In Spite of the Challenges

Life is full of challenges.

And for wildlife, life is full of wild challenges. Threats are everywhere and not all threats are natural threats. Far too many are man-made. For wild eagles those threats are too numerous to list and wild eagles are never far from disaster. Even being at the top of the food chain is no guarantee of survival. Not only do they face the perils of survival in the elements of weather, disease, parasitical infestation and the dangers of maneuvering a 7-foot wingspan with hollow bones through tree limbs, they also have to deal with man’s ignorance, stupidity and carelessness. (Now, before you get too concerned about where this post is leading, relax and reread the title.) We all know how the eagle population was recently endangered by pesticides and other factors but even as we witness their remarkable recovery, they still confront many potential threats.

We have heard reports of Bald Eagles being killed by aircraft, automobiles and electrocution. And in the last few months I have seen multiple reports of eagles being shot from the sky, in spite of severe federal penalties for doing so. Add to this list the growing number of governmental permits for wind turbines, solar fields and “eagle harvesting” you can easily see how menacing their world is. (Now I have managed to even depress myself.)


The American Bald Eagle is a remarkably resourceful bird! In spite of the challenges that they face, they manage to survive and thrive. Those images of incubating adults covered by inches of frigid snow that have crossed my computer screen shows the true nature of these birds! They were masterfully designed to survive in spite of the challenges.

And so it is with Jim and Cindy. In the midst of February’s terrible weather that obliterated any chance of viewing the nest, Cindy deposited her eggs in the nursery of The Treetop Palace. When the weather cleared we estimated that the first egg had arrived around the 17th or 18th. That meant that the 35 days of incubation would end around the 24th or 25th of March. Last Tuesday was March 24th and also the day we noticed a marked change in their behavior! Both adults spent much of the daylight hours on or near the nest. There was a noticeable increase in the number of egg inspections as well. All were positive signs that an eaglet was pipping. (One of the challenges that we have faced this year is the lack of our eagle cams to give us a closer look. Another is that during the first week or two of incubation, they have added a few more sticks to the western wall of the aerie making it nearly impossible to see the head of the incubating adult in the nest. Instinctive behavior does not flip on and off like a light switch but starts quietly, crescendos and then fades like a symphony.) Also on the 24th, Jim started making food runs to Eastwood Lake to grab a takeout order for Cindy rather than just relieving her on the nest. Here are a few images from that day.

Guarding from above.

Guarding from above.

Hatching day!

Hatching day!

Takeout from Eastwood.

Takeout from Eastwood.

I waited to share this news with you until I was certain that the eaglets had arrived but this weekend brought a confirming uptick in food runs and more times of both eagles being on the nest. I even found Jim at dusk at nearby Huffman Lake having dinner with a squirrel. Since he was perched low over the Mad River I had to photograph him through the trees.

Squirrel dinner at 7PM.

Squirrel dinner at 7PM.

As he eventually flew off into the twilight, I snapped a picture of him carrying his dinner towards home. I know it looks like a monkey in his talons but since we have an  extremely few number of monkeys in our trees, I am pretty sure it was a squirrel.

Looks like a monkey but it's a squirrel.

Looks like a monkey but it’s a squirrel.

All of this means that Jim and Cindy’s 2015 eaglets should fledge sometime in late June. That window is 70 to 92 days with the sweet spot of 84 to 87 days for each bird. It will be a while before we can count bobble heads  for a better idea of how many eaglets are up there.

Jim and Cindy and their eaglets are doing well. Even without the much-missed eagle cams we will keep you posted. 2015 promises to be another good year for eagles and eagle watchers in spite of the challenges.

Published in: on March 31, 2015 at 4:04 pm  Comments (15)  

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Why no cam? I probably missed the explanation.

  2. Thanks, Jim!! Great news. Looking forward to looking upward…

  3. How exciting! Thanks to the great narration–I can see those eggs and bobbleheads!

  4. So happy to see and update on our babes! I almost feel like I’m related to them! Lol. Can’t wait till we see bobbleheads! So until we do, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Decorah Eagles …… year, hopefully our cams will be up and running again….so thanks for the update Jim. Eagerly awaiting the next one already. 😉😉😉

  5. Thank you so much. A wonderful read, as usual.

  6. “YEA” J & C !!!

  7. The cost of getting the eagle-cam stream online jumped by around 600% Sidney. We are hoping to be back up for the 2016 nesting season.

  8. Two good directions KeeKee!

  9. 1…2…?… I wonder how many there are. We are all excited Becky. Jim and Cindy will be busy for a while either way!

  10. We will keep you posted Opal. There are a lot of eagle cams out there and they are all thrilling but remember what Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

  11. You are welcome Carol.

  12. Thanks for cam explanation. Good thing you paint beautiful pictures with your words – that will have to do this year!

  13. Good article and information!

  14. Thank you Sidney.

  15. Thank you Chris. We endeavor to keep folks informed without being too technical or too redundant.

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