Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Another Bald Eagle Nest

This year the number of confirmed Bald Eagle Nests on Long Island has doubled - and lucky for me, there are now three within 15 miles in either direction.  One is located at Wertheim along the Carmans River and is completely inaccessible (the Wildlife Refuge closes access to the creek so kayakers cannot approach).  The nest I have previously photographed and discussed in my last two posts has been protected with the closing of a trail that leads to it, as has the one I photographed today.



Todays nest is located at the William Floyd Estate (which is part of Fire Island National Seashore - the only National Seashore in the State of New York).  At this moment there is no public access to where I photographed the nest from and even when access does become available later in the season I am wary to post specific details as there is also an Osprey nest that will likely be disturbed every time someone goes to visit the Eagles.  It's obviously not a problem if the Ospreys get annoyed a few times - but if there are daily visits with large groups not only does it stress the Osprey - it may cause the Eagles to unnecessarily chase / harass the Osprey.  

Ok, with all of that out of the way - let's get to the fun stuff!  I visited the site today around 11 AM (when it was low tide - allowing me a little closer access to the nest which is still about 500 feet from where i was standing) for work and hung out for a bit.  I saw the "Adult" (more on that in a bit) Eagle lazily go after the Osprey a few times and from the photos it appears that it brought some nesting material back at one point.  After maybe 30 minutes of being there, the "Adult" took over nesting duties and the "Sub-Adult" flew to a nearby perch.  It did a nice fly by (again, lazily going after an Osprey) and eventually headed north up the creek until it was out of site and I was out of time.  The photos of the two birds clearly illustrate why one is an "Adult" and one is a "Sub-Adult" as the one without the white head exhibits plumage seen in birds that are between 3-4 years old.  While Eagles generally don't reach sexual maturity until their 5th year, some do achieve it earlier which appears to be the case with this bird. Below: The first image is the "Adult" the second is the "Sub-Adult"

After work, I headed back down there to take advantage of the evening light.  The previously lone osprey was now joined by its mate - and when I first arrived I saw the Adult BE flying low over the marsh - but quickly lost track of it.  After awhile, one of the osprey headed up the River and the adult BE took off after it... The sun setting in the sky made for beautiful light but it was hard to tell what was going on - at one point I thought I saw something fall from the Osprey's talons, but hadn't seen it catch a fish so I was unsure.  After looking at the images, it's clear to me that the Osprey had indeed caught a fish and the Eagle was trying to steal it, however the fish dropped from the sky (presumably in someone's yard) with the Eagle continuing to go after the Osprey.  

Hard to see, but there's a fish!

Dropped fish falling underneath the Eagle

Watching this was a great experience and a notable difference from what I saw at the other Eagle nest.  When watching the Eagles and Osprey interact there - it appeared that the Osprey were trying to defend their territory and continually antagonize the nesting eagle being the aggressor.  But today, when the Osprey had a fish, the Eagle became the aggressor and tormented the Osprey until the Osprey gave up its catch.  Right after this exchange, the Osprey's mate came down the creek and the two birds landed on their nest - providing me with some awesome photo ops, with the Adult BE sitting on a tree on the other side - keeping an eye on myself and the Osprey.  

As the sun got lower and the day got later, I had to pack up and leave.  I took one last shot of the nest and realized I could actually make out the Sub-adult BE's head which was a nice surprise.  The other nest location is further away and the nest is constructed in a live pine - completely obscuring views of what is going on.  Assuming these birds are successful (which is a big assumption based on the lack of success from other nests on the Island in the past few years) we should be able to have a pretty good view (with binoculars anyway) of the babies as they grow.

If you want to learn more about how to Identify Raptors in the sky - or just learn more about Raptors, check out Jerry Liguori's Book (which features a few of my Gyrfalcon images) Hawk's at a Distance: 

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