Friday, August 5, 2011

Eagle fledgling flight practice

Papa eagle watches as mama brings food for Junior.
The last couple of times Padme the wonderdog and I have walked past our neighborhood aerie, everything has been quiet. I just assumed that Junior had fledged and I missed the show. I was a little worried too, though. About 40 percent of eagle fledglings don't survive their first flight.

Mama brings some fish for dinner.
Last week, we got to see mama eagle fly in with one of many meals for Junior. These eagles are wonderful parents - attentive, protective, and nurturing. Papa eagle watched his mate's catch with interest. Sometimes he joins them to share what she brings.

Junior has been "branching" for a few weeks. I wasn't sure if he also had actually tried those wings outside the nest or not.

Last night, I spotted mama eagle at the top of a tree near the nest. I heard Junior but couldn't see him. Then mama flew down to a tree on the other side of the nest, mostly out of my view.

Junior kept talking to his mother. He was sandwiched between two small branches on an adjacent tree. Then he started flapping, all the while talking constantly. And then...liftoff! I wanted to cheer but then remembered that I needed to avoid distracting him. He flew around the grove of trees near the nest - talking the entire time, "look ma! Look ma! LOOK! Can I eat now? I'm tired." Eventually he landed - a little hard - in the tree about 6 feet down from where mama was perched. And he kept talking.

I knocked off a couple of dozen images - all of them good. These are some favorites. The light, for a change, was perfectly bright and golden. Junior is about three months old now. He'll have another three months to learn how to hunt. At least that's the schedule for migrating eagles.

This eagle clan is here year-round. The parents frequently catch up with their kids from earlier broods for synchonized flights, hunting trips, and just enjoying each other. 

It will be a few years before Junior develops the bald eagle's characteristic white head and tail. Bald eagles are usually 3-4 years old when they are matured enough to earn the white feathers. That's also when they look for their lifetime mate.

I'm getting lots of new work ready for a show opening at my new gallery - 253 Collective in Tacoma. Look for invitations this weekend. I'm really pleased with this new collection and hope that my western Washington friends and neighbors will come see it toward the end of this month.

Details about For the Birds and the Trees are on my website.

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