Saturday, February 23, 2013

Llano Bald Eagles are Fledging

This afternoon, Danielle and I went back to Llano, TX to see the resident bald eagle nest again. She had driven by yesterday evening and seen the eaglets but had not had a good camera with her. The viewing spot is right on the side of Highway 29, east of town.  I am still amazed that this pair of eagles has been nesting so close to the road but it sure is convenient!  We set up a Canon 450D with a 400 mm lens on a tripod to take pictures along with a pair of binoculars for observing. We stayed for about a couple of hours as people came and went.

There were two eaglets at the nest, though at first, we could only see one of them.  It was perched several meters from the nest gazing away from us towards the river, occasionally turning to preening itself.

When a breeze arose, it would stretch its wings and test the lift, hopping around on the branch.  Does not look like it has flown yet but, if not, its getting pretty close to doing so.

We waited about 45 minutes for the return of the parents. The first to return was carrying some nondescript strip of meat in its talons, probably torn from some road-kill. We could see it gliding in from the distance carrying its prize.  The scene reminded me of the eagles carrying Hobbits in Lord of the Rings as I thought "the mama is coming, the mama is coming." I just labelled the first one the mother since I can't tell the sexes apart. The second parent returned about 10 minutes later carrying what I think of as the more "traditional" fish dinner.  Does not look very fresh - the tail fin is rotted off.  Perhaps it was scavenged at the river's edge rather than freshly caught.

Both of the parents and the eaglet in the nest greedily tore into the "surf-n-turf" dinner while the first eaglet remained on its branch apart from the nest, showing no interest in joining its sibling at the dinner table.  It reminded us of a sulking teenager. 

We could not see into the nest to observe whether the eaglet was able to tear off bits of meat itself; presumably it could.  We did see it pulling on a strip of meat that the parent held in its beak, almost like a game of tug-o-war.  That was fun to watch.  

This game seem to extend to the two parents as well, once the eaglet was done eating.

Shortly after settling down, one of the parents flew down to another tree, perhaps readying itself for another round of feed-the-kids.

Bald eagles are a beautiful sight to see, even disregarding their patriotic symbolism.  I am really glad we had the chance to go back while the eaglets were still fledging.

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