Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nesting begins

Mama eagle is barely visible from my favorite viewing spot. This year's nest is in yet another spot. In a tree they nested in two years ago but on the lee side. Hopefully, it will be enough protection from the winds we often experience on our bluff 200 feet or so above Puget Sound.

I'm now checking on the nest a few times a week. Part of my observation is how mama interacts with other birds and her mate. There so much we don't know about the lives of animals. Bald eagles are territorial and usually would not let any raptor near their nests. I've observed this pair frequently spending time with other adult and juvenile eagles, less than a half mile from the nest. One year I photographed a 3-year-old bald eagle that stayed in a tree next to the nest tree for at least 20 minutes. Observing parenting behavior? Acting as a guardian? Checking out possible vulnerabilities?

While I was there yesterday, papa eagle flew by with one of their children from either last year or the year before. I've seen similar behavior in past years - sometimes they chase off the kids, other times they greet them. Could this be the next phase of training the kids in the ways of the eagle?

Papa and youngster greeted mama with their characteristic chortling call they use with kin. Papa and youngster made wide circles over the nest, twisting their heads in all directions to make sure she was doing okay. Mama called back but wasn't moving much, which means she's probably working her hatching magic.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Eagle's nest enters second decade

Mama eagle in May 2015
Watching bald eagles or any creature best observed from a distance can be expensive. If you're an avid birdwatcher, you have spent quite a bit on high-powered binoculars and spotting scopes. If you're a photographer, you find that you just need 100 millimeters more (at a cost of another $900-$5,000) to capture and share what you're seeing. When I started photographing a pair of eagles nesting not far from my neighborhood in April of 2011, my longest lens was 300mm. Two years later, I acquired a 400mm lens, which gave me much more insight into the lives of these beautiful birds.
Mama (at top) and papa - February 2016

Last nesting season, I photographed my favorite eagles several times but the nest was out of view. Their nest came down in 2014 and two babies were lost, so I'm sure that's why the 2015 nest was in a very protected space. You could hear them but the only views were of mama and papa outside the nest. I did quite a bit of traveling last summer, so I didn't witness how many eaglets fledged. Some of the images I captured last year are posted in my Flickr gallery.

This year, I have a 600mm lens and am very happy to know that our dedicated eagle parents are again nesting. There's also good chance I will have a better view. This year's nest appears to be in a taller tree that is in better view. Yesterday, I talked to one of the neighbors with a backyard view of the nesting area. Together we estimated that the pair must be 16-17 years old. The houses with backyards near the nesting area were built 12 years ago and they've been nesting there every year.

So begins a new cycle of life and my sixth year of learning the way of the eagle.