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April 2019 ~ There are a handful of us that do this locally. By “do this” I mean follow our passion, and document bald eagles, their eaglets & their nests in Vermont and New Hampshire. Something really great happened a few weeks ago, and by chance I was alerted to a new nest in southern Vermont (this is an undisclosed location to protect the birds while they are nesting, and to ensure privacy of the land owner) just outside of Brattleboro. The gentleman who told me about the nest was not a photographer, but a worker at the farm near the nest. He tells me he has been watching the bald eagles and this nest for about 2 years. And now the puzzle starts to form. How long has the nest been there? Are the bald eagles in that nest banded? Many questions come up when a new nest is discovered.
What I can tell you is that this nest is unique in the fact it is landlocked. The Connecticut
River is several hundred feet away from the nest. The nest in Walpole, NH is landlocked in the same manner, so it is unusual, but not unheard of. This nest is right across from a farm, as is the one in Walpole. I have been out a few times to this nest so far. There was an adult in the nest (it does appear he/she was sitting on eggs), but I didn’t see the mate. My hope is to see the mate soon, and hopefully see if there are leg bands to identify the specific bald eagle. If eaglets are hatched, it should be in the next few weeks. And so it begins…documenting a new nest and hoping for eaglets this summer. I am honored to say I will be working with Vermont Audubon to document the nest activity this year.
April 22, 2019. A rainy overcast Monday evening. Temperature was about 59 degrees. I
drove over to my parking spot after work and walked out to the nest. I only saw one adult, and that was the one sitting in the nest. I decided to get a little closer today. The adult came out of the nest and flew around from tree to tree “yelling”. I backed off a bit in case it was my presence that disturbed her/him. The eagle didn’t travel more than a few trees away, maybe 200 feet at most? I was able to get a few good photos of its legs. This is the first time I have seen her/him out of the nest. There are no bands on the legs. I have several photos confirming this. It’s a bummer. If we had leg bands I would have more information about her/him. There is still hope his/her mate is banded.
I do not hear babies, but they may be too young. She was in the sitting position when I got there. Everything I see indicates the nest is still viable. I thought the leaves would be filling in on the tree they are in, but not yet. I can still see the nest directly. I stayed for one hour.
April 27, 2019, a windy Saturday morning.
I didn’t go as close to the nest today as I did last time. I don’t want to
disturb her at this fragile point in the nesting process. I had hoped to see a mate, but I didn’t. I didn’t hear any calls, and the one in the nest did not vocalize. It was still in a “lying” down” or nesting position, and stayed in the nest for the duration of my visit. I didn’t see him/her reaching its head down to feed or preen young . His/her head stayed focused on its surroundings while I was there. It didn’t appear to be behaving as if young were hatched. I stayed for one hour. The temperature wasn’t bad, but it was quite windy out today. There was a farm hand in the field. I was about 350 feet from the nest. The eagle didn’t seem disturbed at all. I’m hoping better weather allows me to stay for several hours next visit.
May 6 2019
It’s a Monday. Good things and bad things today. When I started walking out to the nest mama was in
there sitting on the edge of the nest with her wings outspread (cooling herself off). A few minutes after I got there, she flew off into the next tree. I heard her chattering, and before I knew it, the mate was spotted in the sky. This was my first time seeing him. While he was flying a snapped a few photos and could see the male is banded. The band is gold/orange, which means the male was hatched in Massachusetts some time between 1989-1998. I’m working on reading the letters and numbers on the band, but I wasn’t able to get a clear photo (bummer!). The male flew into the
same tree as the female at first, and a few minutes later flew into the tree with the nest. He perched on a branch about 20 feet away from the nest. He stayed there until I left. I was there a little over an hour. He kept opening his beak as if he was screaming, but no noise came out. I almost wonder if he was panting. (Bald eagles pant like dogs to cool off).
I am concerned. Neither parent stayed in the nest. She is clearly not incubating anymore, which means there should be an eaglet in the nest. What concerned me was the behavior. No one in the nest with the possible eaglet. Both parents out of the nest for close to an hour. No indication that mama was tending to anything in the nest, and no visual signs of an eaglet in the nest. My fear is that the nest failed this year. I’m going to
go back next week. I’m hoping to determine whether or not there is an eaglet there. At minimum I am hoping to figure out the band number of the male. At least then we know “who” he is.
It’s also that time of year when the leaves are filling in on the trees. It normally gets increasingly difficult to see the eagles in the nests and trees as the vegetation grows. This is a new nest for me this year. I’m curious to see how the leaves fill in with this nest. I can see buds starting. Back again next week.
May 15, 2019
I am excited and nervous all at the same time. I’m really hoping to see an eaglet and/or
the male again, so I can try to get a better photo of his leg bands. I leave for the nest after work (on a day where it is finally not raining!), I drive over and take the 15 minute walk to the nest. I can see mama sitting on the edge of the nest again. It’s a good sign she’s there. I notice bald eagles each have their own personality even though they all look alike. This mama does not like people around her. She is okay until I get a little closer and she starts to vocalize. I believe what they call “chatter”. She flies out of the nest and lands in a tree several hundred feet away. The male is no where to be seen. I so very much want there to be an eaglet, but I do not see one. I thought for just a minute I could see a small fuzzy head, but I could see, going through my photos, that it was just branches and leaves moving in the wind. I stayed a little over an hour. Mama sat in the tree the entire time I was there. No sign of movement in the nest.
So now I’m left with a lot of questions. Would the female be so vocal and “defend” her nest if there was no eaglet inside? Would she still be staying by the nest if there is no eaglet? The tree she flew to was several hundred feet away. Should she be that far from the nest if there was an eaglet in there? The other local nests have eaglets, and I am able to see all of them. Even the ones that were tiny… I could at least see a head in the nest. Is it possible this eaglet was sleeping when I was there? (I don’t see how with the female vocalizing!). The nest is quite deep. Maybe the eaglet is deep down in there and still too small to see?
I got some great shots of the female today, but was pretty bummed not to see an eaglet. I was also disappointed that the male was no where in sight. It happens this way though. I can’t expect much after staying for only an hour. I would stay longer, but I have permission from the land owner to be there, and I don’t want to overstay my welcome. The only conclusion I can come to, is to keep going back. I would say if I don’t see anything by the end of May, I will be able to conclude that there was “nest failure”.
I’m truly hoping that’s not the case. It’s still early enough that I have a sliver of hope. It would really be wonderful to observe eaglets from this nest. Alrighty then, back to the nest next week with my little sliver of hope. ***Side note: I sent in the band number I thought I saw on the male’s leg band to the proper people, which was W over 8. I must be incorrect, because that band number belongs to an eagle who hatched in 2016. That would make him 3 years old…too young to reproduce, and definitely too young to have a full white head. I’m sure the top letter is “W”. It looks like I may have to wait to get a better photo of his leg band, so that I can try to read it better. Lots to look forward to, even if it’s just having questions answered. Till next week….
May 20 2019
I normally take a few photos of the nest as I’m walking out to it, but I didn’t today. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. I know the eaglet has to be large enough to see at this point. Either I see one today, or I have to conclude the nest has failed. I take the 15 minute walk out to the nest. I can see the female fly off from the nest (she is still chattering and very vocal). She seems to be a tightly wound bald eagle. Then I see the male come in. He always seems quite calm and makes very few vocalizations. They say opposites attract? I’m too far away to get better shots of his leg bands, but I’m focused on the fact he has some kind of food in his talons. I can only see jagged edges, so it is not a whole fish or animal, but a large piece of one or the other. The female is out of the nest, so it doesn’t seem as though he is bringing food to her. And then I see it…. first this…
I can see the male tearing up dinner into little strips with his beak. THERE IS AN EAGLET IN THE NEST! The eaglet looks on as dad tears food up into bite size pieces for him to eat.
But that’s not the best part…After I get home and look through the photos I see this….
See the other little head by dad’s chest?! They hatched TWO eaglets this year! What a fantastic sight! Eagles will stagger their egg laying by a day or more between eggs. You can definitely see a slight difference in age between the 2 siblings.
I also got a few shots of the male’s leg band again. I am almost certain I did get the ID correct last time. I still believe it says W over the number 8. This means, if that is correct, that this male is only 4 years old, and my understanding is the nest has been there at least 2 years. That seems odd to me for several reasons, which is why I’m still investigating.
I was so happy to see two little heads in there! I will continue to follow them until the eaglets fledge and leave the nest (usually around mid July through early August-ish). I still hope to get a clear shot of that leg band to confirm or dispute my findings so far. It would be so odd to have an eagle that young already reproducing. There will always be questions. Sometimes I get lucky and get some answers. I now know this nest was successful this year with not just one, but two eaglets (Bald eagles normally lay 1-3 eggs in a clutch – one clutch per year). It will be exciting to watch them grow this summer. It will get more difficult as the leaves fill in more. It was much more difficult to see into the nest today than it was last week. The eaglets will get larger and easier to see now though. I’m already excited about my visit next week.