Monday, May 20, 2013

Eagle laughter

 Mama and papa are spending a bit more time out of the nest, taking a break from their youngster or youngsters. So far, I've only seen one fuzzy head but there could be one or two more on the other side of their massive aerie.

One or more of last year's brood have been stopping by to visit - a mixed blessing for the eagle parents. They present a united front to protect this year's brood until they can protect themselves.

These two are incredibly well matched. They are as one. And they truly enjoy each other. This past weekend, I met one of the neighbors whose house backs onto the nesting area. He told me the nest has been there as long as he's lived there - since 2002. That makes this pair 15-16 years old or more. He also told me that they often see other adults and juveniles in and around the nest area, during the fall and winter, when nesting season is done. A further indication that we live among a cohesive clan of multiple related families.

We watched the nest for awhile and both said as one: "it is truly a blessing to have an eagle's nest here." Amen.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Eagle baby!

First baby pics for the 2013 eagle nesting season. I'm not sure if there's more than one at this point. Last year, I didn't find out for sure until both babies fledged. I would see one or the other but not both at the same time. I circled the little fluff ball in both of these photos. You can see the little guy's black beak sticking up above the nest in the first photograph. The gray fluff will be replaced with dark feathers all over. They don't get their characteristic white heads and tails until they're about 5 years old.

Papa has been sticking very close to the next and staying disguised.

Monday, May 13, 2013

United eagle front

As we approached the nest over the weekend, we heard one of the eagle pair making the chortling call they use with kin. About midway down one of the trees flanking the nest tree, mama and papa were scanning the skies.

Then they started again and kept it up for an hour until dusk. Why? One of their youngsters from an earlier year came back to visit. That's a dangerous proposition until the new babies are old enough to fight back. We saw papa chase off a youngster from the nesting area about a month ago. This seems to be a frequent issue. We just wondered when one of them would be going back to the nest. Mama was back there yesterday.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Eagle lifemates

Eagle lifemates share a laugh, May 8, 2012
Finding a soulmate - a true soul connection with another - is a special gift. Finding a lifemate is even more rare - at least among humans.

Bald eagles, Canada geese, and many other birds do mate for life. That's one of many characteristics that make bald eagles so fascinating. In early February, I wasn't seeing my favorite pair around the area. I did see, and photograph, a younger almost-mature female visiting the area. Was she checking to see if the pair were still together? Was she one of their offspring stopping by for a visit?

Papa keeping intruders away from the nest - May 6, 2012
All of my questions were answered by the end of March. My favorite eagle pair had repaired their nest and papa stood watch and occasionally chased off intruders (and their kin from earlier broods), while mama was nurturing their eggs. He brings her - and now their brood - food. He also relieves her once in awhile and takes over nest duties. They're both very clear about their devotion, their loyalty to each other and to rearing young.

I haven't seen downy eaglet heads or heard them yet. I know from past years that there are babies when I can see mama's head high above the nest. Their nest is so well hidden and protected that I just imagine that I'm seeing a bit of eaglet fluff. It could just as easily be a gnarled branch. In another month, she'll spend more time out of the nest but close by as the youngsters try out their "trainer" wings in their massive aerie. Last year, I only saw one baby at a time, so I thought we had lost one of them. That is, until fledging, when they each would goad the other into flying.

I photographed the two images above exactly a year ago in May 2012. The images below I photographed May 6, 2013. Mama was clearly expecting papa, who showed up with part of a fish in one of his talons. He dropped it off, flew to a nearby tree for a few minutes, then flew back out to the hunting grounds.

Mama spots papa coming back to the nest - May 6, 2013

Papa carries a morsel of food to share.

Papa stays for a moment, then flies to a nearby tree.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eagle clan in the air and nesting

Juvenile bald eagle about 3 years old

Juvenile bald eagle about 2 years old
Our resident eagle clan visits the ridge above the Nisqually delta when the winds are favorable for gliding and play-sparring with fellow members of the clan. I often see anywhere from four to more than a dozen bald eagles of all ages, mostly juveniles. Bald eagles get their characteristic white heads and tails when they're about five years old.

Young eagles play100 feet above the ground.
Until then, there are brothers, sisters, and cousins to practice eagle ways with high above the ridge. Sometimes one will get too close to the nest and papa eagle will chase him or her off. Sometimes after chasing one off, I'll see papa practicing with the younger ones along the ridge. Learning eagle ways takes several seasons.

Mama eagle's head has been visible above the nest. I think the young have hatched but I won't see them until they've nearly lost their down to more permanent feathers. The nest is so well protected that it's impossible to see into the nest unless you fly above it, which biologists from Joint Base Lewis McChord do on occasion. I see papa once in awhile but he doesn't need to be quite as vigilant as before the babies hatched.

I continue to add new work to my Talons Gallery. Let me know if you spot other images you think I should add.

Papa keeping watch from a tree near the nest

Mama sitting with the youngsters