Friday, July 26, 2013

Eagle ground school

All flight training starts with ground school where the flyer learns the instruments and methods needed to stay aloft. And, of course, learns how to safely land. Eagle flight training is no different. Baby eagles just out of their down, start practicing first with wing flapping. Later they hop on a branch in the nest, then pounce on pretend prey - or sometimes what's left from the meal his parents brought. They spend a good bit of time "branching" which involves flapping wings and attempting to gain some lift. Then actually jumping from branch to branch, using their wings to keep them from falling off the branches.

This year's offspring seems to be a late starter. In the past week when I've visited the nest, he would flap about the nest a bit, then sit. And sit. Occasionally he'd throw his head back and snap his beak without making a sound. Maybe a yawn from being so bored. Last year's brood fledged a week earlier than this little one. Maybe with more than one in the next, they torment each other so much that they have to fly to get away from one another.

Last night, I witnessed something new. The baby was very interested in what was going on above him. I turned around and saw papa eagle about 50 feet up flying in circles - not over the nest but near it, so the baby could see and react. React he did - with a flurry of wing stretches and flapping, then hopping and catching a bit of air under his wings. This was clearly eagle ground school in action.

Then something surprising happened. A juvenile eagle, maybe two years old, also did some flight maneuvers close to the nest. This juvenile had to be kin. The baby eagle seemed to be showing off to the older bird (perhaps a sibling from last year or the year before). And the older juvenile didn't look like he was going to land anywhere near the nest. A month ago, the parents wouldn't have tolerated any raptor - even kin - anywhere near the nest.

Just as quickly and silently as the two eagles had arrived, they disappeared from the area. The baby settled back into sitting and looking around the area. I'm excited to see what happens next - maybe fledging soon! Then it will be practicing takeoffs and landings, short flights and balancing on unfamiliar branches.

1 comment:

  1. Very sad. I'm fairly sure this young one didn't make it. A couple of nights after I posted this blog, I spent nearly an hour at the nest. Almost total silence, except for a few weak calls that sounded like they were coming from the far side of the nest, out of view. I visited the nest every couple of nights for more than a week. Nothing. Statistically, 40 percent of eaglets don't survive fledging. Even with a fabulous eagle training area, sometimes a youngster just doesn't make it. I wonder if the parents mourn their offspring somewhere? I haven't seen them in the area at all for about three weeks. Even if the eaglet fledged, he or she would be practicing with mama and/or papa in the vicinity for a couple of weeks. Then they would be off for intense hunter training at least until winter. About two weeks ago, I saw a juvenile flying low - about 30 feet up - following one of the streets about a block from the nest. I don't think it was this young one though. Dona nobis pacem.