Adult deep in nest on January 10:
Winter in south Florida is normally the peak of the dry season, but the weather has been unusually cool and rainy. On the morning of January 16 we performed a welfare check and could barely see the nest through the fog. An adult (presumably Jewel) briefly looked down into the nest before again settling down deep. Possibly the eggs were pipping. Once an egg hatches we expect her to position herself a bit higher, "tenting" the hatchling under her wings while continuing to incubate any remaining eggs.
On January 17, a brief but very intense rain and wind storm passed over between 7 and 8 AM. We got out to the Bald Eagle nest around 9:15 AM and found the nest intact but with a recently fallen branch covering its right half. It had not been there the previous day and likely was blown down from the nest tree. The female was deep in the nest and only popped her head up a few times over the left rim of the nest:
At about 10:00 AM she stood up, ruffled her feathers, spread her wings and preened for about 5 minutes. She looked down into the nest and then changed her position to face to the right and settled down deep in the nest. No feeding activity or male eagle were observed.
January 18 was again rainy and cold, with the temperature reaching below 50 degrees (F). We checked the nest but could not see any adult on the nest. Perhaps he or she was sitting very deep to protect an eaglet or eggs from the cold. The next morning (January 19) we visited the nest at about 9:30 AM and watched until 10:10 AM. It was a cool 56 degrees (F) with a brisk northerly wind of about 8-10 MPH. The male (Pride) was standing on the nest.
He turned his back to tear at a prey item and clearly was feeding small morsels to one or more eaglets.
He continued the feeding until 10:00 AM, when he flew to a branch just above and to the right of the nest to clean his bill. His mate was not in sight.
After approximately two minutes Pride flew to another branch which was a bit higher. He seemed restless and was looking about. We thought he might be waiting for his mate (Jewel) to return. He did not vocalize. In the meantine the nest remained uncovered.
Phil, another veteran nest watcher, joined us just after 10:00 AM and checked the nest again several times that day, reporting that there had been no change-- Pride was still roosting and Jewel had not returned. Later Phil visited at 12:45 PM and reported that now Jewel was roosting on the branch near the nest and that there was no adult on the nest. In view of the cool temperatures this seemed rather unusual, as newly hatched eaglets are incapable of regulating their body temperature and must be covered. Our concern deepened over the next three days after multiple observers failed to see any feeding activity and usually found no adults on or near the nest.
On the morning of January 23, while birding in the wetlands about 1.5 miles southeast of the eagle nest, I saw two adult eagles flying from the nest area in the direction of a large lake where they often forage, about 2 minutes apart at 7:41 and 7:43 AM. It was a cool 62 degrees with a brisk NW wind under threatening skies. Phil reported that the eagles had not appeared back at the nest by 8:30 AM.
Looking back at the entrance gate at sunrise, the red sky promised more rain:
Wind stirred the surface of the lake at mid-morning:
Over the next few days it had become quite clear that at least one eaglet had been lost and any others had failed to hatch or were abandoned. Did the storm and falling branch result in injury to the eaglet or destruction of the eggs?
My January 29 bird walk took an unusual turn at 7:23 AM when I heard and then spotted Bald Eagles, about 1/4 mile away at the north end of the wetlands preserve. As I moved nearer I could see that there were two adults and a second year juvenile (the latter visible in the upper right corner of this photo, best viewed large):
The adults chased the youngster and it flew up and circled, still too far away for good photos. Its dark belly and partially molted flight feathers identify it as a little over 1 year old, in "second year" plumage:
The two adults roosted in the grove of herbicide-killed Melaleucas on the far side of the wet prairie. The smaller of the two perched up higher. I took comparable photos from several positions of each from a range of 650 to 400 feet, using the same crop factor so that I could compare their size and shape. This is the male, 400 feet away:
The female, at the same range and crop factor, is noticeably larger:
At 7:47 AM the female started calling and flew up to roost just behind the male.
About 10 minutes later the female flew to a higher perch about 100 feet farther along the grove of dead trees, assuming a receptive position. Both eagles kept calling as the male flew and briefly mounted her, but they did not copulate.
Because of her distinctive undertail markings I identified the female as Jewel, from the Pembroke Pines nest 1.4 miles to the NW. The male is presumably Pride, her mate, who then quickly flew to a nearby snag and then off to the north. Jewel roosted a while longer before flying up and circling to the north, carrying a small branch. As of today the adults continue to visit the nest site but there has been no sign of any eaglets, which by now would be growing rapidly and require frequent feeding.
Reflections in the flooded lakeside prairie:
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Linking to Misty's CAMERA CRITTERS,
Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,
Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa).
Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James
Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni
Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart
Linking to I Heart Macro by Laura
Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display