Walpole NH Nest

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This is a new nest for me, and a little out of my “area”, but I make it out that way as often

Ready for Take Off
Adult male bald eagle. Walpole, NH January 2019

as I can. This nest is incredibly unique. Like the southern VT nest, this nest is landlocked, which is unusual. What makes it more unusual, is there are 3 adult bald eagles tending to this nest. There is one male (not banded) and two females who are banded. I have heard that there were originally two pairs of adults, and the male from one nest died/disappeared. It seems the other pair took on the sole female bald eagle from the other nest. From what we can tell, both females have been sitting on the eggs this year. They should be hatching soon, if they didn’t already. I’m very excited about photographing the juvenile bald eagles from this nest when the time comes. I believe the nest “failed” last year, meaning no juveniles hatched.

Spread Eagle
Walpole, NH January 2019 – adult bald eagle

February 19, 2020

So it’s been quite a while since I have posted on this nest. Unfortunately the nest failed again last year, which means no eaglets were hatched. I stopped a few times over the last few weeks and saw one adult in a tree on the opposite side of the road. Today was different though.

I knew I wouldn’t have much time today, but I drove out to the nest and sat in the car about 15 minutes. I could hear at least 2 bald eagles chattering back and forth, but I couldn’t see any white heads in the pine trees near their nest. I got out of the car and walked the road twice, but still…nothing in sight. It was starting to drive me crazy, and then it happened.

WALPOLE 2.19.20 1
This juvenile bald eagle appears to be roughly 2 years of age.

All at once I saw three silhouettes rise out of the pine trees. They were gliding slowly and flying low. It took me a minute to realize…I was watching three juvenile bald eagles! All three appear to be different ages and were incredibly vocal. Bald eagles do not gain their full white head and tail until roughly the age of 5, when they are considered adults. I wasn’t seeing white heads because there weren’t any!

WALPOLE 2.19.20 3
Two of the three juveniles I saw. One looks to be about 2 years old, the other one looks to be about 3 years old.

They were gliding in the air when I saw a full adult rise from behind the nest. Oddly it made no effort to chase off the juveniles. It flew into the nest and got low down into it. All I could see was a glimpse of white at the top of the nest. When the adult flew in the juveniles retreated and disappeared back into the pine trees. The whole experience lasted maybe 10 minutes, but it was a glorious sight.

WALPOLE 2.19.20 5
This is an unusually white chest for an eagle. It makes it harder to guess its age, but I believe 2-3 years old.

I was informed there may be an issue with one of the adults that occupied the nest last year, and possibly a new addition. I’m so looking forward to visiting this nest this year. Another month and we should be at the start of bald eagle nesting season. It looks like it should be a good one!

WALPOLE 2.19.20 4
This looks like a 3-4 year bald eagle.

February 21, 2020

So there are a few select photographers that visit this particular nest. They have become familiar with the bald eagles in this nest by viewing and reporting the bands on the birds. The two females are banded, but the male is not. We know the band on one female is black band 8 over M and she is 15 years old. The other female is orange band H over 4, and she is roughly 10 years old. I have not personally reported these bands yet, but I ma going to do that this week. When you report the bands to the banding website they email you a certificate stating the age (and sex of the eagle if known) and where it was hatched. Most bald eagles in VT and NH are from NH or MA, although I have seen some from NY as well. They say a bald eagle will make it’s adult nest within roughly 250 miles of where it was hatched. All of this makes life easier for us photographers that visit the nests often. WE can tell which eagle we are looking at, and that’s extremely helpful.

H4 2.21.20 1
Female bald eagle H4. Notice her orange band.

I mentioned all this to fill you in on a little puzzle a few of us were trying to figure out. No one had seen 8M at the nest in quite some time. As she is 15, we were worried something may have happened to her. While at the nest yesterday, with another photographer, 8M came out of the trees and posed for us for just a moment. The important part is that we now know for sure that she is okay.

Female 8M - photo severely cropped so you can view her leg band
Female 8M – photo severely cropped so you can view her leg band

We were also lucky enough to see H4. I have blown up/cropped a few photos so you can better see the bands. If they are banded they will have a silver band on one leg which is a federal band, and on the other leg is a state band. New Hampshire bands are black with white lettering, and MA is orange with silver lettering.

H4 2.21.20 CROPPED
Female bald eagle H4. Photo severely cropped to view band.

They don’t band much anymore because the bald eagle population has become very healthy in this area. At one point there were no more bald eagles left here due to DDT poisoning. We’ve come quite a long way in the last few decades.

H4 2.21.20 2
Adult female H4

It’s always a great day when a puzzle is solved. Today was one of those days. Hopefully just a few more weeks until nesting season begins. We are all really hoping the nest is successful this year.