Apr 082014
 

NOTE: This post is part of a continuing series of observations: [ First | << Prev | Next >> ]

I could tell right away that something was wrong when I arrived to photograph the eagle nest this week. A lone adult sat atop the transmission tower clearly agitated and vocalizing loudly. But it was not immediately clear what the cause of her distress was.

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Soon the male came into view, flying in from the north at high speed and calling out vociferously as he approached. He joined his mate at the top of the transmission tower where the two birds remained restless. Changing position frequently, the eagles shuttled between the two adjacent towers and continued voicing their displeasure. Meanwhile, in the nest below, the two eaglets were hunkered down and hidden from view—surely in response to their parents unsettling behavior.

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After some time, the two flustered adults took to the air and began circling the nest tower at low altitude, vocalizing all the while. Because I could not see what was causing the eagle’s distress I tried to rationalize away their odd behavior. It was a beautiful, cool and sunny day with a strong wind blowing in from the north. Perhaps the eagles were just taking advantage of these conditions and were enjoying flying together.

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It was not a very convincing argument, and I was soon forced to abandoned it. After just a brief absence, one of the adult eagles returned with a large fish clasped in her talons. The eagle clearly felt that her eaglets were hungry and needed to be fed, but she would not land at the nest.

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Over the next hour and a half the two adult eagles circled overhead. All during this time the female remained burdened with the heavy fish she was carrying. She made repeated attempts to approach the nest and land, but each time she aborted at the last second. For some reason she just did not feel comfortable landing to feed her young. Eventually, the pair gave up and flew away.

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With the adult eagles gone and the juveniles hunkered down and out of sight, the cause of the bird’s agitation finally revealed itself, as a person came walking over the distant rise. This person had been stationed near the base of the nest tower taking pictures, and it was her presence that had been upsetting the eagles for at least two hours straight.

This might be a good time to offer a few gentle reminders, as it was very disappointing to see these kinds of liberties being taken with both the eagle’s well-being and with other people’s private property.

The best place for the general public to view the eagles is from the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. They are open to the public on the first and third Saturday of each month. Appointments can be made to visit on other days. The nice folks at John Bunker Sands will be more than happy to direct you to the best location for viewing the eagles. As added bonus, you will likely see many other forms of interesting wetland wildlife along the way!

The response to the eagle viewing experience at John Bunker Sands has been overwhelmingly positive. But, at several hundred yards, the distances involved are great. Expectations will need to be tempered. The distance from the nest to the viewing area was established with the well-being of the eagles in mind and based on guidelines published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I’ve provided a link to that document here and it probably a good idea to review it before visiting the eagles. As you can see from the story I related above, the eagles are very sensitive to undue intrusion. This is likely the only active Bald Eagle nest in this part of North Texas and it needs to be treated like the rare treasure that it is.

Private property should be respected at all times when viewing the eagles. If you would like to observe the eagles from private property, please make the appropriate arrangements with the land owner. No one will believe you if you claim you did not know it was not permissible to jump a fence or crawl under a gate.

It always amazes me when I encounter a grown adult who will offer ignorance of common sense as an excuse for taking unwarranted liberties with wildlife and private property. Once at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Bird Sanctuary I came across a fellow who had ignored the No Trespassing signs and had stationed himself well inside the permissible boundaries. Further he was throwing rocks at various bird to encourage them to strike appealing poses for his camera.

When challenged about his behavior he pleaded ignorance and actually asked for help understanding how the No Trespassing signs worked. “Yes,” I explained to him, “if you can see the words ‘No Trespassing’ you are probably ok. If you can only see the back of the sign then you are probably in violation.”

I have also witnessed people pulling over to the side of the road in order to observe the eagles. This too is probably not a good idea, as there are few places along the way that will accommodate a parked car. People have been parking with their cars half on the road and half on the grass. This is likely a recipe for a terrible accident, not to mention the fact that the viewing distance from the road is much further still that that provided by the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center.

There are many things stressing the eagles at the present time. Oncor is constructing new towers and doing work on utility right of way very close to where the eagles are nesting. More and more people are observing the eagles on a regular basis. Homes are under construction nearby. The day to day operations of the ranch lands around the nest continue unabated.

Unnecessary intrusions, when repeated often enough, can stress the eagles to a point where the nest will fail. Oncor has plans to move the nest to a new tower later this summer after the eaglets fledge. They are going to do this because of concerns for the eagle’s safety and to ensure the uninterrupted flow of electricity through these power lines. In order for this effort to succeed the eagles need to be stressed as little as possible so that they continue to feel an attachment to the current nest. If this project fails, for whatever reason, then NO ONE will be able to observe the eagles any longer. We all need to do what we can to insure this endeavor goes as planned.

The Bald Eagles in Seagoville are far too unique and special to take any chances or special liberties with. These eagles belong to all of us. If you love nature and wildlife then the welfare of the animals has to come first. No picture is worth jeopardizing the well-being of the of the eagles at this nest.

Lots of people are feeling very protective if these birds, and rightfully so. I would really hate to see anyone get on their bad side.

POSTSCRIPT
Almost immediately after the person moved away from the base of the tower the two eaglets made their first appearance of the morning. Both young birds are accounted for, but they look hungry if you ask me! I stayed for roughly another 30 minutes or so, but the adult birds did not return to the nest while I was on site.

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NOTE: This post is part of a continuing series of observations: [ First | << Prev | Next >> ]

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