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I started observing this nest in 2018. It is located along the West River Trail in
Townshend. From what I can see, I do not believe either bird is banded, but folks tell me this nest has been there for quite some time. I do believe this is the biggest nest I have seen, which makes sense if it has been there a long time. I was told over the winter that the nest, or part of it fell. I made several attempts over the winter to view the nest, but the weather was not cooperating. Mental note to buy some ice skates and yak tracks for next year! The trail was sheer ice. There was just no way to get out there. Finally, in March I was able to walk to the nest. I am happy to report that not only is the nest still intact, but they are nesting again.
I am able to kayak to most of the eagle nests for a different vantage point, but not this one. This is a walk-in observation. They are right on the West River, but there is no kayak access to their nest. Last year I observed 2 eaglets in the nest. I look forward to seeing what happens this year!
April 30, 2019 The weather isn’t too bad today, and the West River Trail is finally wide
open. We had some flooding this year and the entry gate was closed for a while. There is leftover debris on the trail (leaves and logs), but not bad at all. I hiked the trail after work (about a mile or so) and saw mama sitting in the nest. This was just about 5:30 pm. I noticed she is not lying down in her nesting position any more. She was sitting up which is a possible sign that her egg(s) have hatched. Bald eagles usually hatch 1-3 eaglets each year. Last year mama had 2 eaglets.
I believe I see a small gray fuzzy head in a few photos, but at that distance it’s very hard to tell. I see something in one photo that isn’t there in another photo. It’s very possible it’s an eaglet. I feel confident in saying I believe she is no longer incubating, but now raising, her young. This nest is in a great spot for the eagles. No one can get close to it because of the terrain. Mama didn’t seem
bothered by me in the least. I saw her bend over and tend to something next to her/under her. I have to believe it is eaglets. Time will tell. I intend to go out again in another 2 weeks. The eaglets should be large enough by then, that I should be able to see their heads peek out from the nest.
I didn’t see dad. The front gate to the dam is closed for construction. He normally hangs out in a tree right near the dam, but I had no way of getting over there today. My hope is that next time I go out there I will see fuzzy gray eaglet heads and possibly dad as well. It’s such a peaceful place. I really love spending time at this nest.
May 24, 2019
I intended to get out to this nest sooner, but it’s been a few weeks now. I walked out to the nest about 10 am or so today. The walk is nice, but the 20 mph wind gusts are not so enjoyable. Thankfully it’s sunny and the temperature was warm enough too, high 50’s I think. There is a great view to this nest because it is roughly eye level, but it is a good distance away. For this nest I always put my camera on my tripod. I could see the female sitting in the nest with the eaglet. A few minutes after I arrived someone stopped to talk to me and I missed a few shots, but it’s okay…I found something out that was very surprising. When the person walked away and I looked back through the viewfinder, I could see the male had arrived to the nest. He must have dropped off some food to mom because I could see her starting to feed a few bites to the eaglet. He stayed in the nest for a while with mom. Then dad took a very quick flight from the nest to the branch extending off of it. It was then I saw…this male bald eagle is banded! I don’t believe I got a shot close enough to read the band, but the band is blue. Blue bands, for bald eagles, were issued in New York and Florida. Normally, bald eagles nest within 250 miles of where they were hatched, so my best guess is that the male was hatched in New York. Here’s one more band I will be trying to identify. The Dam opens this weekend. I can usually get closer to them when they perch in the tree by the water. I’m hoping I have an opportunity to get a close enough photo this summer. The baby looks to me like it’s about 6-8 weeks of age. It was a productive visit.
June 30, 2019
Today was an odd visit for a few reasons. I knew it might rain later in the day, but I guess the weather people were wrong (no way?!). It poured for most of my visit, but of course, didn’t start raining until I got set up by the nest with the camera. The photos are not what I would call good, but they tell a story today. The nest was empty when I arrived, but I saw the one juvenile in the tree right above me. The eaglet
has fledged from the nest, and will now hang around for several weeks practicing its skills. Just as I spotted the eaglet, it started to rain, and it flew off. A few minutes later I heard a bald eagle alarm vocalization. The eaglet is in the nest now. Through the rain I can see the male adult. He lands in the nest for a brief moment (I believe he brought the fledgling food), and then takes off towards the tree next to the nest. I know it’s him, because I can see the blue band on his leg. What I don’t realize, until I pan over to the empty tree, is that it’s not empty. There is another juvenile bald eagle in the tree. This one is roughly 2 years old. The adult male flies right towards him, still vocalizing. Just as the adult is about to land in this tree, the juvenile takes off. They are both vocalizing, but there is no physical contact between them. I don’t see that juvenile again during this visit. This year’s eaglet is in the nest eating during this entire situation.
It makes me wonder though. Is this one of their eaglets from last year? Did it expect a warm welcome, or at least some food from its parents? Someone once told me not to ascribe human emotions to the birds, but sometimes it’s hard. The male adult was defending the nest and his eaglet, but what did the intruding juvenile want? Why was he there? I kept wondering what the eagles were “thinking” in that moment. Did the 2 year old feel rejected? Do they have anything that could be described as emotion? I couldn’t help but stop at that moment, to take in the fact that this is pure wild survival I am witnessing. Bald eagles have to concern themselves with their own survival every second of every day. Even though they do not have predators, they do have to defend their territory against other bald eagles, and sometimes osprey. They are constantly hunting for food, taking shelter, and dealing with the elements (This eagle had to defend its nest in the pouring rain). My thought as I leave, soaked in the rain, is one of gratefulness. How lucky I am to live where these creatures can be seen. Even a bad visit is a good visit.
I was out to the nest a few times after June, but haven’t seen the family. I will assume the juvenile is off learning how to survive on its own. The parents will not migrate. They stay here all year. I may not see them again till early next spring.
The good news is, I was contacted by Audubon Vermont to see if I would like to add this nest to my monitoring list for next season. I love going out to the nests no matter what, but to know this information is then going to Audubon to help the bald eagles continue to thrive, is a really good feeling.
You would think, because this nest is so close to me, that I would get out there more often. It’s easy to get out there in the summer, but early spring the path is usually covered in ice, making it impossible to get through. Later spring, the road floods out sometimes. It’s a challenge, but I enjoy a challenge. I’m really looking forward to next spring to see what happens with this nest.