Monday, August 30, 2010

Bald Eagle Family 2010

I am about to tell you about an experience my son Jeff ( 18 ) and myself had this wonderful spring / summer of 2010. We saw these eagles last year as well but due to rough lakes we were unable to confirm any young. This spring/summer was hot and mostly sunny. Weather co-operated with getting Jeff's 14 foot oliver out to monitor this pair. I first saw them while out birding with my friend Ann from Toronto. March 31st at the nest. Knowing at that point that they were back at the nest. I am going to write here what I wrote in my journal as we visited this eagle family. (Exact location of this nest will not be given at any time.)

As we are still checking this family from time to time we will keep posting. So although the story starts here. We will have updates in front. So until they migrate we will keep it coming. Enjoy!!

Wed. March 31st,2010

Beautiful sunny day. Stopped at the end of one of the lines of Innisfil to do some birding and saw for the first time this year. One bald eagle in flight. And one at the nest we saw them at last year. Nest not accessible only by water. And not easy to see at all.

May 21st.

Went out in Jeff's little boat and saw one eagle sitting in a dead tree out front of nest area. Assuming other adult on the nest. Can not see the nest.

May 30th.

Out doing our loon survey for Bird Studies Canada we decided to go check the eagles out as well. Coming in from other side of the lake with my eyes peeled. We got lucky & I spotted the eagles huge nest in the heron rookery. Male I assume was flying around being harassed by an osprey and female was in the nest. The osprey was no match for the eagle and the eagle finally got tired of it. In one swift moment,he turned his huge body over and his talons were aimed right at the osprey directly above him. He was flying upside down. Incredible! The size difference was also incredible. And the osprey waisted no time in moving on. Like it never happened. It was something to see. After a while and moving a little closer. We saw Mom in the nest and 2 wee bald eaglets. They got fed and they were so small. A very light coloring and just amazingly beautiful. Confirmed the nest and 2 wee eaglets to Jody at Bird Studies Canada.

June 2nd.

Jody asked if we could keep track of the nest to let them know if and when the eaglets fledged. We would be honored to. Got there for feeding time again today. Little one's hungry and a little darker and bigger. Is hard to see this nest were it is. But is well protected in there. Not as many herons this year. And they have a great feeding area here.


Eaglets getting bigger every time we visit the nest. The baby's fuzzy look is starting to disappear and they are getting darker and more feathery. Very windy day and hard to keep the boat still so we can see the nest. 10 am. Feeding time for the eaglets. Did not stay long with the wind. But got a look at the family so we were happy. Both eaglets doing well. Reported to MNR as well.

Got an e-mail from BSC that a gentleman wanted to talk to me about the nest if I was interested. I got in touch with Glenn and we arranged to take him out to GPS the area and look for a tern colony that had been reported in same area. We found out this was a very special pair of bald eagles. They are the 196th nesting species to nest in the greater Toronto area. And the 1st confirmed bald eagle pair to nest in same area. ( I wonder if they know they are special)!!

June 20th.

Not the greatest of days today. But we met Glen and gave it a go. We had a bit of rain on the way over. But when we got there the sun actually came out! And it was beautiful. Male was out in flight when we were arriving and flew to perch in his favorite tree at that time. Eaglets about half the size of the adults now. Still a bit fuzzy in places. But getting very dark and feathery.

A successful morning for Glenn. He got everything and more that he wanted to do & see. He was happy when he left. And we learned this is a very rich nesting area indeed.

June 27th.

Dull and rainy this morning. Male out fishing. We have a water ski coarse back there in use. Male was clearly not happy. Mom was in nest with sleeping eaglets. One got up and stretched those long lanky wings almost taking Mom out. She was patient and not at all bothered. Kinda like here we go again kind of thing. Very cool. Then the other eaglet got up and started moving about and flapping a bit. Older eaglet starting flapping and hopping at the same time. One is clearly bigger and further ahead than the other one.

July 2nd.

Both parents out of nest as we arrived this day. Could hear Mom close by the nest. Dad brought in a fish for the hungry eaglets and Mom joined them to feast. Young eaglets have grown so much since the 27th. And are really starting to look like the adults in plumage. Still a bit downy here and there though. I am not sure the exact date these eaglets were born. But due to my records and the fact they incubate eggs for about 35 days, I am guessing they were born mid April.

July 8th

Arrived at 6:15pm.

Had a very late start today. Dad was on duty this time and Mom flew over to a grassy area were the ski coarse is and dove to get a fish. Success. Back to the nest in minuets. Male flew close to us,beautiful. They seem to be accustom to our being there now and are not bothered. We are still and quiet the whole time and keep our distance out on the lake. The male was fishing now and was not to far off giving us a perfect view of the fishing. He circled in from high up and got a beautiful meal for the family. Incredible. Some terns chased after him thinking they might like the fish as well for their family. No such luck. After a tasty meal the young eaglets did more flapping around in the nest with Mom.

July 15th

Another late start at 6: 45pm.

Feeding was over tonight when we arrived. Eaglets quiet, one sitting on the edge of the nest and the other one lying down. Dad in his usual tree out front and Mom was in a tree close to the nest. A quiet night with young that were satisfied for the day.

July 22nd.

Arrived at 5:45pm

As we were coming down the lake at a distance I saw one adult fly out to go fishing. When we arrived the adult was back and in the nest with the eaglets eating a fish. Dad was in his usual spot in the tree again. Within 15 min., Dad went fishing. He was bothered by forester & common terns on his way out as he was flying over their nesting area. Could hear their young fledglings all through the grassy area there. Ski boats there again forcing eagles to go else where for food. And putting other tern fledglings at risk of being hit. Reported to authorities. Skiing in a nesting sensitive area with out a spotter on the boat was just not good. Fish habitat, very weedy stumps everywhere. An accident waiting to happen. Tonight 2 boats were in there. Dad had to go far out to fish. he came back with a very small fish. Older eaglet is bouncing up & down in the nest getting a bit of actual lift. Back & forth from one side of the nest to the other while the younger eaglet ate it's meal. Dad now perched on the tree stump through the middle of the nest. Parents are watching the young very closely now. They are getting more and more active and always under a watchful eye of a parent. Mom now is off fishing. One eaglet made it's way to a branch on the outside of the nest and sat there for a bit quite content and proud of himself. Mom had been gone now over half an hour and it was getting late . So we decided to pack up and go home. The eagle family was well fed and would get another meal soon. Parents are forced further out while the skiers are there and that means longer time between meals for the young ones. More work for parents. But they are coping. I hope something can be done.

July 30th ( 61 days)
Since first saw eaglets in the nest.!

Arrived at 6pm and male was in his usual spot. No skiers tonight. Still hearing fledgling terns all over the area. Had one osprey and a 2nd year peregrine falcon fly past with a fledged starling in it's talons being chased.
Male went for a fly around. Did a swoop past the nest and low and behold the older eaglet took flight behind him. It was awesome. One eaglet has fledged the nest. Didn't see them again that evening but they were very vocal back there. Other eaglet was quiet in the nest for a bit. Just after 7,it started flapping around and jumping. Back & forth in the nest as well. Mom was close by as we could hear them communicating. Continued on for 20 min and then settled down. Called a bit then saw Mom fly from the back of the big tree to the front and sit there. She then swooped by the nest and sat back there close to the nest again. You could hear Dad and the other eaglet calling out in the back area. Mom then went to fish and the eaglet in the nest hunkered down. 7:30 we headed back. Could still hear the calling close to the nest but nest was quiet and Mom was out. Night was near. Another wonderful visit to the nest.


On our arrival the second eaglet has fledged. One adult just flew to go fishing and the young are back in the rookery out of sight. But could hear them vocalizing there with the other parent. Then we caught sight of an eaglet in a heron nest. Very awkward looking. So big a bird in what looks like a big nest. But not to an eagle. Good news for BSC. Both eaglets have fledged successfully!!


Headed out tonight. Not much happening so didn't stay long. Could see both eaglets sitting in nests out in the back. But only from a long way out. They were very vocal back there. And weren't moving much. No parents seen tonight. But I know they were close to the young.

August 20th

Went out around 5:30 tonight. My friend Ann was up from Toronto and got the show of her life. Male has a new place to sit now. He was perched in the big old tree in the channel. Cormorants normally occupy this tree. But tonight they were elsewhere. They clearly DO NOT like the bald eagle. He flew to his dead tree next. Mom was in the big green lush tree further down. Male flew out to fish. Was not gone long when he came back with food. He went to the dead tree and he ate this fish. Eaglets were clearly wanting his meal. They were making a lot of noise in the back. Then Mom flew for food. She always goes to our side of the lake and Dad to the other when they fish. Interesting. Dad finished his meal and flew to a branch in the dead tree that was close to were the Mom was and I got a shot of them together. When I got the photo up on the computer I noticed that one eaglet was also in the picture beside Mom. Dad then took off to fish for the family. Other young was calling from nearby the Mom as well. Probably in the same tree.
Saw the peregrine again further down towards the other side.
Dad came back. Mom stayed in the same place and Dad took the fish to the nest for the eaglets to eat. All was quiet and we headed home.

August 24th ( day 86)

Amazing day today. Sun was shinning, a few clouds around. Warm. Breezy but not to much. Arrival time was 9 am. Male on the tree in the channel. One eaglet in the dead tree and the other one in the lush green tree.


Eaglet on the dead tree,the oldest flew over in behind. It came out behind Dad and continued to over the wetland area. It flew higher and higher and was being attacked by a caspien tern. Dad watched it as it flew further away. At 9:10 the other eaglet flew. He flew over to it's sibling and they greeted each other and soared together. Beautiful sight to behold.


Mom arrived back with no fish. She continued soaring over the channel and wetland area were the eaglets were. One young came back. Caspien tern went after Mom and was literally on her. She never flinched. Eaglet was getting very vocal for Mom's return. Other eaglet still soaring. Mom was gone out of sight. Now both eaglets are in the back calling for her return. She got back with a small fish.


Dad was up within min. He was in the tree in the channel before he took off and a kingbird was not to happy about that.


He came back with a nice fish. Eaglets very vocal.
One actually flew out to greet him,amazing. Mom out again within min.


Back with a fish for the hungry eaglets who were extremely vocal during this time. She came back with fish in her beak. Straight to the nest and the hungry noisy eaglets. Always one eaglet flew out to greet the parent bird with the tasty meal. All the time calling back & forth to each other. Eaglets very hungry. Parents non stop . Fish were jumping all around us as well so this must have been prime time for them to fish.

Between 10:10 & 12:10. It was one parent in with fish ,other parent out fishing. Back out back in back out over & over without a break. It was tiring watching the pair. The vocalization was totally amazing during this time. And as I mentioned one of the eaglets always flew to greet the parent coming back with the fish.
Mom was the last to come back before all was calm and quiet. She brought in a huge fish in her talons. This one was the prize of the day. And the eaglets were then quiet and satisfied. For a while. She had taken her share before she came back. The adults have to get their food while they can. I'm betting it's hard to do around the eaglets. The are beautiful young birds. Huge and gentile like their parents. Watching an eagle sore tells you were the term free as a bird comes from. I could sit there for ever watching them. After they were full. Mom came out and flew right over top of us. I was on my head getting pictures of her. And following her after a few min. was the older eaglet. He to flew right over us. He not only did that but he started to circle going higher and higher right above us. They were amazing.

The one thing I noticed with these birds is the family bonding. They seem to help each other. They stay together. They nuzzle one another in the nest. I never saw any bickering. Even now. They soar together. Parents were amazingly patient, gentile and devoted to both the young eaglets. One was clearly bigger and further along than the other. But the other always got attention and well fed. Older eaglet never tried to steel it's food from it.
To watch these birds took my breath away and is something I hope we get to see for many years to come with this pair.
Although we fought the winds,the grasses and the skiers here this summer. This is a summer we will not forget.
We saw lots of babies in this precious & sensitive nesting area. We hopefully have been able to stop the skiers while nesting and rearing are in full swing.
We will try to get out there again a couple times before Jeff goes back to college. I would love to see them again before they migrate south. To see them maybe catch a prize meal.

My shots were taken with a Sony A700 camera.
150-500 mm sigma lens
Shots done freehanded from a boat.
Distant for the most part and in winds and sometimes choppy waters.
I am sure Jeff got tired of me telling him "to far" have to go back " now to fare this way " !!!!!!!! That was when the anchor would not hold us.

Thankfully the last few times the anchor held. Jeff got some fishing in. Although the eagles caught the fish. He just saw them jumping! He'll never live that one down. LOL. He only catches and releases anyways. But that day it was eagles 6 and Jeff 0 in a 2 hour span. Amazing for the eagles!

Ya gotta love it.
Hope you enjoy my sight and although most of the shots aren't the greatest in the world. But great for the conditions. You get to be there as we were and enjoy watching this very special bald eagle family grow up and leave the nest. And see them from very tiny to adult size.

I want to thank, Jody, Glenn & David for all your expertise, help and allowing us to monitor this nest.

All photos are copyright of Jennifer Howard
Nature Works Photography