July 8, 2011: Summer has definitely arrived in the Bighorn Basin! Still a good deal of green and some wildflowers in bloom, but things are heating up and drying out. It was 93 degrees F yesterday afternoon when several of us visited one of our successful eagle nests. The single fledgling left the nest more than two weeks ago, at about 54 days of age. She wasn’t quite ready for sustained flight yet, so she stayed in the rocks and sagebrush around the nest for several days before she finally took flight and left the immediate area. In the meantime, both parents continued to bring her freshly-caught prey. Our team began collecting prey remains in and around the nest to determine this family’s nesting food habits in 2011. Next week, I’ll post some photographs of this trip and what we discovered. Nearly all of the nestling eagles in our study area are nearing fledging. We have fewer active nests this year compared with the last two years, and most of our nests have only one chick. However, Golden Eagle Posse members Bud and Dale Schrickling, Richard Brady, and Sharyl McDowell have been monitoring one photogenic nest with two chicks. These two successfully left the nest several days ago.
Here are reports from the Shricklings filed June 23 and July 06 along with one of Dale’s fine photographs:
June 23: “We had probably the most exciting three hours of this year, if not the total three years we have been monitoring nests. Normally during an observation year you are lucky to observe a single prey delivery. This day we witnessed a total of three deliveries within a three hour period. To make it even more fantastic, Dale got pictures of all three. In addition, Richard Chapman showed up a little while later and did the video interview, which was quite fun to do. He really seems to enjoy doing what he does and seems quite professional at performing it. Our No. 1 chick will be fledging within the next ten days. (our estimate). No. 2 seems to be at least a week if not more behind no. 1.”
July 6: “On 27 June we observed a lot of activity from no. 1 that would indicate she was getting ready to fledge. She would hop about the nest flapping her wings and actually rising above the nest a foot or so. No. 2 would just watch. We estimate that no. 1 is approximately 53 – 54 days old, where no. 2 is as much as a week younger. On 04 July we returned after a week of absence to find both chicks gone from the nest. On 05 July we went by the nest for a quick check and to see if there were any of the former chicks in the area. We saw one mature eagle do a nest fly-by, but that was all.”
I was able to visit the nest area yesterday, and observed both new fledglings making good use of shade under a rock outcrop about 100 meters from the nest and one adult watching from the ground nearby—both fledglings looked healthy.
Stay tuned for an update next week!