Eaglet Counting: One or Two?
In my last post on the eagle family, I’d happily reported at least one egg hatched, as I showed off photos of the little one. The way the adults were acting though, bending low often to look in another area of the nest, I was hopeful for a second eaglet.
The third weekend of May I returned, my fingers crossed as I kept my camera steady on the nest. “Let there be two, let there be two,” I kept chanting in my head.
In my experience watching over fifteen years of eagle nesting in this one location, I knew it’d be hard to tell in the early weeks exactly how many eaglets had hatched. They can’t hold their heads up for very long in their early days and from the distance I’m snapping photos, all I see with my naked eye is flashes of lightening quick gray movement. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I’m looking at until I get home and zoom in on the photos.
Half an hour had gone by and I’d still only seen one eaglet head, but it was quite active in the nest which was a sure sign it was strong and . . .
Wait . . .
could it be?
Yes! Look! The photo’s a little fuzzy because the day was pretty windy and I had my 600mm zoom lens and an extension. But there it is! The second eaglet!
Look how well they blend in with their nest! Is it any wonder they’re born with their gray coloring?
I was so excited to see this! Not only because this nesting pair hadn’t successfully had a family the last two years, but also because I’d been monitoring this pair and reporting out to readers and students since March when I’d begun reading aloud from Cooper and Packrat’s second adventure, Mystery Of The Eagle’s Nest. Wouldn’t they be surprised!
With them in mind, I also video taped the parents feeding their precious little ones.
I returned the following weekend around May 22nd. Again, seeing only one, I held my breath, hoping both eaglets were still there. Did you know they only have a 50% chance of survival in their first year?
Here in Maine, winds with gusts up to 15 miles an hour seemed to plague us day after day after day since mid- April. I’d watch that nest sway, and hoped an eaglet wouldn’t get swept over the edge. It’s only one of the ways a nesting pair will lose an eaglet.
But again, both were safe and sound, both were raising their heads tall and keeping them up for longer periods of time.
By my calculations, these chicks are 3 or 4 week sold. Old enough for the parents to go to a nearby tree to preen and rest after eaglet sitting, or to clean their beaks after eating by rubbing them across a tree branch or rock. This is called feaking, and scientists believe eagles and other birds do this to keep their beaks clean and sharp, and to keep them from getting too long.
Those chicks don’t let the adults out of their sight though. They know where their next meal is coming from!
In my observations, I’ve noticed the adults are not gone for long, and at least one is always withing eyesight of the nest at this stage.
Check in again, I’ll be back with photos from this past week. It’s amazing how quickly they change and grow!