Thursday, May 31, 2012

Feeding baby eagles

My favorite eagle pair have a routine to assure the safety of their youngsters. When we arrived at the nest, papa was watching from mid-tree to the right of the nest. One of the babies was scanning the area outside the nest wondering where dinner was.

Mama flew in to help the babies, cutting up dinner in smaller chunks. I didn't see the second baby but he or she may have been deeper in the nest.

When mama was confident that her youngsters could feed themselves the rest of their dinner, she flew off. Papa was right behind her. What's happening? They wouldn't both leave the youngsters? Then mama circled back past the nest and landed in the same tree that papa had left but in a different position.

Baby checked to see where mama was, then settled back into the nest to finish dinner.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hummingbird vigil

Hummingbirds have been visiting the feeders less in the past couple of weeks. Probably a combination of lots of food choices and nesting somewhere in the woods. Yesterday afternoon, I noticed a female rufous leisurely making the rounds of the flowers in my front yard. She made a quick stop at one of the feeders, and then flew off to the birdie spa tree to guard the flowers and feeders from other hummers.

Staying on the tree was quite a challenge though. She picked a lightweight outside branch where the wind was sending her up and down like a rollercoaster. It was so much fun watching her act like nothing was wrong while she was going up and down a foot or more. She hung on, though, because there was something that caught her interest on one of the leaves. I still don't know if it was a tiny insect (contrary to popular belief, insects make up anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of their diet) or a water droplet. I've been photographing hummingbirds for several years. Take a look at some of my favorites in the Hummer Gallery.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two eagle babies

Baby on the right is ducking down for some eats.

We got to the nest right after papa dropped off dinner for the family tonight. This time there were clearly two baby eagles. The only shot I managed to get with both faces showing has mama's face hidden behind a branch. But definitely two babies in the nest!

Two eagle baby faces. They really blend into the nest – nature's protection.
Hey Ma! I'm up here!

Now where'd that youngster go?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

More eagle baby pics

This is pretty exciting: we think there are two babies this year. I haven't managed to see two little faces poking up at the same time but these photos were taken 30 seconds apart.In the top photo, there's a eaglet that you can barely see to the left of the little eagle face. Then the little eagle face on the right ducks down and there a new eagle face on the left. A couple of minutes later, I saw an eaglet face to the right of the "Y" branches. A third maybe? Tough to say right now in this well-camouflaged aerie. We met a couple last night who have lived across from the nest for four years and didn't know there was a nest, although they had certainly seen the eagle pair.

More than one eaglet would account for mama eagle spending more time outside the nest than she did last year with one youngster. I often see her in the nest for a short time, usually tearing up what papa brings for dinner into eaglet-sized chunks. Then she retires to the family room and watches out for intruders.

Often, it looks like a jumble of wings and a face, which means there are at least two. This one's from earlier this week. Looks a little like mothman!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Protecting the eaglet

Padme the wonderdog was grateful that we didn't take the eagle route on our walk yesterday. On Thursday, we walked by the nest and saw no activity. I was a little concerned that the baby was ok. There were no sounds or movements in the nest on Thursday. No white head popping up above the nest. The baby's too young to leave by itself. Usually there's always a parent close by or in the nest.

The new youngster is already losing his gray down. His face is to the right of mama.

It looks like there's only one youngster again this year. I wonder if eagles tend to have the same number of young each time. The Decorah, Iowa, eagles had three youngsters this year and last. I've read that there seems to be a relationship between food availability and nesting. Eagles don't always nest every year either.

So when I steered Padme toward the street where the eagle's nest is, she first resisted, then relented. We were at the nest for quite awhile tonight. Two young girls wanted to pet Padme. I pointed out the nest to them, and showed them some of the photos I took tonight and last year about this time.

After they left, things started to get interesting. The baby was testing out his wings and mama was very vigilant. Then she started a call I haven't heard her use before, like she sensed an intruder. It wasn't a scream but certainly a protest. She must've seen another eagle that wasn't her mate. Even if the eagle was kin, her youngster could be threatened.

An eagle came into view but was backlit, so I couldn't tell if it was an adult or a juvenile. After he rounded a tree next to the nest tree I could see it was a juvenile, probably about two years old. Mama followed him as he circled wide around the nest, then flew off. She never let up her calls though. I watched her for a few more minutes, then started slowly down the street. I could still hear her a block away but didn't see any eagles in the sky.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First eagle baby pic

On our evening walk in the eagle neighborhood, we spotted papa eagle in the trainer tree high above the nest tree. As we got closer to the nest, we could see that mama eagle was perched on a small branch a few inches above the nest. Both of them seemed to be a little irritated about all the tree swallows getting too close to the nest.

We could see some activity in the nest and, finally, a first glimpse at an eaglet in gray down. Just spotted the top of his or her head. The nest is well-protected and well camouflaged. first baby picture! See if you can spot him.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Young eagle flight practice

We often see juvenile bald eagles – sometimes as many as six or seven – soaring on the thermals along the ridge above the Nisqually River delta and Puget Sound. For the past few evenings, we've seen three or four juveniles flying in formation, practicing air dances. They seem to really enjoy themselves and each other's company.

I believe these birds are all earlier offspring of my favorite nesting pair a few blocks away. Bald eagles generally keep all raptors at least a mile away from the nest. Last year, I saw papa eagle soaring with two juveniles just a block from the nest. Check out my post from last May of flight practice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Choir practice for eagles

A tree swallow zooms by like a missile.

Padme the wonderdog was really hoping that we would just have a normal walk, where she would stop frequently and sniff what needs to be sniffed, mark what needs to be marked, and bark at what needed barking at. I can sense this, so I make a conscious decision to peek down the street where my favorite eagles live. If I see somebody hanging around in the trees, I think, we'll head down the street. If I don't, we'll find a another route that Padme would prefer.

We pass our usual eagle turnoff and I see a white-headed bird high in a tree. I'm thinking I have plenty of images of papa eagle minding the store, so we walk farther down the street. We make a detour over to the next street and I tell Padme "just a half a block, I want to check out who's in the tree." Padme sniffs the street and reluctantly comes along. I bring my favorite eagle into camera view and realize it's mama eagle. A couple of minutes later, papa swoops in to join her with something in his talons. Part of what he was carrying dropped. I don't know if it was a morsel of food or something else. Mama pointed out – loudly but in that kinfolk chortle – that he dropped something.

As he settled in, they both started talking and chortling up a storm at each other and at the nest below. I still don't know if there's one or more eaglets in the nest. Somebody's in there because mama is spending most of her time in the nest but with occasional forays away. They had a perfect spot to take a break but keep watch – sort of an eagle nursery monitor.

The owner of the house I was standing next to as I photographed asked if the eagle was out. I said "yes" and he proceeded to tell me that they are very active – and loud – early in the morning, between 4 and 5 a.m. I told him that I'm frequently photographing them at this time of year because they are so active, and entertaining. He chuckled and said, "that's for sure."

All of the neighbors I've talked to on the street are as fond of their raptor neighbors as I am. These birds also seem know us all and, at least, tolerate us in their midst. Most recommendations for bird photographers is that you photograph from a vehicle or something else that acts as a "bird blind." I always keep a distance of 100 feet or more. However, I'm usually out in the open, figuring that dozens of people walk, run, ride bikes and skateboards down that street every day. Often these eagles will look right at me, then go about their business.

As Padme the wonderdog and I got a quarter mile away, heading back up the street to our house, papa flew over us – low. He was so low I could've photographed him with a wide angle lens and he would take up the whole frame. Of course, my camera was in my backpack. I looked up and said, "Oh! Hello!" like I greet a neighbor I didn't expect to see on our walk. He tilted his head down and looked at us, then swooped low over the ridge and down to Puget Sound below.

Then we spotted three of his kin from earlier clutches...gliding on the thermals along the ridge, practicing flight maneuvers. Check back for more later this weekend.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eagle songs

Eagles are very vocal and my favorite pair talk a lot. Around the nest, most of that is "kin" talk. When eagles talk to others in their clan, it sounds like a kind of chortling song.When they're chasing off predators, they have a very different message that usually comes across like a scream.

I spotted papa eagle about halfway up a large fir tree to the right of the nest. Then he flew around the far side of the grove and landed in the nest for a check-in with the family. A couple of minutes later, he circled to the left side of the nest to hang out on a favorite snag.

I heard mama talk to him as he landed. He threw his head back and told her that he was just going to be in his favorite chair watching stupid human tricks and ignoring the crows that kept trying to take over part of the sofa. This guy is really a character. I have many many images of him stretching, preening, and talking to the fam. One of my favorite blog posts was in May 2011 when I photographed Eagle Yoga. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weekending at the nest

Things are pretty quiet at my favorite eagle aerie. Mama is spending most of her time on the nest. I've photographed her a couple of times since I got this image. I was concerned because it looked like her bill was broken. I've now decided she was just a messy eater last Saturday. Yesterday, she was chowing down on something and feeding out-of-view youngsters. I'm pretty sure the baby or babies have hatched. She often sits with her head just above the rim of the nest.

Papa picks up some take-out, drops it at the nest, and goes off for another delta tour. He spends a lot of time keeping vigil in a nearby tree or snag, or sometimes flying overhead.

I just ordered a travel mug in stainless steel that features one of my favorite eagles - When eagles fly, so must I. Check it out.