As I type these words another 2 inches of snow is falling outside and the forecasters are calling for another night of subzero temperatures. As I sit in my chair and try not to be depressed by the weather outside, my spirit is buoyed as I contemplate the signs of spring that have blessed my heart this week. No, I have not yet seen a crocus or tulip poking up through the ever-present snow layer in my yard, nor have I noticed any budding trees, but another layer and other buds have recently brightened my mood.
My buds, Jim and Cindy, have been working on that palace in the treetops in anticipation of the day when our layer will deposit her first egg of 2014.
Last Monday I captured the following image of Cindy working on the aerie while Jim brought home a duck for lunch. Although the picture was taken from 1/2 mile away, if you look closely you will see the duck dangling from Jim’s talons.
They had both been working on the nest when Jim took a quick trip over to Eastwood Lake, grabbed some take-out and flew back home. He does this occasionally during nest-building but will do it more often during the first of the 5 weeks of incubation. Cindy will be nest-bound for a number of days as she lays her eggs. They have added quite a bit of material to the sides of the nest and we are wondering if we will even be able to see the adults’ heads this year as the incubate the eggs on the nest’s floor. We have not seen much of our girl the last few days which had me wondering if she was already sitting on eggs. The lakes are frozen over and Jim is fishing the rivers but Cindy is staying near the well field. Yesterday, however, we saw both Jim and Cindy working on the nest for a while and with temperatures in the low twenties the odds are pretty good that there are no eggs yet but that should change this week or next!
While the lakes have been inactive, the Great Miami River immediately north of downtown Dayton, and just 4.3 miles from the aerie as the eagle flies, has been anything but! As often happens during the winter months, we have had other eagles wander through the area this week. For several days a very large female has been hanging out in that area.
The young female.
She first appeared on Thursday and looks to be a four-year-old bird judging by her yellow/gray beak, gray/white head, gray/white tail and her wing feather coloration. And she is huge! Impressively huge. The first day that she was around we witnessed Jim interacting with her. She had caught a fish from his river as the Canada Geese looked on.
She flew with her catch to the riverbank as Jim watched and circled high above the river. When she landed with the fish, Jim descended. She was not too pleased and screamed her displeasure towards the approaching eagle before burying her catch in the snow. There was a brief dispute but Jim did not seem very aggressive. Normally he does not tolerate poachers but this time he quietly stood nearby as she ate her catch.
It’s mine! Stay away!
Hiding her fish in the snow.
Watching the big girl eat.
A tender moment?
The pair even flew together for a while.
Jim and the younger woman?
Jim and Cindy’s surviving 2011 eaglet, Pride, will turn 3 next month and will begin her fourth year of life. I doubt that she would appear this old yet but Jim’s attitude towards her was atypical. It may be that he just did not see a young female as a threat to his domain. He may have just thought that she was really cute. I don’t know, but it was fun to watch the encounter. Young adult eagles do sometimes return to their childhood homes in search of a territory of their own.
Then on Friday, the young female was joined by a young male who appeared to be very close to her age. The pair spent the morning in a large sycamore tree on the west bank of the river, leaving the tree every so often to fly together, tumble together, fish and dine. At one point the male flew to the tree with a stick in his talons. This is a very urban setting and literally just a few hundred feet from where our last eagle’s nest had been abandoned in 1938. To the west are houses. To the east, across the river, are several baseball and softball diamonds that now occupy what used to be McCook Field, one of the world’s first airfields, where Orville Wright trained Army pilots to fly. (The airfield’s motto was, “Our runway is short. Use all of it.”) It is exciting to see Bald Eagles in Dayton again and a the fulfillment of my long-time dream but their close proximity to people, especially adolescent males, concerns me a bit.
As they frolicked together just a few hundred feet north of I-75, Jim landed in a tree just 100 feet south of I-75. The young male left his sycamore tree and flew towards Jim’s perch. There he landed on the very top of a vertical branch.
Young male landing.
This perch was just slightly higher than Jim’s perch and just to Jim’s left. Jim was not amused.
Young male & Jim.
Now, I do not speak Bald Eagle but quite a conversation followed. It was interesting. It was animated. It was LOUD. And it was brief. Within a few minutes Jim had made his point and had had enough of the youngster’s lip. Simultaneously four wings flapped and the chase was on. I watched the young female as she sat in that sycamore watching the two males approaching her. The stranger bobbed and weaved as Jim matched his every move. Closer and closer to her tree they flew, eventually passing just over its branches. In the picture below you can see the female still perched in the middle, right of the tree as the male and Jim pass overhead. The male managed to circle the tree once as if to wave goodbye before Jim chased him off to the north. I watched them for several minutes as they faded into the distant sky.
The chase. (3 eagles.)
Then I had to chuckle as I turned back towards the sycamore and spotted the lone form of a young, forlorn female Bald Eagle, now perched on the very top twigs of her giant tree watching her suitor disappear from sight.
“What just happened!?”
Although I doubt if this female is Pride, it sure looked like a dad with a “Not with my daughter you don’t!” attitude to me. Either way, it sure gives you something to think about.