Friday, April 08, 2011

GREAT AMERICAN BALD EAGLE

As the title goes, this is a story about an American Bald Eagle. Before I tell you the story, lets find out a bit about these raptors in the first place. What's an American Bald Eagle? Its found in North America, has a white head and a National symbol of the United States of America. Its not really bald, just that the white head has given it that name. It is a magnificent Sea Eagle and can live up to 30 years or so in the Wild. In the late 20th Century it was in the endangered species list but they have made a remarkable comeback and now flourishing throughout the contiguous United States, Canada and Alaska.

Now I will begin the story about this particular family of Bald Eagles. A group called the "Raptor Research Project" has positioned a video camera overlooking the nest of an American Bald Eagle family. Recently the mamma bird laid 3 eggs and that live stream was watched by hundreds of thousands of people Worldwide. In the past few days the eggs have hatched and the viewing interest was so great that the website crashed! Here is a link to the hatching event (video recording of hatching also available)and some details related. This post also has live cam feed of the Eagles as they are now.

I'll call Mama Eagle by the name Daisy and Daddy Eagle as Donald or Don for short. Thanks to the Raptor project, we are all able to watch this beautiful family 24X7. Daisy laid 3 eggs and the first chick hatched on April 2nd. The second one hatched the next day and the third chick hatched on the 6th of April and this is the time I started watching the family. If there was anything that got me down or made me tense at work or otherwise, I'd go back to watching the Eagle family. Not only was it therapeutic for me, it was also a source of education, to observe the interaction between Daisy and Don, how they cared for the chicks, their understanding, conversations, taking turns preening and shoring up their nest and so on. Don would fly in now and then bringing a fish to feed Daisy and the 3 chicks, I name them Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Their nest is huge. Its perched upon a tree 80 feet high, is about 5-6 feet wide and about the same dimension in depth. Apparently weighs over a ton! I saw Daisy shore up the nest yesterday with a large branch and the power of her beak was awesome to watch. Daisy and Don aren't new parents. They have been together since winter of 2007/2008 and experts put Daisy's age at that time as 4 years old. They had 2 eaglets in 2008, 3 in 2009 and 3 again in 2010. They have been a successful pair so far and know what they are doing. I have embedded the Live video on this blog for readers to watch. When I posted this, Daisy was curled up on her chicks and was sleeping (night time in Iowa, USA).

I'm looking forward to watching this present lot grow up, earn their wings and take their first flight. It will be an awesome experience, for me as an aviator, this is as good as it gets. We need to strap ourselves into a machine to enjoy what they feel like when flying and they are just born with it. The freedom to fly, the freedom to range and set down anywhere. Perhaps its this freedom, tenacity, intelligence, beauty of this magnificent bird, that emulates the spirit of the United States and has made it their National bird and symbol. Long live Don, Daisy and the Great American Bald Eagles!

Addendum: Yesterday (April 15, 2011) in the U.S., PBS aired a documentary on this Eagle family. Many viewers learned new things about American Eagles in general and this family in particular, thanks to PBS. Just to share a few things more about them, I have added this piece. I believe Daddy Eagle is around 12 years of age and mamma Eagle is 8. This is his second mate, his first wife died in a blizzard a few years ago and she was observed to be a one-eyed Eagle. This happy couple have been successful parents 3 times already. Daddy Eagle took 3 months to build this current nest and recent re-estimation puts it at 1,000 pounds heavy, built on this cottonwood tree. I thought some would like this update.

Update as on 19th/20th April: The live feed cam is encrusted with snow, it has been snowing at the Eagle's lair in Iowa and visibility is completely obscured. Its supposed to be spring now but Iowans have been complaining that winter persists, an unusually long spell this year it seems. Lets wait for better weather and snow melt so that we can observe the family Live again.

Update as on 20th May 2011: The three chicks have grown up, stand on their own feet and walk erect. I have seen them flex their wings and hop around. Very soon they will start "branching" and by mid June they are expected to take off in their first flight. The camera will be switched off in July when the eaglets have started flying out on their own. I will update this space when the branching occurs and subsequently report their first flight when that happens.

Update as on 16th June 2011: The Eaglets have branched. They are now hopping from one branch to the other flapping their wings. This is the final step before they take their first flight. It's been amazing watching them hatch, waddle around their nest like gray colored balls, become large enough to jump around their nest flapping wings and now they have branched. An event many of us Eagleheads were waiting for.
Next update: Their first flight!

Update as on 21st June 2011: E1 (Huey), the first of the Eaglets has fledged. His first flight was spectacular and he/she is making frequent flights out circling the nest, landing on the meadows nearby and on the farmhouse roof top and so on. He is racking up his frequent flyer miles, as someone put it and looked like he had been flying for his entire life. Amazing how they learn by themselves and how they master their element. Now we are awaiting E2 (Dewey)and E3 (Louie) to fledge and it may happen anytime now. E1 took off within 11 weeks of hatching. E2 and E3 came out later and now have been seen taking short hop flights from branch to nest and so on.

LATEST UPDATE: As on 23rd June 2011: ALL the Eaglets have fledged and now flying freely! This has been the most amazing experience for me. From Eggs to flying magnificent kings of the sky. My best wishes to the family for a long and free life.

Last update: 12th July 2011: Eaglets are fine, flying free, being Eagles. The camera has been turned off for the season. Live feed is no longer available below. It will be back on again next season, perhaps sometime next year. Long Live the Eagles.

Live Eagle cam feed:









Online video chat by Ustream

12 comments:

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Indian viewers: Your evening/night time is day time for Daisy's family and you can watch all their activity and chicks antics.

Kamini Dandapani said...

This is fantastic. I have never seen a bald eagle in real life, and I hope I will, someday soon. These are such majestic, beautiful birds.
Kamini.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Kamini. I've kept my eyes on them for a while now. Don brought in a fish by airfreight :) and Daisy is feeding the chicks and cam is focussed on them now as I write this. I'm sure you'll see them one day, they are not too far from you.I've been fortunate to see them up in the Pacific North West.

Team G Square said...

thanks for sharing the link . Their effort has to be appreciated .

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

TGS: Welcome! They are doing great work and there's so much to learn from observation. I try and observe them whenever I have time and into late nights (on my side) and I have observed their behavior, conversations, the frequent maintenance of the nest with new material, feeding and so on. If its so interesting for a layman like me, its loads of material for a researcher for sure. As for their efforts at conservation of the species, hats off to them!

YOSEE said...

What a wonderful idea this livefeed is ! Its a great way to develop interest in wildlife among young people.
Being able to watch the activity of chicks without fear of a guarding parent is a wonderful privilege. Thank you for sharing this.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Yosee: I have spent many hours gazing at the Eagle family and I have learned many things that I didn't know before, not even through watching documentaries. Their close interaction, communication, nest building, grooming, types of food, frequency of feeding, have seen both parents on the nest fiercely guarding the chicks during a night Owl attack, taking turns to keep the chicks warm and so on. They (parents) share workload & responsibilities so well, its amazing to see. I can't wait to see them grow, and look forward to the day when they will first take to the air on their flight. So much to look forward to and so much more we will learn from watching them.

There are two cameras, one is the changing focus, swiveling mount that sometimes they pan around to show the environment around the nest and there is a fixed focus camera mounted a few feet above the nest that takes a constant shot. Both have infra-red imaging system that cannot be detected by the Eagles and cause no harm. Thanks to the Raptor Research Project, we can watch this family 24X7!

I hope many are watching this on my blog or through UStream, this piece hasn't evoked much interest from my usual readers as of now, it seems. We are chatting about what we have observed, on the ustream site as well as on twitter.

Ashwitha said...

nature's own potrait!! beautiful they r!!
Nithya
http:\\www.dewdropsindia.in

rahul said...

its a great experience of seeing an eagle from their egg to the flying time we all experience all the life days of an eagle through your help.
You explain each day so nicely that I feel i am their and watching that beautiful moments.
Thanx for sharing such wonderful moment with us.

rahul
Palarivattom, Kochi Residential Property

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thank you for reading this blog, Rahul. Thanks for posting a comment as well. Just to update some information, the Eagle nest camera is still on and will finally be turned off on 31st July as an extended service. I will try and update more information about these young birds. One of them has been fitted with a small lightweight GPS tracking system and they are working on a website that will show the areas where this young female (second on to be born) will venture out to in future. I will give a link to the tracking map website when it is up and running.

crystaldewdrops said...

Lovely and informative read :) How have you been?? It's been so looong!!

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Been fine thanks Dew! Thanks for being in touch. I've been blogging less as you can see..too many things going on..will keep in touch!