Sunday, March 11, 2012

Brantford Bald Eagles

On a dreary, windy, and rather cool day last Sunday, I took my two oldest boys Andrew and Jordan to see if we could find the Bald Eagles which had been reported to be actively tending a nest on the Grand River in Brantford near Brant Park.  We headed down to two known nest sites with very good information from Bill Lamond from the BrantBirds group.  We found the first nest without too much trouble, but didn't see any evidence of it being occupied.

Bald Eagle nest - the original one
From this nest which is a little southwest of Wilkes Dam, we traveled downriver towards the second nest site to see if there was any activity.  As we walked along the bank, we passed an old Indian dam, the remnants of which are only evident at this time of year by a relatively straight line of agitated water as it tumbles over the rocks placed there years ago to raise the water level.  I've tried to find out online why the Indians built a dam here, but couldn't find anything about it.

We met a gentleman on the path who lives just south of the area, and he pointed us to an eagles a bit down river of us where he had just waked from.  He also pointed out to us the site of the second, newer nest which I understand was built over the winter this year.  He said the newer nest is built in a huge old Sycamore tree, lower down, and much more stable.  It's larger than the old one too, though not very visible from where we were standing.  No one seems to be sure why, but the eagle pair has decided go back to the old nest which they attempted unsuccessfully last year to raise young in.  The old nest is higher up in a more slender tree, and it was swaying significantly in the blustery weather we buffeted by.

Bald Eagle
Not long after we had arrived, the eagle had had enough of this lookout point, stretched out its magnificent wings, lifted off, and turned back to soar up river towards the active nest.

Bald Eagle in flight.

From what I am reading and learning online, I would have to guess this is the female.  When side by side, the female is larger in overall size, and in wingspan.  But apart, and if close enough to tell, the clearest ways to tell are:
  1. Eye shadow and eye brows: The female has a very pronounced eye brow and around the eye it looks like she is wearing eye shadow.
  2. Mandible end point: the female's mandible ends at or almost behind the eye where male's is closer to before the eye.
  3. White head: the male's is almost always brilliant white where the female has some faint streaking in it.
Here is actually a pretty good link for a short video where they go through the visible differences.

We followed the flight back to the nest site, and got to see the two eagles on the nest together.  If I'm correct that we had seen the female earlier, she relieved the male of egg sitting duties.  A post on BrantBirds says that at least one egg was laid on Feb 29th which would mean that about April 4th (35 days) the egg would hatch.  Its unknown how many there are, but it would seem there are eggs with obvious duty switches and persistent nest watch being taken seriously.

Male Bald Eagle leaves female (just visible) a turn on the nest.

I returned for a second visit today again and saw both the eagles.  I didn't get many pictures but will post a short description with photographic evidence soon.  Even though I didn't get many good pictures, it was a beautiful day standing in short sleeves, enjoying the warm sun!

After just getting lost part replaced by my machinist brother, I left my tripod there - I had lost track of time and had to rush to get home and back to church!  But I'm grateful to Sue, who I met and spent the afternoon watching the eagles with, for taking it home with her till we can cross paths in the near future so I can get it back!  Thanks Sue!

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