Monday, February 25, 2008

Pale Male Update, Blakeman Reports on the PBS Eagle Nest, High Drama at the VA Eagle Nest, and last of all, Is Tristan Really Missing?

First off a mini-update on Sunday with Pale Male and Lola from Pale Male Irregular and Hawk Watcher Katherine Herzog-

Quite an amazing day yesterday with lots of mating activity. And Pale providing more nesting material and providing Lola with a Pigeon Shish-Ka-Bob on a spiked window on the "Hawk Bldg". Today will be lovely, but tomorrow yet another bad weather system is moving in.....


Next up, big news in the report from John Blakeman on the Plum Brook Station Bald Eagles--


The NASA Plum Brook Station Bald Eagle nest now has a sitting female.

I was able to get in to the Station today, to see if anything has happened since I was last there a week or so ago. As I drove up, I noticed that the nest was markedly larger. Instead of a shallow, wide nest, the eagles have added a great number of pounds of sticks, thickening it to a four foot depth. It looks like it's about six feet across the top, and about four feet deep. Very large, very stable.

At first, with my naked eye at perhaps 200 yards from the nest, I saw nothing there. But with my binoculars I saw the female sitting very low on the nest. As with Red-tails, Bald Eagles will sit a bit higher when the first egg or two is laid. But when the clutch has two or more eggs, the female hunkers down over the eggs, with full contact with her naked brood patch. This starts incubation in earnest.

Because I was away, I don't know when the first egg was laid, or even if a full clutch has appeared. There could be a single egg, or two, or even three eventually. As with the Pale Male nest, there will be little way of knowing until the eaglets hatch. If I get time, I'll watch for egg turning. Sometimes this can reveal the number of eggs.

Another big winter snow storm (Where's global warming?) will hit tonight and tomorrow, with up to 6 inches of new snow. Tomorrow, when the mother eagle awakens, she will have to stand up and shake off a pile of new snow on her back. She'll drop right back down onto the eggs and resume incubation.

I didn't see the male. He's out in the countryside, or up along Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay looking for fish for his mate and himself. Now, with the female sitting, things start to get serious for the pair. A new breeding season has wonderfully begun.

--John Blakeman

Many thanks for the story of high drama, with Great Horned Owls and an intruding female at the Norfolk, Virginia Eagle’s nest from blog reader and Eagle watcher Ellie Miller of Midlothian, plus the link to the Eagle Cam--

Hi Donna,

There has been a very interesting story playing out at the Norfolk Botanical Garden here in VA with their resident eagles. You and Mr. Blakeman may already be aware of it, but just in case you are not, you may want to check out their website at for the latest happenings. Meanwhile, the following will give you snippets of the story so far.

Last year was my first time watching this pair on the eagle cam and, as you can imagine, I immediately became hooked. What a wonderful experience! They had mated the year before (2006), laid three eggs, all hatched and all fledged. Same thing happened last year ~ three eggs laid, all hatched and all fledged. I was very excited about this year’s upcoming breeding season and everything was going smoothly in the beginning and then….

It all began last summer when their nest fell apart and most of it dropped to the ground after the resident eagle chicks fledged. On December 3, 2007 there was a post that the eagles had begun building a new nest a few dozen yards from the first. At this time, biologists felt it probably weighed around 500 pounds. This also meant that all the cameras and wireless internet gear had to be moved to another tree near the new nest. Infrared night vision cameras were installed giving 24/7 viewing which is fantastic.

Jumping ahead to after the mating period, etc. On the evening of February 1, the female eagle laid her first egg between 6:25 and 6:28 pm in their new nest. The eagle leaned over to examine her new egg and at 6:31 a horned owl landed on the edge of the nest. Both the eagle and owl were startled, neither expecting the other to be there. The eagle fixed its wings and the owl immediately flew off. It was believed the owl was using the nest as a perch to hunt and not attacking the eagles. The owls have been nesting at the Botanical Garden for the last few years and have an established nest and were probably not looking to take over the eagles’ nest. The second egg was laid on the evening of February 4. It was thought a third was laid on the night of February 8 but later determined it wasn’t so.

On February 15, a 4th year female eagle intruded at the nest, forcing the resident female to abandon the nest causing the eggs to no longer be viable. There were sightings of the new female and resident male together at the remains of the old nest and the new one. In the meantime, it was felt that the nonviable eggs should be removed from the nest which scientists retrieved on February 19 after permission was granted. Two eggs were retrieved. Reasons given for removing the eggs was to provide information regarding the presence of any environmental contaminants in the eagles’ diets, measure the development of the embryos, and to create an area for the new female to potentially lay eggs, should she mate this season. (The eggs are being analyzed by the VA Institute of Marine Sciences.) Originally, scientists and bird watchers alike believed there would be three eggs recovered, but there were only two in the nest and there were no signs of a fragmented third. At this point, it was felt the original female had been run off and the new female was taking over that position. Apparently, there’s a whole pair bond that has to be developed that was well established between the previous pair and now that that female’s gone, this new female and the resident male would have to form that bond and that it may not be too late in the season for the newly arrived female to lay a new clutch of eggs.

Well, surprise, surprise!!! Guess who came back? Yes, on February 22, it was confirmed that the original female had returned to the nest and both she and the resident male repeatedly returned to the nest throughout the day with sticks and pine needles. The sub-adult female has not been seen over the last few days and the original pair was seen mating on February 23. And so it goes. Be sure to tune into the website for the ongoing saga…..

Oh, just another interesting note. When climbers were retrieving the eggs, two squirrels abandoned “their” den in the underside of the new eagle nest. They were noted on Friday (22nd) collecting eagle down to line their own nest. If the eagles continue to utilize the nest regularly, it’s expected the squirrels activity will decrease.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find this to be as interesting as I have.

Kind regards,
Ellie Miller

Last but not least a question about the possibly missing Tristan, from animal lover, and blog reader Robin concerning the tentative disappearance of the male from The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Red-tail nest


I can't find anything about this story, on any of the other NY Hawks blogs?


The story in question was posted yesterday, Sunday, by James O’Brien, in which he reports Tristan missing and presumed dead. But today Robert Schmunk, , sighted two mature Red-tails sitting on The Cathedral. Rob was able to identify Isolde, the female from that nest, but was not able to confirm that the other Red-tail was Tristan as the second bird was only viewed from the rear. It does give some renewed hope that Tristan hasn’t disappeared for good after all.
(A report from John Blakeman in tomorrow’s post concerning replacement mates in Red-tailed hawks due up tomorrow, Tuesday)

I didn’t know until yesterday that there might be a problem. Many thanks to Rob of Bloomingdale Village (link above) and Bruce Yolton of for their extremely helpful emails with details regarding the events of the last week concerning a downed hawk in Morningside Park spotted by Steve a gentleman from the neighborhood who was walking his dog on Thursday, the 21st and the lack of a sighting of Tristan for five days until the possible sighting of him today, by Rob. Also thank you to Steve who originally reported the downed hawk, Rob, James, Bruce, and the two Urban Park Rangers for searching for him.

Thank you also to Bobby Horvath, the excellent Wildlife Rehabilitator for his telephone call with the details he was aware of concerning the disabled bird , and his help in checking local venues where a downed hawk may have been taken. I too spent the day attempting to find any rehabbers or avian vets that might have received a Red-tail with a bad wing in the last few days. No one I spoke with had.

Therefore I’am hoping that perhaps Tristan had a stunned wing, something that sometimes happens with an impact, which then revived and he is now back in business.

One more thing to keep your fingers crossed about, folks.

Donegal Browne

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