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Bald Eagle Nest Watch, Columbia River Gorge

July 25, 2017

3.23.17  I’ve watched this Bald Eagle’s nest for at least five years, intermittently photographing the family.  This year I decided to photo-document every 4 to 5 days, (then 2 to 3 days, then every other day as the eaglet grew closer to fledging) to see and share the progress with you.  In addition to our national emblem, the Bald Eagle is a spiritual symbol for our native people.

After my first shots of the eagle nesting I headed out to see how fast and furious the spring waterfalls were flowing here in the Gorge.

4.9.17  Mom’s still on the nest.  Bald Eagles mate for life and this pair return to the same nest each year.  Another resident pair of Bald Eagles on the Oregon side of the Columbia also return to their nest each year.  Both parents share nest duty, but the female has the larger share while the male hunts or fishes.

4.16.17  A gorgeous sunrise over Mt Adams on my way down to the Bald Eagle nest.

As I arrive, Mom is on the nest.  As with most raptors, the female is larger than the male.

After a little while, Mom begins calling for Dad…Dad arrives and immediately starts calling for Mom!  At one point they were in the nest together, which makes it easier to tell who is who.

Dad left shortly before Mom flew back into the nest.  She settled in and I quietly crept away, delighted to see the family interaction.  This is a nest I hike to, down a steep hillside and heavily trafficked road.

4.23.17   A breezy morning, my view of the nest is constantly hidden by foliage on nearby trees.  Bald Eagles can live long lives ~ the longest known eagle in the wild was over 38 years when it was struck by a car and died.

Not sure which parent is in the nest and which is on the branch.  They must be side by side for me to tell them apart at this stage of my Eagle Education.  The white head indicates they are at least 5 years old.

4.25.17  Parent is still incubating in this huge nest.  Bald Eagles build nests that are typically 5 to 6 feet wide and 2 to 4 feet deep.

4.28.17  The Bald Eagle parent sits at the side of the nest today instead of incubating, so a chick probably hatched between 4.25 and 4.28.17   No photo to share as my informant didn’t take one.

4.30.17  Dad is waiting for Mom to come home so he can go fishing.  They typically eat fish, but will also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small to medium mammals.

Mom’s home! They’re not quite side by side but you can see Mom in the back is slightly larger than Dad.

Dad takes off to do a little fishing for the family.

Isn’t he Gorgeous!

Mom ‘rearranges furniture’.  When they build a nest, both mates bring sticks (and branches!), and grass, moss, and soft plant material to line the nest, but the female does most of the arranging.

She ruffles her feathers…..

…then tends to her chick.  The chick in the nest that I still can’t see….

5.4.17   This morning I arrive in time to hear one parent calling to the other…and look closer!

We have an EAGLET!!  Isn’t he adorable?  He’s now called a ‘nestling’ and will remain so for 56 to 98 days.

5.11.17   A rainy day, one parent perches above the nest while the other parent works to feed the family.

Little Eaglet is already losing his white downy fuzz.

5.15.17  Today I arrive in time for breakfast.  Mom brought in a fish earlier for the youngster.

Looks like a tasty bite of salmon.

Mom also gets a little nourishment.

I personify, and emotionally attach myself to this family.  And wouldn’t you agree this is a tender beautiful moment.

Mom hires me to take a parent and eaglet portrait

5.19.17   A hot sultry day, everyone is trying to stay cool under the hot sun including me.

5.23.17   I’m invited to another meal at the Eagle Nest.

5.28.17   Even though I began the previous day at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction.  If my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I would show you pillars and waves but alas I needed sleep so headed home for a couple of hours sleep before checking on the eaglet.

Steller’s Jays harass the eagle family today and swallows often fly around the nest.

Little Eaglet stretches his wings as Mom perches above the nest and Dad perches below.

5.30.17  Eaglet is on the other side of Mom on this windy day, probably just lying low.  I always worry about the eaglet falling out of the tree-top nest; it has happened in the past.

6.3.17  Little Eaglet is home alone today!  

I watch him preen his beautiful feathers.  He’ll remain dark for his first year and will keep that dark beak and dark eyes.

6.8.17  I can barely see the eaglet hunkered down in his nest as a parent perches on a branch above.  We have a cold, rainy day in the Gorge and I would hunker down too if I were home.

6.11.17   I went down to the Eagle nest early in the evening for better light and found him stretching his wings and jumping in his nest.  I’ve seen this action before and it’s fun to watch a raptor learn how to fly…I equate it with kids jumping on the bed.  Eventually wind will catch his wings and lift him up off the nest.

He dances around the nest for half an hour, then settles for a minute and dances again.

He’s still very young and won’t be ready to fly for a few more weeks…..

….but what do I know…look at him go, it could be any day!

 6.13.17  Each day his wings are stronger and I’m happy to arrive during his dance sessions.

He has more oomph in his efforts…

…until he finally has lift-off, and jumps higher.

6.15.17  Another gray Gorge day, the Eaglet lays so low in his nest I can barely see him.  For a moment I thought he fledged without me!

6.17.17   A beautiful day in the Columbia River Gorge!

I went back to the Eagle nest near sunset hoping for more great light.  Evening is so much better than morning light for this nest!

Little Eaglet practicing flight techniques as I arrive….I can feel the power in his wings growing.

And he’s learning to master the wind!

He is incredible to watch, I could stand here for hours on end.

As the sun goes down the eaglet lays down to rest.

All evening I’d heard his parents calling from above and finally caught a glimpse of one.

6.22.17   Another early start, looking west down the gorge on my ‘commute to work’.

Little Eaglet is my last stop of the day and I watch him as he looks out over the Columbia River.

The late afternoon light is lovely today as he practices his flight techniques.

He looks so determined in this shot like he’s going to jump right off that nest and into flight.  He’s getting so close to the edge of the nest lately that some of the nest material is spilling out.

6.23.17  Little Eaglet looks almost as large as his parents.

6.24.17  I check the nest frequently now because it feels like the eaglet will fledge any day.

He continues to practice his flight skills.

6.26.17  Just chillin’.

6.27.17   A windy day, his feathers need some preening to put them back in place.

6.29.17   It’s always amazing to watch the family dynamics of the Bald Eagles at meal times.

Dad arrives home with breakfast.

Little Eaglet with head down and shoulders hunched politely waits his turn to eat.

Mom and Dad converse….

Dad takes off and Mom finally says it’s ok for Junior to eat.

7.1.17  Little Eaglet is resting on another windy afternoon.  I hope he navigates his way through a long life.  The most common causes for Bald Eagles’ deaths are electrocution from power lines, trauma from impact with cars or buildings, and poisoning from lead bullets or chemical pollutants.

7.2.17   Little Eaglet jumps higher and higher in his nest.

He lands with a firm touch-down.

And then propels himself higher than ever!  Are you ready to fly little guy??!!

A parent flies in with breakfast…

…which makes him focus on eating instead of jumping.

Right after breakfast, Little Eaglet goes back to jumping in the nest!  He is SO READY TO FLY!!

7.4.17  After another jumping session this morning, Little Eaglet jumps high and steers himself to the perch above his nest.

His parents have tried to lure him there by calling to him from the perch, then flying off either to fish or to the perch where Dad sits.

He kind of skitters and clumsily lands it, but he has officially fledged.

And here he sits!  A Fledgling!!

I saw him there again a couple of days later; then not again for several days.  The last time I saw him he was back in his nest eating a fish that I hope he caught himself.  On subsequent visits Little Eaglet wasn’t home.  His parents will be back to rebuild this nest next year and this winter we’ll host hundreds of migrating eagles on the Columbia River.

For more about Bald Eagles check out  National Wildlife Federation, Audubon, Cornell’s All About Birds, and Wildlife Society Bulletin

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

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