The GREAT DAY Arrives --- Freedom -- Flight -- Fledging!


Victoria Fledges – Wed. AM and returns Thursday!

There is little doubt that the bird that first fledged is Victoria -- the big bully. Little Sidney remained in the nest. Below I have tried to incicate this in as gentle a way as possible as some people, all so passionately involved and following our mutual friends, but some do not read this site and the "read more" for the rest of the story. Also, I wrote it, with slight revision as it happened as I was so constantly interupted and the story kept evolving.

I see no point in arguing over this point -- inspite of it being very important in many ways. The most important item is that we have great chicks before us, one has already fledged and we all hope the second will be equally successful. --- read more --->>

--- continued >>---

HOW THE FLEDGING STORY EVOLVED: (This story is based on MsCharlie being the only person present at the fledging and telling us that she thought it was Sidney who fledged. This of couse, as the story unfolds turns out to be the wrong identification -- a simple mistake. Lets move on. This is simply 'a few' of the elements in the time sequence.

Wednesday July 12 -- 1215 -- I am told of the first flight by Charlie when Richard and I retrun from a lunch.

What joy! Sidney makes his first flight – 300 or so yards to the forest. A new stage of life begins. When I visited the nest area at noon on Wednesday July 12 MsCharlie, of Forum fame, reported that Sidney had made his first flight that morning. Victoria, the first hatched and the big bully remained in the nest. Charlie was beside herself - “I was so honored to have participated in this event”!

Yesterday, to bring together a wrap-up of the eaglets story for the forum followers and her “members” MsCharlie had hired a cameraman and producer (Gordon and Elie) to film a sequence of the fledging for the “Tribute” and fund raiser for eagle research she and the members were preparing for the gang who brought this Eagle CAM to the public. She had asked me to be interviewed and to see if Doug would do the same. We of course agreed -- 'tributes and fundraising' are hard to deny. I accompanied them on the 0600 ferry to Victoria.

This pair of birds, who were selected for this CAM viewing, had been selected from over 400 pairs examined because of their total acceptance of people, industrial noises and the adults general accommodation to human activities along their feeding beaches.

Since the implementation of the camera in early May I visited them on several occasions and I knew them to be totally accepting of people near the nest. While we have previously kept the press and people from this private property as we did not want to risk traffic problems on the narrow curving road as well as do not want them to invade the privacy of the landowners and their business, I was not at all apprehensive of taking the three of them and myself to the nest area for filming. Certainly the eaglets watched us intently as hopefully they will do with other people they encounter in their life. The parents however very soon brought in a fish, I believe a midshipman, to the nest as the crew were filming. A second lesser offering arrived later. The crew stood guard on the ready for the momentous moment – the first flight – and pondered who would be polot in command! Both eaglets stayed nestbound all Tuesday.

We all retired for the night. The next morning, Wednesday, with a light drizzle threatening and because the chicks had been fed the previous day, I though them less likely to actually fledge that day. While projections are fun and based on averages over the years they are but best guesses based on experience, I had thought that since, in my estimation the chicks should have fledged a week earlier, and that it appeared Sidney was getting caught up in development with his big sister, that it could even be him that fledged first. Charlie was the only person present at the first fledge and she confirmed it was Sidney she saw leave. Dr. David Bird, of international raptor fame and McGill University who had come to the sight regarding some joint eagle projects we are working on, offered an interesting observation. Because Sidney had been constantly bullied by Victoria, he had incentive to leave!

MsCharlie, who needless to say was more than a little excited, described witnessing the flight as a ‘highlight of her life’. And indeed for most of us who had heard her report it was a great relief – and an incredible thrill. So many of us, me included at least initially, thought that little Sidney could not effectively compete for food with bullying Victoria. Nature's design is that if food is short that it is given by the parent to the bigger and more demanding - bullying chick to best insure at least one chick survives. The survival of the fittest.

Our nestlings seemed to have two periods of short food supply – one shortage before we started observation which already determined the ‘runt’ status of Sidney from the start. Then miraculously more food arrived and incredibly quickly little Sidney caught up in development. Then again a few weeks later another food shortage brought forward more calls for Sidney’s removal from the nest to save his life. The parents did not seem to be finding enough food in their territory. Then it was suspected that a few extra fish frames and road kills were dumped on the nearby beach where the adults forage. This beach was of course a popular fishing beach and for centuries the native, who occupied the land, had left fish carcasses on the beach for the crows, gulls and eagles. This food was obviously welcomed by the eagles – and their supporters – and we all sighed a great relief. Elsewhere on this site I have dealt at length with the very acceptable and often necessary mitigation efforts by humans required to help return species and habitats back to a healthy state when we humans have destroyed or reduced the carrying capacity of the land. Supplemental feeding of wildlife is a common and acceptable tool and it appears to have possibly assisted here.

Victoria's challenges, and hopefully Sidney's, will quickly change from dependence upon the parents ability to find food to their own ability to locate dinner. After about 5 to 10 days – sometimes longer in the urban areas – the adults will abandon the chicks. After a few more days of calling for dinner and no response, the chicks drift off – largely devoid of any lesson or teacher except instinct. Since the new fledglings have little or no hunting skills they will be almost totally dependent on instinct and observation of other eagles to lead them to food. They readily telescope hunting and intention flights to other eagles so collectively they help each other find a food source. This first dinner might be after a 200 - 300 or even 500 mile flight north. On route they might find a beached fish or seal carcass, may encounter one of the great natural feeding treasures like the schools of hake or herring being churned to the surface in a few of the very fast narrows up the coast or, as programmed into their genes, they arrive at the earliest salmon spawning rivers of S.E. Alaska or northern British Columbia. The one thing that is most certain from watching young eaglets in their first season, they will have no ability to hunt birds. Catching dead spawned out salmon is much easier.

NOTE Thursday July 13, 2006 0655 I just turned on the computer and hear and see a single chick calling. Within a few seconds mother arrives onto the nest with food and the nestling, presumably Victoria, though it sounds more like the short tailed male Sidney to me, but I am slightly sound impaired. ANOTHER NOTE: Thursday 0923: a chick just lands on the nest near the now obviously smaller one already there. Unless the chicks have reversed positions, ie. the little one flies back earlier and the big Victoria has left during the early morning, or some other peculiar variant that I do not understand has transpired, it seems obvious that the big chick flying in is Victoria and the little one Sidney, has not yet fledged.

ANOTHER NOTE: 0932 – receive phone call from a viewer, a Lee Smallwood, that he just produced video confirming that the first bird to leave was Victoria - the presumably larger female chick. This sort of confirms my observations a couple of hours earlier but all of this is easily misinterpreted. ((I apologize never finishing this email but I them at 0940 had to take Dr Bird to the ferry and go to the airport regarding my flight tomorrow to visit the White Spirit Bear Reserve – so I get home 1210 to another call from Lee that the forum is alive with debate on who is who. I now realize I am in the middle of another interesting debate – perhaps more interesting to others than me, but it should be confirmable by evaluation of the high resolution images as to who went first and who just arrived back. In actuality, it does not really matter. A good topic for bebate but my hope is that both survive. As most people around me know I am probably the only person interested in these eagles who has almost never had a chance to watch the screen and certainly I have not had time to follow the Infotec Forum. My home time, meaning when I have not been away on the eagle research, has been totally taken up by answering the personal emails sent to me. I have been absent from Hancock House for 6 months!! – and the staff keep reminding me of this.

ANOTHER big event. The chick's return signifies that they are going to use the nest platform as a feeding platform and the parents are already bringing in food to the nest. This means the viewers will all have a few more days of very exciting observations. Maybe MsCharlie and her photographers will have some fine film to add that will show our family flying in the neighborhood. Lets hope so.

What a great relief. The fledged chick is up and flying. This reassures us it did not have a bad first crash landing and get caught in the underbrush. The first fledgling is well, clearly indicated by her ability to fly back to the nest. We now have to get through Sidney’s first flight!

Undoubtedly, MsCharlie who has stayed at the site will know if the second bird fledges today and returns. Already by this Thursday AM we have learmed that both the chicks and the parents consider the nest the most secure place for landing and feeding. Mother has already brought more food in this AM reconfirming her belief in the nest security. The fledged chick has also returned to the nest platform, also reconfirming this. My point in repeating this is that in the wilderness areas of the west coast of Vancovuer Island etc., once the chicks fledge the adults who have already encouraged fledging by no longer bringing food to the nest generally only provide food on adjacent beaches or favored feeding perches. This is what pulls the chicks out of the nest. In the urban environment the adults are often seen using the nest platform as a feeding platform long before nesting begins and for young and adults to feed on even after fledging. The point is there are obviously fewer ‘secure’ places from their perspective.

In essence, it will be great if the parents continue to use the nest as the feeding platform as this will offer for the viewers a number more days when we can observe our chicks. They will improve their flying skills and then head north. What a great journey and challenges lie before them – I am sure we all wish them well.


At this point, while we still have a number of keen watchers tuned in, I want to say a particular thanks on behalf of our group who has brought you a glimpse of my favorite bird. It was Doug Carrick who had installed the first Hornby Island CAM so he could watch the birds from the safety of his living room. It was Richard Pitt, my IT man of 25 years, who, when I initially phoned him from Dougs house said “ Sure David it’s a snap to send this out to the world over your web site”. (Oh yea??) And it was Infotec, the company with streaming video experience who I later found out hosted my web site through Richard, that got the shock of their life – as did all of us – when, at their suggestion that the router system, the broadcast Telus feeds from Hornby Island to Vancouver and on to the servers in Los Angeles were now tested and functional said: “ OK David now send out the notification to your raptor friends that the live stream is available. “ I did – to all 41,000 email contacts I had – the chaos that followed and drove my life for the next six months is history.

The media, who I and the eagles owe much thanks to, caught the wave and repeatedly told of our site. The number of hits to the site became totally unmanageable – even Microsoft who came to our aid was overwhelmed by the response – which kept doubling hourly and building. Then the great disappointment. The Hornby Island eggs were infertile – and we faced the reality of thousands of school teachers now explaining the harsh lessons of nature. These were of course good lessons but I also wanted to show the wonder of adult bald eagles rearing the marvelous chicks. I reviewed hundreds of my nest sites and those of the WiTS (see site) stewardship program for a nest where we could drive a crane nearby without bothering the birds. The Victoria – Sidney site was the perfect location.

The one most significant word to drive my total energies and the tolerance of Mary my sympathetic partner, was “re-affirmation”. Indeed, for over 50 years I have been attempting to promote conservation and greater public understanding of the world we share through films and books. Nothing I have done got the message out so emphatically. The student projects, the housewife and business executive obsessions with following the hourly or by minute life of these eagles was so rewarding. The thousands of letters of thanks so reaffirming. I thank you all personally The total devotion and concern for “my birds” was of course echoed by you – they were “your kids ” too! You all had your personal names for them. So wonderful.

For next season we are developing plans – not a spontaneous reaction to the daily events. We have so many of you volunteers to assist to develop meaningful workbooks for students, an interpretive book for teachers and of course some summary record of this unique event that you can all share – the tribute offered by MsCharlie and ‘her members’ for our use as a fundraiser for eagle research. We will be archiving the incredible forum records and for reference and I wish to particularly thanks all the Forum participants and particularly Raptorman and SoundGuy – two incredibly devoted people who committed huge parts of their life to “our birds”. Raptorman was an example of how dedicated the viewers were. He did not even have a computer capable of seeing the streaming video – he brought 30 years of falconry and raptor rehab experience to daily respond to questions. And thanks to all who asked questions, made suggestions, voiced concerns – from this we have developed a plan to improve the efficiency and communications at the site, the responses to questions by having on-site biologist and supportive programs for teachers and the public. All from you!

So again
My sincere appreciation. I hope the well wishes for our two kids drives us and them forward.

David Hancock
“Surrogate Dad”
also Eagle Biologist.

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