hello old friend

We moved to Bickley’s Pond in 2008, and one of the great joys we discovered here was an Eagle’s nest just across the tiny cove from our back yard. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get the chance to watch such fascinating activity from my screen porch; our house is built on a lot that slopes toward the water, so we have a pretty good “bird’s eye view” from the main level of our house. We raised three broods there, those eagles and I, something I was thrilled to share here on The Daily Grace. (You can follow much of the story via the links below.)

And then the giant pine in which they’d built their nest died, and the branches became frail, and the nest began to crumble. I think I’d have cried the day I watched as the entire thing fell 100 feet to the ground—except that a major contributor was the fact there were three giant eaglets fighting over food in the nest at the time. How I delighted in watching those babies grow.

With the nest gone, the eagles built farther back in the woods. My friend Jay (an expert) took Tim and me on a hike to visit the eagles one Sunday afternoon. My heart warmed to find them at home and, seemingly, very comfortable there.

All of this is to say there hasn’t been much eagle activity in my life of late. In fact, I don’t think I’d seen either of them all summer. And then two days ago, I happened to catch sight as one or the other cut a flight path right through our yard, no doubt headed to Lake Murray or the tree in Matt’s yard with the natural perch they love.

And then yesterday, just as I passed by the big window over my kitchen sink, I saw the eagle again, just above the pond. I watched as he swooped down and back, and then landed in a tree just at the edge of the water, right on our side of the fence. I ran for the camera and crept down the side yard hoping for a quick up-close shot. He spotted me and those giant wings lifted off. My heart sunk a little as I click click clicked, hoping to get something worth sharing. And then to my delight he landed on a branch just across the water.

Hello old friend I said out loud as I raised the camera to my eye. It’s mighty good to see you again.

8.21.14, on Bickley's Pond
8.21.14, on Bickley’s Pond

Follow much of the Eagle Saga here:

Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.

Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.

Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.

Part IV: Spring 2012 Three years pass.

Part V: The Eagle Nest Falls

Part VI: Reversal of Fortune

Part VII: Finding the new eagle nest

 

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Eagle Proof: Hello Fall

I’m thinking they’ve summered in the Hamptons is what I thought just yesterday as I considered the Bickely’s Pond eagles, that devoted pair who’ve shared the thrill of their rearing of three broods (six babies) with us. Sightings have been rare since that night Dad was here, a gift of nature for which I am still grateful.

And then this morning, from the corner of the kitchen window, I caught a glimpse of that familiar white tail crossing the sky above Bickley’s Pond. In the Eagle’s talons was a gigantic branch, a sure sign nesting season is upon us.

My heart skipped a beat. Since the tree that held their gigantic nest fell—the one here in full view, just at the edge of the pond—the Eagle couple has been homekeeping deep in the woods, just beyond our neighborhood. (Do you remember the trek Jay, Tim and I took to find them last Spring? Thrilling!)

Not 30 minutes later, out of my bathroom window, another sighting of the Eagle, this time in the air above the Cope’s pool.

And then the flight back.

It’s enough to cause me to pronounce that as of this very moment, Summer is making way for Fall. I can feel it (and see it) in the air.

building time, circa 2011

Gigantic News

What    is    that   ?  I asked my husband as we rounded the bend at the end of our road, the one capped by the Coles’ pretty craftsman house. We were deep in conversation regarding a very important topic: the process for seriously-this-time cleaning out my burgeoning closet. I was intensely processing his suggested process when I became distracted by a screech screech screech in the background, a carrying-on that insisted on being noticed.

What bird is making that noise? I asked.

It’s the eagles, he said, and we both looked up.

Sure enough, there they were, there in that magnificent White Oak.  Eagle one. Eagle two.

Eagle three.

What????

Eagle three!

I needed a better view fast, so Tim and Little Bit held back and I headed left around the side of the house. Past the snowball bush, past the cutting garden, past the corner of the house and BAM. There she (he?) was.

Well, well, well. We have a Spring baby after all.

 

Mama and Daddy both kept a close eye on me, barking instructions to this young fledgling who had most certainly landed in the big White Oak on a maiden voyage, one of her very first flights. She looked as confounded as you might expect, this baby, so I decided to relieve some tension. I circled around to the other side of the house. Big Daddy (okay, I really don’t know which is which so just go with me here) had had enough of me and took off for the nest, lunch in hand.

That’s when the real commotion commenced. Mama took to squirming and squealing like nobody’s business.

 

Finally, the baby got up her nerve and launched into the air. (She and I were both relieved to find she really could fly.) And still Mama squirmed.

Have you ever seen an eagle in THAT position?

She was no doubt worried, this Mama, wondering if her little girl knew how to navigate, how to land, this sweet baby so recently hatched and so fast out in the big world.

(Don’t you know? Haven’t you been there?)

Then in short order, Mama too, was gone, off for the nest.

___________________________

Nothing could thrill me more, may I just say? After the excitement of the record three babies last year, then the collapse of the nest, then the sightings of both parent eagles together (a sure sign no one is watching eggs or hatchlings), and the search for their new home back there in the woods—I had completely given up any hope of babies.

How lucky I am to live here on this pond.

How happy I am Spring has come.

And then the Eagle Nest Falls

I’ve heard the other nest fell as well, said my neighbor, Stephanie, and I could scarcely believe my ears.

You probably know I’m talking about the giant eagle nests in our neighborhood. One is (ahem, was) in tall pine just across a tiny cove from our yard. The other, located deeper in the woods, had served as the Spring home sweet home for our Eagle couple and their three gigantic babies.

But perhaps I should back up so you get the whole of the story.

This is our eagle nest, circa 2008:

This is the Eagle nest today.

How on earth, you might be wondering, could that happen?

That old, tall pine had some brittle bones that simply couldn’t take the toll of time and weather. And then those babies came along in March, and—Good Lord—things would never be the same. Leaving the healthier “home” nest, the family of five came out of the woods for some afternoon fun. Mama decided the old nest—aka our nest—was the perfect spot for a little afternoon feeding.

Those babies took to fighting over that food like nobody’s business, and before you knew it, half of the nest just fell right to the ground.

(Neveryoumind those babies hardly seemed to notice, screaming and clawing for that daily fish catch like they were starving to death.)

And there went the rest of the nest.

I've taken to calling him Hording Harry. Don't think he ever learned "share."

I saw that nest fall, and I grieved. With it gone, I feared the Eagles would soon be gone, as well.

 But oh, no. That is not what happened.

Eagle Surprise: Part 4

Recap. Shall we?

Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.

Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.

Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.

Part IV: Spring 2012

Three years pass. Those babies have moved on and wherever they are, must be nearly ready to start families of their own (at age four, the experts say). The parents are here, infrequently fishing these waters because they, too, have moved on to a new nest deeper in the woods. No wonder. The lanky pine that holds their old home place has declined significantly: its nest-shading mantel is gone; most of the remaining branches are broken or missing.

Still we keep an eye on that nest as if expecting them to return to it any minute. They do appear from time to time and it sets our hearts to racing. First the shadow, then the whoop whoop whoop of giant wings through air, then that unmistakable crown of white feathers.

A glorious sight it is.

But these are only quick glimpses, pass-through flights of one eagle or the other.

Spring arrives, 2012. Our hearts race again at a quick flurry of nest-repair activity in our tree. But they don’t take up residence and are gone again, no chance for a new brood within our sight, we know.

A few weeks pass.

And I’m standing at the kitchen window, looking out at the new green in our trees, our lawn, our little garden, when I look across the pond to see both Eagles sitting side by side, on the very edge of a branch.

There they are, I said, together. There can’t be eggs if they are both away from the nest. It’s been three years, I think. That’s really too bad. 

But at least my Eagles are here, waiting patiently for me to come on out to the water’s edge, to get reacquainted. Snap, snap, snap goes my camera. And then I see a shape in a tree just beyond my focus.

Is that? Could it be? How on earth?

It is. A big, dark baby eagle, clearly out on an early voyage from that deep woods nest.

And then I hear another sound, just there, to the right. A little farther back. The dark mass of another baby.

I run for the house, and Tim. He gets in the canoe and heads in their direction, wanting a closer view.

The baby eagles notice but don’t budge, too afraid of flight at this early age. And then a parent flies toward the abandoned nest—our nest—with a fresh fish catch. And lickety split they are there, Mama and her two babies, feeding time. Giddy, giddy, giddy I am.

 

Could there still be more to this fantastic story?

Oh yes, and this time I won’t leave you hanging:

You got it. Before long we discover there is Baby Number Three!

It has been a very fun couple of weeks, with our back yard as the playground of three baby eagles. Up to something all the time, they are. In fact, they fussed so much over a fresh catch dropped in that nest by their mother (or father?) the entire nest fell apart and to the ground!

But THAT is another story, for another day.

The Story of the Eagles, Part II: 2009

One of them is always in the nest, we noticed, early in the Spring of 2009. That must mean there are eggs, don’t you think?

How many times did we say that to each other that first year? (We who were such novices to the nesting pattern of Eagles.)

And then she would hop from the nest and onto a supporting branch, out to the very, very end, where she would stretch to get very best view around the dog-leg of our lake. And she would commence to squawking, screeching with such ferocity that eventually he would appear, flying low but in no real hurry, and she would lift off at the sight of him and leave that nest unattended. Leaving him no choice but to do his part.

Eventually we spotted the fuzz of a baby eaglet head just above the rim of the nest. We rejoiced, feeling as if our concern had somehow helped this family along, had helped bring this miraculous baby into the world.

And then there were two. Two baby eaglets in the nest.

We spent many weeks that Spring with our eyes trained on that pine, watching every move. The parents fished and fed the babies, then fished and fed them again. Those eaglets ate and ate and ate, growing larger—fast. Within six or seven weeks they had become fully grown, equal in size to their parents (bigger? maybe?) and were inching farther and farther out on edges of the branches. Any day now, one was going to fly.

It was a thought that filled us with both excitement and fear—somewhere I’d read that 40 percent of baby eagles don’t survive their first flight. And that one eaglet—no doubt the older brother—was such a daredevil! Always doing things that caused his sister (?), typically tucked safely down in the nest, to fret. Still she couldn’t take her eyes off him.

Nor could we.

And so we watched, and waited.

Announcing the Birth (at least we supposed, since the timing was right.)

 

baby eaglets in the nest
proud parent
feeding time
growing up fast
ready for flight

 

About the Eagle Nest (a story in parts)

I think I shall start here.

This was the scene just beyond our back yard when I got home from work tonight. My heart dropped at the sight of our majestic eagle nest and its slow but sure demise; since Sunday morning we have watched it fall—clump by clump—from a perch high above Bickley’s Pond, just across the tiny cove from our back yard.

That nest and the goings-on in and around it have been a source of endless fascination since we moved into our house five years ago. (Okay, dear friends, I hear you. It has been an obsession for some in our home—namely, me.) But wouldn’t you be mesmerized by the drama of a bald eagle family just outside your back door?

Just three years ago this was the glorious site:

Mom, Dad, and two eaglets we loved so much they felt to be our own. How many hours did Tim and I spend watching the nest, worrying over that family? Were there eggs? Would the babies survive? Were they getting enough food? Would they ever fly?

They did, of course, and in no time those babies were grown and gone.

The nest began to show some age, as did the tall pine that housed it. But from time to time that eagle couple would do a little remodeling, crossing our sky with talons of twigs and branches to repair it.

homekeeping

They also built two additional nests at the back of our neighborhood, deeper in the woods. Since the eagles still came to fish the lake, we saw them regularly and hoped against hope for another nesting season within our view.

That didn’t happen, exactly. Still, Springtime 2012 rolled around and rewarded us with something else—something wonderful, and surprising.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

bold and beautiful in healthier tree times