In early February, there wasn't much going in the eagles' nest. From a human perspective it was hard to imagine that it was time to prepare for Spring. However...
...a week later I saw fresh nesting material being delivered.
Soon after, the eagles began mating.
The duet which followed their parental preparations sounded like music to my ears. Sadly, I was unable to decipher their vocalizations. I must say that to me they sounded rather proud. If my calculations are correct, about one week later Eva began laying eggs in the nest.
It was mid-March before I was able to catch a photo which confirmed the situation. That small white spec in the middle of the nest is the top of Eva's head. The rest of her body is sitting low in the nest covering eggs and maintaining the optimal temperature.
It was early in May before I actually saw the two young eaglets standing in the nest. After studying my photos and other online accounts I suspect that at this point the eaglets were approximately four or five weeks old.
The next day, a closer photo showed the tiny remains of white fuzz on the head of one of the eaglets.
Eva was alert and vocal while defending her young from the slightest perceived threat.
Once again I had the impression that they were proud of their efforts.
By mid-May, Albert was doing most of the hunting and Eva was tending the home fires.
Eva's efforts included tearing off bite sized pieces of food and...
...offering them to the eaglets one piece at a time.
This photo shows the young eaglet's flight feathers just starting to develop.
A week later, one of the eaglets let me get a few quick shots in the early morning light.
It is obvious that the parents had begun the process of distancing themselves from their young. For the adult who is doing the baby-sitting, usually Eva, it must be a relief to move out of the nest. The adults are no longer needed to provide warmth or shade but they still provide protection from predators.
The beaks and talons of the inexperienced young birds are no doubt sharp enough to cause damage and may also motivate the adults to maintain some distance, whenever possible.
Earlier this week it was good to see that this year's eaglets are now also nearly as large as their parents. At this point, both adults may leave the nest for extended periods. I suspect they continue to watch the nest from a distance, however I do not think they are particularly concerned with the smaller creatures, e.g. crows, harassing their young.
The young no longer require any assistance with eating. As a matter of fact, when Albert landed it looked like one of the eaglets grabbed the food from his talons and pulled it quickly into the middle of the nest.
This was done in one swift motion and ended with the young bird's wings spread across the nest from one parent to the other. The second sibling was left with a view of the first eaglet's backside and most likely not even a whiff of the food before it was gone. The development of predatory eagle behavior appears to be well on its way.
Apparently, the 520 construction had little or no impact on the adult's ability to reproduce. I suspect they may have done a little more land-based hunting than in previous years. Still, it is reassuring to watch them pass along their genes, in spite of our presence and activities.
My best estimate is that the eagles are about nine to ten weeks old and may fledge sometime between now and early July. If you happen to be driving east on the old 520 bridge, please watch the road very carefully, however you may catch a glimpse of one or more bald eagles on the light poles. You might check quickly to see if the head(s) are white. If not, you may be one of the first to see the eaglets after they leave the nest.
Learning to fly is very dangerous for young eagles and hunting from light poles above speeding vehicles is most likely the last thing they should be doing. However, since that is one of their parent's favorite hunting spots, it is a likely location for them to begin their airborne endeavors. Maybe in July we should ask for flashing signs on the 520 bridge - 'Slow - Eaglets At Play'.
Have a great day on Union Bay...where eaglets grow up in the city!
PS: If you have not see this video about a young red-tailed hawk that is being raised by bald eagles you should definitely check out this link:
Without a well-funded Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with local, native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. My hope is that we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors and local businesses to plant native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. My intention is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.
Scroll down for answer
A) Nootka Rose
B) Himalayan or Evergreen Blackberry
Over the last couple of weeks the native Nootka Rose has been blooming around Union Bay. The first photo is from the south side of the Pinetum in the Arboretum.
The second photo is from the Union Bay Natural Area. I believe the white flowers in the photo are Himalayan Blackberries. Technically, I have not figured out how to tell the difference between the Himalayan and Evergreen blackberries, however they are both large, thorny, invasive, European berries which do not belong in North America. I have read that if the blackberry has stems larger than about one quarter of an inch, 13mm, it is an invasive.
These undesirable, but tasty, blackberries overgrow and shade out a variety of important native plants. For example, in the second photo you can see a single pink flower in the lower left corner. Do you recognize it? It is the flower of a Nootka Rose which is obviously being over run by the invasive blackberries. My suggestions for dealing with these berries is heavy gloves, boots, long sleeves and a shovel. Then dig them loose and pull them out by their roots. Burning is optional.