Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Bald Eagles are back

The local Bald Eagles which nest in nearby Pembroke Pines, Florida have returned to begin a new breeding season. Ground observers have tracked their activities ever since the nest was discovered back in 2008. Last season they raised two eaglets. During the summer we often saw the adults flying over the local wetlands from the area of the nest to a large lake in our subdivision, usually early in the morning.

On July 16, both members of the pair flew together just before sunrise. this is the female, distinguished by her larger size:

Bald Eagle female 20190716

This was the male on July 16:

Bald Eagle male 20190716

The female flew low overhead on August 13:

Bald Eagle 01-20190813

Here is the male on August 26:

Bald Eagle 02-20190826

During the summer the eagles have been sighted resting atop of this lighthouse on the island in the biggest lake in our Sunset Lakes subdivision, which is about 2 miles southeast of the nest (click on photo for better view):

 Lighthouse Island HDR 20150216

The "official" breeding season begins on October 1, about three months earlier than in the northern reaches of the eagles' range. Both members of the pair were present at the nest on September 14, 2019. The female (Jewel) was roosting on a branch just a few yards east of the nest...

Bald Eagle female Jewel 06-20190914

Bald Eagle female Jewel portrait 04-20190914

...while the male (Pride) was mostly hidden as he roosted just to the right of the nest. Note that fresh green branches have been added:

Bald Eagle male at nest 20190914

On September 21, the pair were busy at restoring the nest, or "nestoration." The male (to the left) continuously brought in sticks, while the female kept watch and adjusted their placement:

 Bald Eagle pair nestoration 01-20190921

Bald Eagle pair nestoration 02-20190921

Off goes the male to find more sticks. In flight, he often breaks them off from dead trees: 

Bald Eagle pair nestoration 09-20190921

Following is a review of their prior (2018-2019) breeding season. Pride is the original male who was first seen at this nest site in 2007. Since breeding age is 5 years, he is now at least 17 years old. Jewel is his second mate. His first mate (Joy), disappeared in late October, 2014 after hatching 13 eaglets in 7 broods, of which 11 successfully fledged. She was quickly replaced by a 4 year old female (Jewel) who did not breed in 2014-2015. 

Then, in 2015-2016 Jewel lost her first nest and its only eaglet in a storm. Bald Eagles occasionally nest a second time if they lose eggs or a brood early in the season. That year, because of widespread storms, this occurred with several pairs around Florida. Jewel indeed nested a second time. To date, her 5 attempts have produced 9 known young, 6 of which survived to fly free.

Here is the pair last season, roosting in a tree near the nest on October 7, 2018. The male (Pride) is to the left, while his mate (Jewel) is perched higher up. Note that the male's smaller body is more tapered towards the tail end while Jewel is much more filled out "below the waist:"

Bald Eagles - Pride and Jewel 01-20181007

The pair spent much time preening:

Bald Eagle female Jewel 01-20181007

Bald Eagle male Pride 01-20181007

When Pride finished preening he got all ruffled up:

Bald Eagle male Pride ruffled 05-20181007

Bald Eagle male Pride ruffled 06-20181007

A closeup of Jewel's talons shows the elongated hind toe (hallux), characteristic of the female:

Bald Eagle female Jewel talons 05-20181007

Jewel is checking out something on the ground below:

Bald Eagle female Jewel 04-20181007

The nest appeared to have some new sticks added:

Bald Eagle nest 20181007

The pair worked on the nest into mid-November, and courtship activity increased. On November 17, 2018 they copulated successfully.

Bald Eagles Jewel and Pride 05-20181117

Bald Eagles Jewel and Pride 09-20181117

Eagles Pride and Jewel matiing 03-20181117

Their first egg was laid about December 5, and it hatched around January 10, 2019.* Two eaglets were first seen on January 31, 2019:

Bald Eagle eaglet 1046AM 20190131

Bald Eagle both eaglets and Jewel 1041 AM 20190131

The first egg to hatch is more often a female, with a chance of about 2 out of 3. Here are the two eaglets, from left to right, the male (P Piney 22) and female (P Piney 21) at about 11 weeks of age, on March 16, 2019:

Bald Eaglets male and female P Piney 22 and 21 03-20190316  

Both  fledged on successive days just one week later. They immediately returned to the nest to be fed:

Bald Eaglets male flapping  03-20190403

Bald Eaglets female and male 02-20190403

There was a chaotic food drop on April 14, when  the male parent flew in with unidentified prey, but both eaglets attacked fiercely, driving the adult back:

Chaotic prey drop 06-20190414

Chaotic prey drop 01-20190414

Chaotic prey drop 04-20190414

The older eaglet then crouched down over the prey and spread her wings to guard it while the younger eaglet settled down behind her:

Chaotic prey drop 07-20190414

By mid-May, both youngsters had migrated away, probably to find cooler water to the north, where fish tend to be nearer the surface and are easier to catch.

As of this writing, in September, 2019, the occupants of this nest of eagles is known to have hatched out at least 22 chicks, of which 17 were confirmed to have fledged successfully. Although we hope all 17 are still alive, the sad fact is that as few as 50% of the Bald Eagles which leave the nest survive into adulthood. 

Research shows great variation in survival rates. The proliferation of Florida's eagle population suggests that conditions may be more favorable here. However, when the eagles move into urban areas they are subject to new hazards, particularly motor vehicle collisions and injury from power lines. Aggression between eagles over territories and mates also may become more common where they compete for limited resources. Most mortality occurs within the first few months before the eaglets gain survival skills.

A spreadsheet (PDF) which details observations of this nest since 2008 may be accessed AT THIS LINK

*In estimating the timing of the laying of eggs and hatching of the eaglets, we must depend upon clues from changes in the behavior of the adults. The onset of incubation coincides with the laying of the first egg, which is when we suddenly see one of the pair down deep and immobile in the nest. Hatching is a time of excitement, as the parents shift position frequently, peer down into the nest, and they start bringing in prey and tearing off bits to feed the tiny chick. The adults also sit a bit higher in the nest after the first egg hatches, supporting themselves on their wings to form a "tent" to shelter the chick and yet provide warmth to any eggs that have not yet hatched. 

Volunteer nest observers share their sightings and photos, and respond to queries in the Pembroke Pines Eagle Nest Watch FORUM here, which includes a link to spreadsheets that document observations over the past three breeding seasons . 

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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22 comments:

  1. Lucky you, fab photos. Cheers Diane

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  2. Eagles are so magnificent. Love the story and images of the season of eagles.

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  3. Wow, those talons looks really formidable! Great captures.

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  4. Great shots and that sky shot is incredibly. I like it (looks like professional work ).

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  5. What a neat, well photographed series on these eagles. They are such fine looking birds. Like your reflections also.

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  6. Hello, Wonderful post on the breeding Eagle couple. I did not realize they start so early nesting in Florida. I hope they continue to do well. Your lighthouse and sky photo is pretty. Awesome photos. Thanks for sharing your post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a great weekend. PS, thanks for the visit and comment.

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  7. I like the eagle photos and the foggy reflection is amazing!

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  8. How exciting! And what a wonderful time of year for living in Florida! I love all of your photos and the great information you've shared. I saw an Eagle this week but I was driving (on my way to the post office) and couldn't get a photo of it. I hope I see another one this week when I'm out with my camera. Enjoy your weekend!

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  9. Wow, Ken, you've left me near speechless with your stellar images!!!

    Thanks for leaving your link & commenting at I'd Rather B Birdin'.

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  10. Wonderful photos of the Bald Eagles!
    Have a blessed day!

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  11. Kenneth, while I am over the top about your beautiful and wonderful photos and history of your Eagles (because I volunteer here in CT in monitoring Bald Eagles during our active season (Feb-Jul), I do have one question for you. The photo of the lighthouse...would you tell me the setting that you used to take it? You see, I am a novice at photography and think it is absolutely AMAZING!!!!...:)jp

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    1. @QuietCorner: Thanks-- it was just a candid shot with my accessory pocket camera. I am very pleased with its image stability and use it for nearly all my landscape photos without tripod.

      Taken on February 16, 2015, about 15 minutes after sunrise, looking east on a foggy morning from across the lake, so the original had very little color
      Canon EOS 80D handheld; EF 300mm f/4L+1.4x (420mm f/5.6); 1/636 sec; ISO 100 ; EC +/- 0; no flash
      Layered three exposures of the same JPG image (original and one stop (+1 and -1)
      Processed in "out of the box" Canon Digital Photo Professional.
      I increased saturation slightly, which produced an amber tint but no color filters were added

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  12. How much work these eagles need to do for their kids to be born and stay alive! I thought because they are big birds it would be easier, but from the details you give, it seems harder, since only 50% survive. Thank you for educating us at All Seasons about the bald eagle. A fierce bird, that has become a symbol for this country! Thank you and have a beautiful week!

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  13. About your comment on still remembering the one place you lived in Florida before: isn't it interesting that some little detail of the crunch of the pine needles underneath our boot is engraved in our memory forever:) And how we can live in other places not being able to remember anything sharply or distinctly!

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  14. Brilliant photos especially the close ups. It must be really exciting to be able to follow the development of the chicks.

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  15. Oh my :o
    Such beautiful photos!
    I wish I one day will see that bird i real life.
    Here in Swedn the biggest bird is white-tailed eagle.
    ///Laila
    https://tillklippt.blogspot.com/

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  16. I really enjoyed seeing the entire process in your photos of eagles lives--from building the nest to the fledgling of the eaglets. It was fascinating. They appear to be good parents. I loved the lighthouse photo!

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  17. Magnificent birds, and magnificent photos. Thanks for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/09/basilica-shrine-of-saint-mary.html

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