the next few weeks the chick was growing and starting to get its brown feathers. During this time, one of the adults was at the nest most of the time, and the chick moved from needing to be fed to being able to eat on its own. It also began to test its wings for the first time.

The Chick from Five Weeks Old to Seven Weeks Old

During this period the chick was starting to test its wings a bit more. This was a period of significant growth for the chick. Also, the adult birds were starting to show signs of stress that resulted from increased human activity at the park and the reluctance of those in authority to do any thing to discourage such activity very close to the nest. The female adult, in particular started to show an unwillingness to take her turn to tend to the nest and chick. 

The Chick From Seven Weeks Old to Eight Weeks Old

The chick was now approaching the size of its parents, and wing flapping became more frequent. 

The Chick From 9 Weeks Old through 11 Weeks Old

Wing flapping became more vigorous and more frequent as the young eagle approached gaining the ability to fly, and it began venturing out to a limb adjacent to the nest and taking 4-6 foot “practice flights” back to the nest. Temperatures in the 95-100 degree range were taxing its energy and limiting activity.

Out of the Nest-the First 10 Days

On the morning of the 4th of July, I paid a visit to the nest. While the young eagle was active, my guess was that it still had 3 or 4 days left before it would leave the nest. When I came back the next morning, the nest was empty. I later found out that some people were having a barbeque right below the nest tree, and they scared the bird out of the nest. Even had the eagle been ready to fly, it still should have been coming back to the nest for a while to get food from its parents. For the next four days, I looked for it, and I saw no sign of the bird anywhere in the area. On the fifth day, I found it about 1/4 mile from the nest. It seemed to be doing fine, but it clearly was not ready to be independent. Flights were only very short, and it was clearly looking for its parents to bring it food. Since someone told me that they had seen one of the parents close by just before I arrived and since the young bird appeared to be healthy and active, I felt good knowing that the it had gotten through some of the most dangerous days of its life safely. In the days that followed, I saw the young eagle almost every day. It was still being fed by the parent birds, who were usually nearby to watch over the fledgling, but it seemed to be gaining increased confidence in its ability to fly, to land, and to explore.

From 10 Days Out of the Nest to a Month Out of the Nest

After the fledgling eagle was out of the nest for 10 days, it was flying more proficiently, and its landings were more confident. After being out of the nest for a month, it was still depending on its parents for its food more than I would expect for most eagle fledglings, but it was starting to venture out and explore areas further from the nest area. 

From One Month Out of the Nest and Beyond

After a month out of the nest, the eagle fledgling was still depending on food from its parents, and that is an longer time than usual for it not to be getting its own food. As the parents seemed to be starting to force the young bird out to river to learn how to catch its own fish, she started to spend time roosting on the roofs of buildings, vehicles, and campers, and I started to be concerned that she may have been starting to beg for food from people. On her 37th day out of the nest, I may have seen the fledgling catch her first fish. One of the adult birds flew from a tree toward the river, and the fledgling followed. The adult bird swooped to the water, as if to catch a fish, but it rose up just before reaching the water. The fledgling followed close behind and grabbed a rather large fish out of the water. It appeared that the adult had led the young bird to a fish and then allowed her to catch it. Seeing that happen was especially neat. At about 2 months out of the nest, the fledgling was starting to spend more time away from the nest area, and the adult birds seemed to be bringing their parenting to a close. At around that time, it became more difficult for me to find and keep track of the young bird, but I so enjoyed watching and photographing her while I had the chance to do so. 

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