Tonight, I report on San Benito County's longest and most successful nesting pair of BALD EAGLES whose nest was first discovered in 2004. I named them, "Bob and Bernadette" after a local birding couple.
A friend and I visited the nest on March 18th. We found Bernadette steadfastly on the nest, apparently incubating. On March 24th, Bonnie Bedzin and I visited the nest. Bernadette was standing on the edge of the nest and moving about the nest in a manner which made me think the eggs had hatched. Checking my "confirmed" incubation date — the timing was correct — about 35 days on eggs. We couldn't see any chicks, though.
This evening I made a longer nest check. Bernadette was in the nest while Bob was sipping water from a cattle trough. I hung around to see what would happen as the sun was setting. Meadowlarks sang, ravens seemed to be quarreling and coyotes howled in the distant hills. Looking through my scope, I could see YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES flitting around the nest. Magpies will steal eggs and young, even eagles. Bernadette remained firmly planted. Finally, the magpies tired and left. What happened next completely took me by surprise. She stood up, moved to the edge of the nest and began feeding a youngster (or two?). She was holding some sort of prey item down with her foot, while shredding tiny bits and — oops, the top of a dirty white head made a brief appearance! We have confirmed HATCHING! I continued to watch her feeding the eaglet for several minutes. Then, Bob flew to the nest, perching at 1 o'clock about 4 feet above landing with outstretched wings. He pointed his head straight toward the sky much in the manner in which I've seen thousands of penguins do — it is called "ecstatic display." Bernadette then pointed her head skyward, and I thought I heard her soft whistling.
Driving home over the hills I noticed some bold, large and amorous graffiti. A certain place in the road has become a hangout for young locals. Sure enough, two car loads of them were standing on the side of the road near their vehicles. One girl in short jeans was holding a large bouquet of red roses. It was so sweet. So, I said, "awe." They all giggled as I made my way home, checking on three families of burrowing owls, one family of nesting barn owls in an oak tree cavity and a pair of great-horned owls nesting in a eucalyptus tree. Silhouetted in another tree, I could see the red-tailed hawk incubating her eggs. Elsewhere in San Benito County, Bonnie and I saw a male NORTHERN HARRIER performing rolling courtship flight. I found a PRAIRIE FALCON eyrie in the Diablo Mountains very close to where a pair had fledged young in 2004. GOLDEN EAGLES have been frequently sighted, some very close by.
In order to insure the success of these nests, locations will not be revealed. I'll be wringing my hands until everyone fledges. And, in retrospect, I think those magpies could see the carcass in the nest, hoping to snatch a piece for themselves.
Any day an eagle hatches calls for a little ecstatic display! Love is in the air.
Life is Good,
San Benito County Birding