Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Real Coup!

We've managed to attract a nesting pair of Bald Eagles to my preserve.  The nest is two miles from the Philadelphia city line in the most densely populated portion of the third most populous county in Pennsylvania.

There are other nesting Bald Eagles in similar situations in Pennsylvania; in fact, eagles are nesting in areas even more urban than my preserve.  The difference is that those nests generally are along large rivers that can provide a reliable source of fish.  My creek is far too small to be a dependable food source, and the fish in my creek are too diminutive to feed eagles and their offspring.  Furthermore, the creek ices over if it's really cold.

No, the draw isn't fish.  It's roadkilled deer.  Our organization collects deer struck on the roads surrounding our preserve - both as a courtesy to the municipalities and as a way to get biological information about the deer herd.  Once my staff has collected the carcasses, we place them in a an open field where they are quickly devoured by coyotes, foxes, black and turkey vultures, crows, and (this year) ravens and eagles.  We've seen eagles availing themselves of deer carcasses in the past, but always individually and always for just a day or so.  This is the first time a pair has decided that there's enough food to sustain a family.

The eagles took over a Red-tailed Hawk nest in a huge white pine tree and augmented it significantly.  There's no evidence of eggs yet, but there's still time.  The Game Commission said that the birds may be a young pair constructing a "practice nest."  Naturally, we hope they use it to raise a brood.

The image above was taken by a photographer who only identified himself as Frank when he sent it to me in an email.  The nest and this dead tree are about a third-mile from the best location for photography, so it takes a photographer with good equipment to capture a decent image.


Mark P said...

Cool! Did you see my post where I saw a bald eagle feeding on a deer carcass near us? They are such magnificent birds.

And, good to see you back.

robin andrea said...

That is such great news! It'll be interesting to watch what becomes of them and the nest over the next few months. Looking forward to eagle updates.

Nice to see a post here. I've been wondering where you've been and hoping all is well.

packrat said...

What majestic creatures! It's great news that they're nesting--even if it is a "practice" nest. (Is that like "playing house"?) Nice to see that deer carcasses are being used to sustain other critters.

Scott said...

Packrat: Yes, if the eagles are "practicing," it is like "playing house."

Scott said...

I did see your post about the eagle feeding on the carcass in your neighborhood. Eagles have become so numerous (in relative terms, of course) they seem to be turning up more and more often in unexpected places.

And, thanks for the "welcome back." In December, I was really busy wrapping up teaching my graduate class at the University of Pennsylvania and dealing with the holidays. This term, I am teaching two 3-hour classes back to back on Friday mornings in addition to my "day job," of course, so I'm busy again. Plus, I've just been in a general funk (Seasonal Affective Disorder? Burned out with work and teaching? General depression? Some or all of the above?). The weather has been gray and depressing, and I haven't been getting out much to take photographs or to exercise (which probably doesn't help my mood, either). I'll try to do better.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: The eagles' nesting is incredibly good news. Audubon recently conferred on my preserve the status of Important Bird Area (IBA); the eagles mush have heard about the designation and decided to check it out! I'll be sure to keep my readers posted on progress.

With regard to my 2-month absence, please see my response to Mark P. I do appreciate your "missing me."

Minnie said...

Happy to see your new post, especially since it bears news of a bald eagle nest on your preserve. It's so interesting to witness the urbanization of this species. A young male has built a nest about a mile from us on a small river running through a golf course. He is playing house with a widow-lady eagle. Both are banded and are from separate nests here in lower Tidewater Virginia. I knew him when he was just an eaglet as he hatched in a nest that had a superb eagle cam. Enjoy your pair. Hope they have a succcessful season.

Minnie said...

How wonderful to have this pair on your preserve. Wishing them a successful season. It's interesting to see the urbanization of this species. A male has built a nest near a river running through a golf course about a mile from us. He and a widow-lady eagle are playing house, and I hope they get serious this winter. Both are banded and from separate nests here in lower Tidewater Virginia. I've known him since he was an egg as he hatched in a nest with a superb eagle-cam.

Scott said...

Minnie: We have an "eagle cam" on our pair, too, but (1) it is located a fair distance from the nest so the resolution isn't great, and (2) it takes still (not video) images every two minutes. The "eagle cam" manager then uploads the best of the still images to a website each morning.

We've observed the birds mating repeatedly, but no evidence of eggs yet.