Linux's Great Adventure
Saturday, July 07 2012 @ 08:52 PM EDT
Contributed by: JudyB
Linux, the eaglet at the Delta 2 nest, began branching by stepping out onto the branches next to the nest the morning of June 29, 2012, when he was 79 days old, or a bit over 11 weeks.
For the next couple of days, he enjoyed hiding by stepping out of sight, with only a few feathers showing, and then leaping back into the nest, showing us his big wings.
And he did a lot of flapping, getting some nice height.
And he looked up.
And the morning of July 2nd, he made it up into the branches he'd been studying so carefully.
He'd jump back down into the nest when a parent arrived, but then would head back up into the branches. At first he just looked around - but he soon was moving back and forth, from one branch to another.
Watching him explore the branches, stretch his wings, and feel the wind, it was obvious that he was getting ready to see the world beyond the nest.
As the sun went down on July 2, Linux stayed up in the branches, sleeping like an adult, perched on a branch.
We expected that July 3rd would be much the same as July 2nd, with Linux doing a lot of mini-flights up to the branches and back to the nest, and up to the branches, and back - and so on, building up his muscles and coordination - and challenging the amazing team of "zoomers" who had volunteered to control the pan-tilt-zoom cam at Delta 2. And for a while, that is indeed what happened.
Then at 3:13 pm...
... Linux flew off to the right. And out of sight of the cam.
There are some limits as to where the cam can go, so knowing that the Orphaned WildLife Rehabilitation Society (O.W.L.) was nearby, we asked if someone from there might take a look and see if Linux was still in the tree, or if he had fledged. An hour or so later, we learned there was a third possibility - he was found grounded in a nearby field and has been taken to OWL when he didn't attempt to fly off when approached.
A preliminary check-up revealed that he was a bit thin and wheezy, likely caused by stress. His weight was 3.94kg/8.69 lbs and those who watched the cam correctly guessed that he was male. He was put in a 30-foot flight cage, but initially showed no interest in eating, flying or even sitting on a perch. Bev Day from O.W.L. suggested that he might have been injured on the way down (though they found no indication that he was) - or he might just be a bit stubborn.
Bev moved another juvenile eagle into the cage, hoping that would encourage Linux to become more active - and it seemed to work. The wheezing was gone the next day, and Linux began using the perches, first using a stump to step up, but then graduating to flying from perch to perch. And he began eating again, as he became a bit more comfortable in his new surroundings (and probably once he discovered that his roommate would eat his food if he didn't eat it first!).
By July 6, Bev felt that Linux was ready for release back to the care of his parents - who, in the final analysis, do know more about raising young eagles than even the best rehab sites. The logistics took a bit of time but at 3:37 pm, almost exactly three days from his initial flight from the tree, we got the word that Linux had been released into the nest tree, about 30 feet from the ground.
After the cheers quieted down, the wait began. Knowing that Linux had spent a night sleeping on a branch, there was a chance he wouldn't return to the nest he'd almost outgrown (but which did provide a convenient place for the parents to deliver food). Bev Day reported on the evening of the 6th that Linux was in about the same spot in the tree - which made sense to those of us who watch cams where the eaglets are routinely banded; after being taken from the nest and subjected to handling by large creatures who take blood samples, many eaglets choose to stay motionless for several hours, knowing that makes them very hard to find, and is probably the best defense for young eagles, until they can out-fly any predators.
The report actually contained quite a bit of good news. Linux was safe, perched in the tree. His mother had moved closer, so was aware he was back, and was looking out for him. And his father was also nearby. There had been concern that the adults might leave the area once Linux disappeared for a few days, but this happily did not happen.
Then, at 3:44 pm on July 7, almost exactly a day after he was placed in the tree, Linux appeared in the nest, having made his own way up the additional 45 feet (the tree is about 90 feet high, and the nest is 75 feet up).
Many of us shed happy tears, seeing him appear on the side of the nest, then move to the center - and lie down, for a well-deserved rest.
Even though it was early, I rather thought he'd stay there until morning, making up for the sleep he'd probably lost while in strange surroundings for the last few days. But I was wrong - about 5 pm, after resting a bit over an hour, Linux stretched - and flew back up to the branches! I think we were all reassured - to my mind, that meant that whatever happened on Tuesday when he ended up on the ground, he was comfortable flying back up into the branches.
Around 8:20 pm, Linux appeared to be calling out - then jumped up and dove down to the nest. The intrepid zoomer on duty managed to get the cam there a second later - just in time to provide a brief glimpse of an adult dropping off dinner for Linux, who was no doubt showing his appreciation in the traditional manner of fledgling-age eaglets, by mantling the food and screaming at the top of his young lungs to get away from my food! Of course, also in the tradition of many eaglets his age, as soon as the adult had fled, Linux appeared to look around as if to say - what, you're not going to stay and feed me?
Again, this was another reassurance that the adults knew Linux was back, and as is usually the case on most nests I've watched, will probably continue to provide food until Linux's instinct to leave the area takes him off in search of salmon in the rivers of the north.
After being away from the nest for several nights, I thought he might sleep on the nest tonight - but he does seem to be well on the way from eaglet to fledgling. As it grew dark, he was back in the upper branches, settling in for the night.
A big thanks to David Hancock and Hancock WIldlife for providing the cams that allowed us to watch Linux grow up - and a big thanks to Bev Day and the folks at O.W.L. for being there when he needed their help!
Credits: Thanks to the following people who captured the screenshots used in this article: Raining22, liberty1998, sandra gee, Pat B, lovethebabies, jkr, newbiE and JudyB. Thanks to O.W.L. for the picture of Linux being weighed and pictures of his return to the tree. And thanks to the "Aunties of Delta" for their observations and their support.
We need your help to keep the cams and forum running - it will cost around $4000 just to do the cleaning, maintenance and upgrades planned for this one nest - and that doesn't include the ongoing costs for electricity, high-speed/high-volume internet connections and things like that - please click here and make a donation to support the cams. Here's a link to learn more about what we'd like to do next year. And four lucky donors will get a "thank you" gift from David Hancock and Hancock Wildlife - learn more.