07.11.21: Watching the nest

A Bald Eagle watches its nest in Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

A Bald Eagle watches its nest in Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Bald Eagles pick a home with plenty of parking

I’m assuming the eagles built their nest before traffic picked up at the wildlife area, so they were probably surprised when thousands of cars filled the parking lot in early May as people arrived to see the migrating warblers that fill the area each spring.

I see Bald Eagles more frequently today than in years past, especially when I’m doing photography in Northern Ohio along Lake Erie or when we are at our winter home in Florida. 

Part of the reason is that both areas have plenty of water, the type of terrain preferred by eagles. 

But Bald Eagles are also more plentiful now than a few decades ago. For many decades the species was listed as endangered, with many experts concerned that the Bald Eagle faced extinction because of the effect of DDT on breeding and the loss of nesting habitat. Conservation efforts helped the eagle population increase, but for years it was still listed as threatened.  The population has reached the point that the Bald Eagle was delisted in 2007.

Just because I’m seeing more eagles doesn’t meant I’m photographing more eagles. Often I see them when I don’t have my camera, like the time a few months ago when I saw an eagle perched atop a tree about 40 feet from me while I was walking to our tennis courts in Florida. I took a picture with my iPhone, but at that distance the phone photo showed more tree than eagle.

And I’ve known where some Bald Eagles have built nests, but those locations are so remote that they are difficult to reach for photography. And often  access to those areas is prohibited to prevent people from disturbing the nesting birds.

But the eagle in the photo was much more accommodating. It built its nest right above the parking lot at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in Oak Harbor, Ohio, along the southern edge of Lake Erie.

I’m assuming the eagles built their nest before traffic picked up at the wildlife area, so they were probably surprised when thousands of cars filled the parking lot in early May as people arrived to see the migrating warblers that fill the area each spring.

But it didn’t seem to disturb the birds. While I was watching, the female Bald Eagle flew off as the male arrived with some food for their chick. Then the male assumed the “overwatch” position on the limb as the female hunted for food. This photo shows the male on the limb. Male Bald Eagles are about 25 percent smaller than females.

I like how both the adult eagle and the chick have the familiar eagle profile pose as they look out over the water — and the parking lot.

This eagle chick was probably about eight weeks old. That’s the time when eaglets gain enough strength to flap their wings and lift from the nest, something this eaglet was doing occasionally. They fledge shortly after that age, although they remain close to the nest and are attended to by their parents until they are about 20 weeks old.

It’s likely this eaglet will return to the same area when it reaches breeding age. Adult eagles often return to the area where they were born to breed.  But maybe this eaglet will remember the traffic in the parking lot and select a quieter nesting spot a mile or so away.



Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 16, 2019 8:43 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM 
  • Focal length: 600mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1250 second
  • ISO: 400

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