Sunday, February 16, 2014

Final View of Llano Eagles

Today is likely our final observation of the Llano Bald Eagle nest for the 2014 season. We tried yesterday afternoon as well but wanted to try again with less back-lighting. We did get this cute image of the chicks looking up at one of the adults.

Trying for better lighting, we decided to catch the "golden hour" at dawn, a real challenge for us. We got up at 5:30 and made it to the nest site by 7:00.  Unfortunately, the nice forecast did not hold out and we had very overcast skies and still no front lighting. We were the second group on site and, by 8:00, there were a dozen birders watching the antics of the chicks. In the photo below, I am in the red jacket. The nest is out of view to the left.

The aerial map below shows our observing position and my best guess of the nest location which is about 80 feet away. The map shows how the eagles have convenient access to the Llano River for fishing and scavenging, a fact not evident from the road.

Here are the chicks. Wow, they have grown since our last visit. They have a full set of primary and secondary feathers and appear ready to fledge in a few weeks. Our understanding is that the chicks were born around Dec 18, 2013 making them about 9 weeks old now. We watched them execute some vigorous wing flapping and one actually ventured a few moments of hang time, letting go of its branch.

Having gotten to the site so early, we were able to see a few rounds of the parents flying in and out of the nest. On one pass, they brought a small fish and the chicks pounced on the meal.

Interestingly, on the rest of the deliveries the parents only brought sticks and twigs, much to the chagrin of the chicks. I wonder why they did this? I can understand holding back on food to encourage the chicks to fledge, but why bother with the extra building material?

The YouTube video below is a composite of three segments we filmed corresponding to the scenes above. We removed the sound since it is mostly noises of cars passing behind us and shutters going off everywhere.

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