MY HEART CARTWHEELS
Just about thirty days ago I arrived home from three months in the Southern Hemisphere. First thing I did was head to the BALD EAGLE NEST to check up on "Bob & Bernadette," as I named this pair. B & B were the first pair of Bald Eagles to nest in San Benito County, beginning in 2004. In the dimming evening light, I struggled to "see" the nest. Much had changed since my departure last October. Hillsides were green instead of brown, for one thing! However, I could not find the nest — and, the horror finally struck me — the 11 year old nest had become too heavy and the branches finally gave way! Last year, we estimated that the nest was 18 to 20 feet across and probably 10 feet deep. Each year, I've watched as B & B rebuilt the nest. They begin doing this in late October. So, when I left the country, all was well with the nest fully completed for (hopefully) another successful season.
Bob and Bernadette are considered an "advanced" couple — tending the same nest for nearly 8 months of the year, every year steadily for 11 years. They lay eggs earlier than most Bald Eagles, even at this latitude. Consequently, the young hatch earlier. I
n all years, save one, they have managed to fledge not one, but two young. To date, they have successfully raised some twenty Bald Eaglets! This, in spite of the persistent drought. One reason for their great success is that they primarily rely on ground squirrels for food. (I confirmed this by watching for many hours). They do not rely on waterfowl, nor fish.
The nest is on private property and the owners are well aware of it. A handful birders and locals know about the nest and have been extremely guarded about revealing the location. I cannot thank everyone enough for this. Some Bald Eagles are greatly disturbed by people and abandoned their nest. A big part of B & B's success depends on you, too. You know who you are.
For nearly three weeks, I've had a case of "empty nest" syndrome, missing them more than I thought possible. They were such a regular part of my life. I would see a Bald Eagle, and think that is was "Bob" or "Bernadette" — and, I was pretty sure. Like longing for a lost love, I'd drive through their valley home. Once I saw Bob sitting in a large tree, clutching a dead ground squirrel for half an hour. This raised my curiosity. Was he bringing food to Bernadette? There was no doubt in my mind that they would carry on, building a new nest, either this year, or next. However, the decades' long nest was so convenient for watching and such a part of my life.
Last night I made the drive once again, hoping against hope. I was elated to see BERNADETTE ON A NEW NEST! My heart did cartwheels! The new nest is just about in the same tree, but is only about one fifth the size of the old, crashed nest. There is another nest in the tree. Perhaps, they built it first. From what I could tell, she appeared to be sitting on egg(s). She looked as though her head was tucked in and she was sleeping. I'm crossing my fingers on this and will return to check on things — practically, daily. (Okay, I get obsessed with them). My notes say that they were incubating on 20 February in 2013. So, timing is right. Stay tuned —
Many, many thanks to all who guard this nest!