Eagle Birth in the Taxi ----
Friday, April 16 2010 @ 03:10 AM EDT
Contributed by: davidh
Bald Eagle gives up trying to nest on a BC Hydro Pole and lays eggs on ground.
When I told my wife about the call from Bev at OWL that our Delta Nest Pair #86.5 -- better known to you all as Delta 1 -- had layed her eggs this year on the ground and she asked if I would incubate the remaining egg in one of our incubators. Well of course I said yes. However Mary's comment was: "That's like having a baby in the taxi on the way to the hospital". And she is ....see more ..
---- .... cont. .... probably right. I suspect Ma, who had been seen many times in the last three years trying to lodge the all important 'first few long branches' across the steel girders of the Hydro 140 foot towers, probably got herself into the age old problem -- a developing enbryo in the oviduct -- and no place to call home. Well it was probably not quite like running to the hospital at the last minute but with an egg coming down the shoot and no nest ready, perhaps laying the egg on the ground was the only last minute option.
Certainly the pair had constructed a small nest surrounding the egg beside the farm road but perhaps much of the materials were brought in after the eggs were laid. Apparently two eggs were in the clutch. One was already reduced to broken shells. The other egg was quickly grabbed by Ralph, of Bev and Ralph fame. I then immediately stuffed it under my shirt next to my 'warm' tummy. Then it was a quick ride home in an already very warm van and the egg was placed between two sandhill crane eggs and a Canada goose egg -- in the incubator. All good company.
Now just after 9PM with darkness set in I went to inspect and candle the egg. Candling is the process of shining a bright light into an egg to see if developing veins or a moving embryo can be seen. No apparent cracks were evident on the shell and there were no signs of an external pip. Hatching would be at least 5 days away.
The strong 'candler light' was directed into the large end of the egg. Big disappointment. The egg was well incubated -- probably 20 to 25 days at least. Its opacity indicated it had been fertile and that incubation was well underway. The disappointment was the presence of blotches and some almost 'fluid material' rolling as I turned the shell. This was not the look of a vibrant developing egg but the view of something that tried and failed and was in a stage of decay. This egg had had a hard life.
I double checked the goose egg and you could readily see the pulsating heart and developing veins -- a vibrant embryo growing before my eyes.
This was indeed sadness. Our Delta 1 pair have had five incredible years under my watch -- and two years by our cam viewers. They started out in their territory 5 years ago amidst considerable neighborhood scrambles. They came into an occupied territory and staked their claim. This pair I believe came into our area, and probably into maturity in this site, in the winter of 2005. By the spring of 2006 they had been attacked many times by the territory holders who were now nesting on a Hydro pole (our Nest #86) to the south about 1/2 mile, next to the railroad tracks. This new pair built a nest in another tree at the corner of 36th Ave and 72nd Street but heavy construction work on a very large house was going on in the adjacent property literally feet away.
The adults would work on the nest construction on weekends but due to the heavy worker presence on weekdays they would retreat to the next trees one mile to the west. In that group of trees was the abandoned alternative nest of Pair #85 -- built if I remember in 1998. Through the fall of 2005 and early spring of 2006 I had seen the #86 pair go back and forth between #85 and #86 several times that I realized that this pair was the real owners of territory #85. I should, in my numbering system simply numbered the new Hydro nest as an alternative nest B for the pair but I initially thought it a different pair and gave them a new number.
As the breeding season continued I had given up hope for the new pair getting a territory or their new nest occupied. Then in mid spring there was an adult in incubation position on the old Nest #85 -- but down the road #86 was also occupied and rearing two mid-sized young. I had seen a territory get split. So I renamed the new pair's nest #86.5 -- and not #85 as before -- to designate the split. Interestingly this old tree nest was the lowest nest I had ever found -- 37 feet from ground to nest, and as we all found out, right in Frank and family's front yard.
When #86.5 pair had reared their young that fall and left on migration we installed a cam and that was the beginning of Delta 1 CAM.
The last two years, 2007-08 and 2008-09 were again interesting years for this pair and our viewers. Both years saw a chick fall from the nest. One fall was fatal the other led to a rescue by Bev. Then of course as the viewers know, the summer of 2009 yielded another catastrophe. The nest literally disintegrated and fell apart -- almost taking the last chick with the fall. Not once did we see either parent bring in sizable sticks and appear to repair or build up this nest site. Even in the previous winter of the 2007 season when part of the nest fell away, we never saw the parent do a repair job then or as they again started to nest there in the spring of 2009. This pair were simply not big on home building. Breeding, family rearing, yes, but not home repair.
Now here we are in 2010 -- and the pair, who has tried building in at least 3 hydro towers that I have seen, have again given up with nest building and laid their eggs on the ground. Are we developing a new option for eagles -- ground nesting in the suburbs? I hope not. We almost drove over the ground nest as we approached to pick up the egg. While I did not wish to waste time on photography I will go back and photograph the site for the record.
Richard grabbed some shots from under an umbrella in the pouring rain after I had the egg - that's why my window is closed in the above shot of the cars beside the nest and the pole at the left is blurry.
This looks like the end of Delta 1 -- unless we can encourage BC Hydro to take their intrusion into eagle habitat as a partner rather than an excluder.
I am hopeful that BC Hydro will undertake some discussion on adapting their towers for eagle nesting. It is we humans who have despoiled the eagle habitat and removed all the nesting trees. Perhaps it is time to say, OK, so our new industrial trees, our hydro poles or cell towers, need to be upgraded to eagle standards. This sounds like good sharing of the environment to me.