Eagle Nest

We surveyed the damage with a dropping of spirits. The tornado had ripped through the stand of woods destroying most of the larger trees in its path. They lay like beaten giants, broken in every direction, exposing their naked inner wood. I looked for the eagle's nest in the area I believed it had been, although it was difficult to tell where that was now. Everything looked different and I was not sure where to begin our search. I looked at my colleague and, together, we considered the jumble of tree tops, lying in the water, below the dike where we stood. We put on our chest waders and walked along the dike searching for an area where we could enter the swampy woods to look for downed young. There had been three fledglings in the nest last week. The two adults had been seen repeatedly, flying over the wetlands, searching for food to feed their young. There was a hope that the fledglings, so close to leaving the nest, might have survived. Injured, they could be lying somewhere in the tangle of wood below us. We had come prepared to rescue injured birds and take them quickly to a rehabilitator. We walked down the dike and skirted a fallen tree but there were many more fallen trees ahead. The nest should have been close by, but we could not see it. The wind was blowing and the already weakened trees that were still standing were creaking in protest to the continued harassment. We concentrated on scanning the debris while trying to listen above the noise. We might pass within a foot or two of the nest or injured birds and miss them completely. It was a bad situation. We clung to our hope that if the adults were alive they would not quickly abandon the area. If young fledglings had survived the adults might try to reach them. We continued to search for an area to enter the water safely, hoping we could find the birds quickly. As if in answer to our thoughts, an immature eagle abruptly flew up from an obscured limb and hastily beat a retreat from us. It called repeatedly and, circling to the east, flew low among the broken trees. We quickly lost sight of it, but our hopes soared with the bird. If one immature eagle had survived, then maybe the others had, too! Within a few moments, an adult bald eagle flew low over us following the eastward path of the immature.

The trees creaked around us and the wind was growing stronger. With renewed optimism, we continued our search. We climbed in and out of trees and tentatively stepped into the dark water. Our optimism had begun to wane when, suddenly, the other two immature eagles were frightened by our approach and flew to a branch in a nearby undamaged tree. They settled clumsily on the limb and watched us warily. There would be no rescue of injured birds today! The three fledglings, uncommon in any eagle family, had all survived! Satisfied with our good fortune and the good fortune of the eagles, we took our departure as quickly as we could. Our presence was causing quite a bit of stress just by being so near and it was evident these birds needed space and peace. It would take time for them to adjust to their modified living conditions and recover from the stress caused by the changes.

We climbed back around the jumble of branches and walked the distance to the truck where we removed our waders. I turned the truck around and we spotted the two adult eagles on a snag at the edge of the woodlands. What a magnificent sight! We had hoped for a single survivor but had found the entire family! Next year, the adults will have to build a new nest from scratch. The huge nest they had built and added to each year, for the past 5 years, was gone. They would have their work cut out for them, but they would succeed. And of course, we will be watching!

Website Builder