Birds · Mammals

The Eagle’s Nest

Whilst seeing the fawn was the highlight of the weekend, it did have a close contender. We had been told about a bald eagle nest on one of the islands in the lake. So when the rain stopped and the sun made an appearance for a couple of hours, we seized the moment and went out in the canoe.   We saw a couple of bald eagles on the mainland opposite the island last year and sure enough we found one in roughly the same spot as last year.

DSC_9717 Bald Eagle

I could learn a thing or two about keeping vigil from this parent. It was watching the nest across the water and us stopping to photograph it did not distract it. They tend to use the same nest year after year and just add more sticks each year. Most nests are about six feet across at the top, which seems very large, but can get very crowded with two young and two adults, especially near fledging age. The wingspan of a fledgling can be six feet or more!

DSC_9720 nest and small bird

It was interesting to see a small bird in the same tree to the right of the nest, closer than I would expect it to be. It seemed almost snack size for a bald eagle, but both seemed unbothered by the other. The nest was very high, at the top of a tree and it was hard to see clearly, but we did get to see an occasional head or wing. We heard there were two eaglets in the nest, but whilst I thought I might have spotted two heads my husband was not convinced.

DSC_9877 Eaglet.jpg

Getting a glimpse of an eaglet was quite thrilling! I would love to see the parent bring food for them, but after my failed vigil earlier in the day we didn’t have the stamina to mount a second vigil. Our hope was that perhaps an early morning canoe trip the following day would be possible, but the weather changed, the wind picked up and the lake was off limits by morning. We were so thankful we took advantage of the good weather when we did. The wind was so strong in the night that the canoe, which we left upside down on the dock, flipped over and was facing up in the morning. Fortunately the wind was in the right direction for us and didn’t flip it into the lake!

Eaglets stay in the nest for 10-12 weeks until they fledge, so hopefully we will get other occasions to see them. I am not sure how old they are right now. It was hard to see detail with our little glimpse, but they certainly were not fluffy little bundles. Eaglet feathers are brown and they start to appear at five weeks old.  They are fully feathered at nine weeks. The colour of the head and tail feathers gradually changes to white over a period of five years; the pure white feathers indicating when they are sexually mature.

My guess is that the eaglet we saw is close to fledging. There is always a parent on duty looking after eaglets and the fact that the parent was not in the nest but close to the nest watching, says that the parent is getting ready for fledging. Even if they fledge soon the parents will continue to feed them for another 6 weeks and they often stay around learning from their parents for 1-2 months, so there is hope that we will see more of them yet.

We got to see some other wildlife on our way back in the canoe. Maybe not as exciting as seeing an eaglet, but it filled me with joy to see them. Seeing loons always lifts my heart and we got to see a group of three together near the bald eagle nest.

DSC_9832 loon

I guess they didn’t like us being so close, but we moved on and left them alone soon enough. We didn’t get to hear them call that much over the weekend. We only heard them a couple of times, but we saw them and know they were around.

Another thrilling sighting was the heron. I find it very hard to photograph the heron because they take off almost as soon as we see them. This one flew to the reeds next to the cottage and we could see it from the distance.

DSC_0081 heron DSC_0089 heron

It was somewhat comical the way it was trying to hide. To begin with it was low, like it was crouching to hide. It them seemed concerned that we had seen it and stood tall, pretending to be a reed amongst reeds.

DSC_0090 heron

Finally, when we were too close, it took flight.

We have noticed an increase in the number of muskrats and saw a couple on our way back.

DSC_0015 Muskrat

I think there might be a nest on the far side of our bay, because we keep seeing them swim back and forth to the same spot.

DSC_0020 Muskrat

Another finding of interest, but not a picture I feel inclined to post, was finding the carcass of a deer on the other side of the bay. My husband would love the antlers, but the smell as we approached was terrible! Maybe in time, if they remain there long enough he can retrieve them, but right now he wasn’t prepared to get any closer than we did. We guess the deer fell through the ice in the winter, although we can’t be sure. I was surprised that we didn’t see turkey vultures picking over it. Maybe they already have and what is left is even too revolting for them to consider!

Given that we were expecting a working weekend and didn’t have plans for any wildlife adventures, I think we were extremely blessed to have had so many thrilling encounters. Our little slice of property continues to bring us such joy and provides such a wonderful tonic to our busy lives. Even with the wind blowing and depriving us of sleep, we still come home refreshed and restored. With all those happy memories, we can’t help but have sweet dreams!

DSC_0110 moon


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