Nesting to Hatching
For two years, we watched a local eagle’s nest sit empty. There were signs of nesting each year; the adults brought sticks to the nest and green pine boughs. They sat on it often in February and March defending it from others. I was told they were even seen mating.
But no eggs were laid in either 2019 or 2018. For over fifteen years before that, they’d mostly raised two healthy chicks until they fledged. There was one year they only had one chick, and an incredible year of eagle triplets! A very rare sight indeed!
This year, I held out hope this might be THE YEAR of our eagle’s return. So at the end of March, when I saw an adult sitting low on the nest, I cheered!
I calculated the date the eggs would hatch and decided to return once a week by either kayak or on foot to document their nesting season. I used my 600mm zoom lens with a 2x teleconverter. This meant I had to auto focus, but I wanted to be closer.
On my visit April 4th, the male eagle flew in with a green pine bough. Some believe this is a gift, others say it helps to keep the nest fresh.
After a little back and forth “talking”, the eagle on the nest flew off for a break to a nearby tree.
This left Dad to settle on the eggs for a bit.
Most of my April visits were much the same. I never saw them leave the eggs alone for more than five minutes, and they’d switch places at least once.
What worried me during this time, was two heavy snowfalls with high winds. Adult eagles will stay on the eggs, even if they are covered in snow like the eagle below in 2017. But you have to wonder, does the wet snow get under her? Does the cold reach the eggs at all? It was the first time I can ever recall having one chick instead of two.
Also worrisome this year, were the high winds that seemed to stretch on for days and days and days! Twenty-five mile and hour gusts! Watch the nest sway! (in the end, the second adult eagle comes to relieve the one on the eggs)
The first week of May arrived and I knew it was close to time for those eggs to hatch. I had everything crossed as I made my weekly visit! They’d been through so much in a month.
Right away, I could see the adult was on the edge of the nest, looking into it from time to time! A sure sign the eggs could have hatched.
As I monitored through my long lens, the second adult brought home a fish. I watched closely for a little gray head to pop up a bit . . . . I knew newly hatched eaglets couldn’t hold up their heads for very long and it might be hard to spot.
For a second, I thought I saw something, but when I went back and looked , I didn’t see it again. I snapped pic after pic that day. When I returned home and zoomed in on my photos, I found it!
Can you see why the chicks are born with gray coloring? They blend right in with the sticks!
Proof of one chick! Oh, my heart swelled to finally see this nesting pair rewarded with a little one.
At the time, I thought I saw the adult poking her head down into another part of the nest. So I was still hopeful for a second eaglet. That’s greedy of me, I know. But it could have hatched later than the one I saw, which means it might be a day or two behind in size and ability.
I’ll leave you here in my story, with a cliffhanger! Come back later in the week and I’ll continue with more pictures and tales of the behavior I witnessed . . .