Sunday, July 8, 2012

First flight

Female juvenile bald eagle on left. Male juvenile is at far right. 7-5-2012 photo.
Padme the wonderdog and I have been checking on our favorite eagle's nest every evening to see how pre-flight practice is going. I think she'll be happy when the babies have left the nest, so we'll go back to our walks through the cool woods, now that it's getting warmer here in western Washington.

Male juvenile watches his sister practice lift off (7-7-2012).

Yes, she did land on him.
For the past week, the two siblings (a female and male) have taken turns practicing short takeoffs and landings in their massive aerie. Either mama or papa, sometimes both, are nearby to help them correct course. They also take turns hanging out on a long sturdy branch on the right side of the nest that appears to be the chosen site for first launch to the "trainer tree" to the left of the nest tree. The trainer tree has well spaced branches with several that will cushion youngsters on their inevitably rough first landings.

The nest was very active last night with both siblings moving around the nest, eventually poised on the liftoff branch.
The young female takes off for the trainer tree. But where's mama? Last year mama was midway down the trainer tree for her youngster's first flight. I didn't see either parent in that tree or any of the lookout trees.

I didn't spot mama until I downloaded these photographs. On the way home, I wondered where she was. Surely she wouldn't miss the first flight? I didn't think the babies would leave the nest without coaxing from one or both parents. Usually the parents start feeding them less and less to give them motivation to fly. Can you see her in the photo above? 

It took about 20 minutes from pre-flight checkout to landing in the trainer tree. Mama picked a landing spot that would cushion a potential rough landing. Smart mama eagle! Mama and sister then watched brother, who didn't look really interested in doing anything on that branch except clean every one of his feathers. Perhaps he took off after we headed home.

Brother eagle planning his flight.
This fledging is almost a month earlier than last year's baby. I posted photos from that first flight on August 5, 2011. A photograph of the trainer tree adjacent to the nest tree is in my August 10, 2011 post. I'm curious about whether both juveniles can manage first flights together or not. One of the first images of bald eagles I captured on Hoffman Hill was seven years ago and my first observation of their cooperation. There were four juveniles perched in a snag and four adults flying overhead talking to them.

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