My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Eagle Diary, Part I

One of my assignments is so much fun.  I have to go sit and watch the nesting eagles. Our law enforcement officer had seen and eagle sitting on eggs March 15 or 16.  The parents start incubating the eggs as soon as the first one is laid. The next egg is laid 48-72 hours later.  So we were expecting babies by about April 27.  But, although the staff usually took a few minutes to look at the nest, no one had seen any babies until I started watching the nest for longer periods of time. I got to bring home their first picture.

Watching them consists of me sitting in a refuge truck, listening to the radio and using my naked eyes, binoculars, and camera.  I use the time on the pictures to catch up with the text report when too many things are happening at once. Then I sometimes can read when I know I'm about an hour away from more action. Here are my notes and SOME of the pictures.  I take 50 - 80 pictures every day, mostly to get the times things are happening and also because I can't yet see the babies with my naked eye and the camera is better than the binoculars.

Eagle notes 

7:05. Spouse flew in low across the water from E and flew up to nest. No fish, just sitting beside nesting bird

Eagles about to change out nesting duty

7:12 one bird flew west


6:51 Probably male - looks smaller than bird flying yesterday - appeared from west and flew over marsh.  Ignored ducks flying in and landing. Flew into tree east of pole .

7:11 Nesting bird stood up with back to me and leaned over edge of nest. Appears to be eating.  Other bird still in tree.

7:14   Same bird back to sitting on nest - other bird still in tree. 

7:22 Tree bird flew to far side of marsh, then east along it to tall pine tree, almost directly behind Area Closed sign, just a little to right, and just above birches. Think he's hunting. can see sign and eagle in same field.

7:32 Tree swallows by nest.  Male arrived - first saw him in the pic. Think he  brought a fish mother continued to feed 2 chicks While flew to electric pole - one without lines almost in front of the nest. Think male came in from Hwy 1 side.

Dad watching mom feed a chick

7:24 Mother appears to be eating _ male still sitting

7:26 mother sitting on babies - male in same spot

7:28 Male flew toward nest bit didn't land. Lost him while taking a pic.


6:00 Eagle standing on nest when I arrived. Got scope on nest and saw two little off- white heads.

First time I got to see mother with two chicks

6:09 Mother covering chicks

7:10 Mother stood and I started taking pictures. Got mother with 2 chicks. 

7:11 Father arrived while I was shooting. Think he brought a fish, but could not document. 

6:12P  Female feeding two babies. Male flew in to telephone pole while taking nest pictures. He left almost immediately. Got best pic of female and two babies

Mother and babies in evening light

May 1 

7:30 Male on pole and female appearing to feed young. 

7:45 male flew after something in marsh between nest and viewing 

platform. Could not be sure but looked like a swimming pair of mammals. He seemed to abort and then landed north of the little body of water.  Then he checked out the animals again but didn't attack and flew to evergreen tree across the marsh.

8:00 Mother covering chicks and male still sitting in tree.

8:11 Male flew to nest and stayed 

8:13 Female go up and lifted wings. Both birds still on nest and then male flew off toward St. Croix River. Female to feed babies that were still out of view.

8:25 Female sitting high and still. I left.

16:30 Noticed new evergreen branch in nest. Males usually do this.  It is on north side.

May 2

6:35 Male on his telephone post

6:36 Male flew south over marsh

6:50 Male came in from south with a big stick.  He landed on the nest and laid it down. Female immediately flew to telephone pole while male covered chicks.

6:52 Male appears to be feeding chicks but can't see them.

7:00 Male feeding babies. Female on post.

7:02 Female flew while I photographed male feeding chick.

7:06 Male sitting quietly on nest.

7:22 No change

7:43 No change.  I left.

May 3

6:00 One parent on nest

6:24 parent on post flew towards St.Croix River

6:32 pic of bird on nest

6:39 osprey hunting near nest - flew over osprey platform next to nest. Parent did not respond. Lost sight of osprey.

6:50 no change

6:03  Other parent flew in from St. Croix without fish and went directly to the nest. 

6:04 Parent on nest - think female - flew to post - parent on nest feeding chicks - could see two chicks.

6:11 parent sitting on nest and other parent on post

6:18 Bird flew from post

6:31 Osprey hunting near nest. Flew over osprey platform next to eagle nest. Eagle showed no response.

7:03 Same eagle still sitting quietly on nest.

7:18 no change

7:25 Bird flew in from marsh with fish and immediately started feeding chicks. Pic of both birds. Then nest bird flew to post for about a minute and they'd flew off towards River

Family portrait

Another changing of the guard

7:32 still feeding chicks

7:33 Covering chicks

7:35 Bird sitting quietly on nest

7:36 Left

May 6 

8:55 one parent covering chicks. Other parent apparently hunting from tree on NW side of Marsh.

8:59 Photographing parent in tree when it turned towards the nest and flew there. Also heard vocalizations. When I focused there only tree bird was there and discovered nest bird  circling. overhead. Bird circled over truck and disappeared. Tree bird fed chicks. 

9:09  Saw bird on nest fly back to tree and other bird return to the nest. Heard vocalizations. Bird in nest fed chicks - think brought back a fish - fed, then covered chicks. Other bird - think the male sitting in tree.

Male spends a lot of time in this tree which is closer to me than is the nest

9:12 Think female covering chicks and male in tree

10:46 No change. 

10:48 Nest eagle gone or out of sight. Other eagle still in tree.

10:49 Osprey flew over nest/tree area and eagle in tree flew to nest. Pic of him feeding one baby.  Nest eagle is gone and I did not see her leave.  Nest without either parent for about 2 minutes.

Male eagle looking back at nest and osprey

They he flew back to the nest

11:07 Looks like male -tree bird- attempting to cover chicks. He has been feeding at least one of them most of the time. Have also seen chicks moving around in nest at feeding times. 

Add caption

11:10 Male on nest covering chicks. No sign of other bird.

11:29 Osprey hunting

11:31 turkey vulture flew through

11:36 Female came in from St. Croix River, flying low over field by me, then flying up to nest. Think she had a fish. She landed on right of the nest and seemed to be tearing fish up. Male continued to sit on chicks on left of the nest for several pic, then flew to tree.

Bye, Dad

Baby is growing fast and starting to move around in nest

11:48 Returning bird continues to feed chicks, but can't get them in pics.

11:49 Probable female back on nest.

11:50 Female sitting chicks and male in tree - left

I'm down to my last 10% of battery with no way to charge the computer so I'll have to tell you more about my day to day life later. Finished the amphibian survey and still doing the woodcock surveys.