Townshend Nest

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I started observing this nest in 2018. It is located along the West River Trail in

Townshend Bald Eagle Nest
Taken in March of 2019. One adult is on the nest, hopefully sitting on eggs.

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.

Eaglets
Two bald eaglets from the nest on the West River Trail in Townshend, Vermont. May 2018

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

TOWNSHEND NEST APR 30 2019
Mama tending to what I believe is an eaglet. The nest is a good distance away, and I can’t confirm. Next time will tell for certain.

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

TOWNSHEND APR 30 2019 in nest
Mama in the nest with a possible eaglet. April 30, 1019

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

May 24 2019
Male, female, and eaglet 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.

May 24 2019
Male on branch (you can just make out his blue band on his right leg). The female is feeding the eaglet who I believe is 6-8 weeks of age now.

June 30, 2019

June 30 2019
Adult male leaving the nest to defend its territory

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

June 30 2019
Adult male landing as unknown 2 year old takes off

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.

June 30 2019
This year’s juvenile bald eagle enjoying a meal, Townshend.

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.

June 30 2019
Dad watching over this year’s eaglet as he eats his meal


October 2019

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.


April 14, 2020

So this will be my first year monitoring this nest for Audubon VT. Monitoring started April 1st and my commitment is to visit the nest once every 7-10 days through the end of August. There is paperwork to fill out every time I visit. All of this info goes to Audubon along with many other volunteer’s info. All of the info together forms data so we know where the bald eagle stands in VT. There are roughly 25 nesting pairs currently.

I have been out to the nest 3 times in the last several weeks, but I didn’t notice the difference in the nest tree until today.I’m actually a little concerned. Below are photos from 2018, 2019,and then this year. Look at the large branches of their nest tree. See anything missing…

2018 townshend-babieS
spring 2018
spring 2019
spring 2019
APRIL 2020
spring 2020 (April 14, 2020)

The larger branches of the nest tree are gone. One went missing in 2018/2019 and one went missing over this winter/early spring. The “V” that was securing the nest is now gone. The nest is less fortified and this concerns me. From what I understand that nest has been there since at least 2009. I know they don’t last forever, but I would have to wonder where they would rebuild if this nest fell. My head is always racing… can you tell?

Okay, I’m getting way ahead of myself. The bottom line is that right now everything looks just the way it should. Mom (who is not banded) is in the nest hopefully sitting on several eggs. Bald eagles normally hatch 1-3 eaglets each year. Three is unusual but it certainly occurs. It takes roughly 35 days for eggs to hatch. She’s been sitting on hers for a couple of weeks now from what I’ve seen. I would think by the end of April/beginning of May we should have eaglets. It takes a good few weeks for the eaglets to get big enough to see their little heads over the top of the nest after that.

I didn’t get as close as I wanted to today. The trail was flooded and so was all of the

flooded

surrounding area. I got about 1/4 mile away from where I usually take photos, but I could still see her pretty white head in the nest.

So, this is the beginning of the the first year monitoring this nest officially. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens there this year.

 


April 19, 2020

Today was a great day at the nest. The temperature outside was hovering near 50. It was slightly overcast with 10 mph wind gusts. Not a bad day for a walk to the nest. Everyone is practicing social distancing, including bald eagle watchers. When I got to the nest there was a couple observing the nest. She had a sizable camera. I came to find out they were there watching for a while.

We were both taking photos and she asked if I saw the little white fuzzy head. I will stop here to tell you that I am nearsighted and cannot see far away. When I look at objects through the camera I can tell you if the image is sharp, but I can’t always tell you exactly what I see in there. The further away something is the harder it is for me to see. So no, I didn’t see the white fuzzy head, but from her excitement I figured I’d better keep taking photos.

TWNSND EAGLET APR 19 2020 1
First eaglet of the season!

What I could see was the adult get higher up in the nest so it could bend over and grab  food from the bald eagle pantry (probably fish or a squirrel) and then bend towards the fuzzy white head I couldn’t see. I knew after, from the photos, the adult was carefully and lovingly feeding the eaglet.

TWNSND EAGLET APR 19 2020 2
Adult bald eagle feeding its eaglet

For some reason this nest always seems to hatch its young earlier than the other nests. I know now that over the next few weeks we will have many bald eaglets to view in this area. I will never tire from seeing eaglets but this was just a little extra special. This is the youngest bald eaglet I have ever seen. I would say at most it is two weeks old, but I think closer to a week. We have roughly 11 more weeks of watching this little one before it goes out into the world on its own.

TWNSND EAGLET APR 19 2020 4

The adult had its back to me so it is possible there is another eaglet in there that I couldn’t see. I can’t see another in the photos, but that doesn’t always mean anything. The other eaglet could be laying down. I should know in another week or so how many for sure. As concerned as I am about the large limbs falling off the tree, I do have to say it makes for an easier time seeing the eagles and eaglets in the nest. What a great day!


April 25, 2020 & May 2, 2020

So I went out twice since the eaglet hatched and it seems to be thriving. I do see something that has me really puzzled though. First, of course, is a photo of the new eaglet…

TWNSND 4.25.20 3

So back to the puzzling part…it’s the adult. I have only seen one adult each time I have gone out to the nest but I have been told by other visitors that they have seen both adults. If you scroll back up to May of last year, you can clearly see a few photos of one adult with a blue leg band, and the other bald eagle isn’t banded at all. In the photo below, although it’s hard to see, the band is gold/orange. This nest is far away and there is no way to get closer that I know of. This makes leg band identifications very difficult. I keep hoping I will see one or both of them up close at some point.

orange band adult

I won’t know until I can see both adult’s legs at the same time, what is happening here. It’s always a slim possibility that it’s just the way the light hit the band this day, but I can’t see a bright blue band looking orange. I wonder if one of the eagles passed away and this is a new partner? Too many possibilities to come to a conclusion without more information. I do know this nest has been here for 10 years. I also know a bald eagle won’t reproduce until age 5. That means both of the adults at this nest should be roughly 15 years old or older. That’s getting up in age for a bald eagle. It’s not a stretch to think one of them may have passed away. I always leave visits with questions.

5.2.20 townsnd

The other odd part about the last visit was that the eaglet was left alone in the nest for over an hour. I stayed for a little over an hour. I saw one adult (the one with the orange band) land in a tree nearby but never in the nest. I didn’t see the second adult at all. It’s possible that the other adult was hiding in one of the pine trees nearby, but that’s an awfully long time to leave a vulnerable eaglet in a nest by itself. Like I said…always more questions. I’ll be heading out again next weekend to see if I can get some answers.


May 11 & 16, 2020

No answers yet but the little one is growing fast. He/she is very active in the nest and appears to be healthy. I still have not seen both adults at once in the nest, nor have I been able to see/identify bands. It’s frustrating but I love a challenge. I am sure one of the adults is a new eagle to this nest and hopefully in time I will be know for sure. Photos below are from both visits.

TOWNSHEND 5.11.20 1

TWNSND 5.16.20 1


May 31, 2020

Well what a day this was! I stayed at the nest site for almost 3 hours. In that time I saw both parents, the eaglet, mom coughing up a pellet, dad being chased by a grackle, and mom feeding the little one. But all of that is not what excited me today. What excited me is that THE NEW EAGLE IS CONFIRMED!!

TWNSHND 6.1.20 2
Gold-banded adult male – a newcomer to this nest this year

To back things up, the original pair here was an un-banded female and a blue banded male. I haven’t seen the blue-banded male since last year and then this year I was seeing an adult with a gold band. I assumed there was a new eagle but I didn’t know if it replaced the original male or female.

TWNSHND 6.1.20 1

The female adult was in the nest with the eaglet when I arrived. Eventually the male with the gold band arrived, but I couldn’t be certain which eagle was new until I saw the legs on the one in the nest. THREE HOURS LATER she finally got up to fly off with some food in her beak and then I saw it…NO BANDS! This is the same female that has been at the nest from the start (we believe). Eagles won’t nest until they hit the age of five, when their heads turn fully white. This means she started nesting here at the age of 5 at the very earliest. This nest has been here a little over 10 years. This means she has to be at least 15 years old! Eagles will live until about 20-25 years in the wild. She is up there in age for a bald eagle. Until/if I can read the gold band characters I won’t know much about the new male either. I do know they seem to be working cohesively as a family right now.

TWNSHND 6.1.20 3

I do wonder what happened to the blue-banded male bald eagle. He too has been at the nest since the beginning in 2009-ish. I have to assume he passed away.

TWNSHND 6.1.20 4
Mom feeding her eaglet.

The eaglet is doing well and so is the new couple. I did notice that mom is not ripping off small pieces for the eaglet to eat. She now offers it large chunks of food so it can practice tearing food. There was a lot of wing flapping going on with the eaglet as well. It will be off on its own before we know it.