A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Eagle has Landed!

   What an unbelievable sight. When you see a bald eagle sitting on the nest, it's hard to look away. A friend told me about an active nest at Indian Pass, about 20 miles east of St. George Island, and I couldn't wait to go see it.
A beautiful sight
"Chow time"
   The Bald Eagle, or Sea Eagle, as it's also known, has been our national emblem since 1782. But it's survival has been shaky. Because of the dwindling numbers, in 1940, the Bald Eagle Protection Act was introduced in order to make people aware of the decline of this magnificent bird. The numbers increased, but with the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, they were still dying in large numbers. The DDT would cause the egg shells to be so thin, they'd get crushed during the incubation period. And the ones that didn't get crushed, did not survive. Hence, in 1967, the bald eagle was declared endangered. 
   The Endangered Act was created in 1973, coincidentally, the same year DDT was officially outlawed. And on July 4th, 1976, it became official. The bald eagle was put on the endangered list in 43 states. Since then, the numbers have increased significantly.  In 1995, it was upgraded to threatened, and in 2007, it was taken off of every endangered list.
Job well done
     Eagles like to nest at about 75 feet up, and I have no doubt, this nest was at least 75 feet in the air. The male and the female both contribute in building the nest. Then, when the construction is finished, the male will add sprigs of conifer branches. No one's sure what the conifers are for, but it's speculated, they might be to deodorize the nest, or to shade the chicks after they're born.   
     When I first saw this nest, it took my breath away. The sheer size of it was unbelievable. Eagles will use the same nest for up to 5 years, adding on to it every year. Some nests can get up to nine feet in diameter and weigh up to 2 tons. The largest nest found in Florida is 10 feet wide and 20 feet deep. With eggs the size of goose eggs, they need a big nest. The only bird of prey that's larger than the eagle, is the California Condor. 
   Usually, the eagle will lay 1 to 3 eggs, days apart. And she'll lay her eggs anywhere from 5 to 10 days after copulation. During incubation, there's a parent on the nest 98% of the time. Then, in about 35 days, the chicks will hatch in the order they were laid.
"Hello world"
   In about two weeks, when the chicks can lift their heads to eat, they'll gain 1 pound every four to five days. The father brings most of the food back to the nest. With the chicks growing as fast as they do, it's a full time job.  At 6 weeks, the chicks will be as large as the parents. And at 10 to 13 weeks after hatching, the chicks will take flight.
   Unfortunately, 40% of them don't survive that first flight. And up to 1/2 will die in their first winter, due to poor hunting skills. But, if a young eagle can survive these early obstacles, they can live up to 30 years, in the wild.
A juvenile bald eagle. Their heads won't be completely white until they're 5 yrs. old
   Some pairs don't breed every year, depending on the weather, food, and the availability of nesting sights. This year, at least six breeding pairs, came to
Franklin County, to nest. That includes St. George Island. to Eagles are believed to nest for life, and will choose another mate only when one dies. So, some of these pairs were returning to existing nests.
Surveying his kingdom
   We're so fortunate to be able to see these birds everyday. And I can only hope that this area will  remain eco friendly, so they'll return to nest, year after year.



No comments:

Post a Comment