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 Harrison Mills 2013 FAQ & Info
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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:08 AM EDT (Read 2728 times)  
JudyB

Harrison Mills 2013 Frequently Asked Questions and Important Information

I'm setting up this new thread because there has been a lot happening at the Harrison Mills nest and the first few posts of the Observations thread, where we normally add information that we want to find quickly, are already bursting at the seams.

It is a work in progress, and may change a bit over time as we learn what sort of format seems to work best.

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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:08 AM EDT  
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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:08 AM EDT  
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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:16 AM EDT  
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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:23 AM EDT  
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How to tell who is who -

Mrs Honeycomb has a band on her right leg, and appears to have a feather missing on the side of her tail; it may have broken - sometimes it looks as if I can see the top part of it.


(Picture courtesy of IrishEyes)


Mr Honeycomb has a dark stripe on the edge of one of his tail feathers:

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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:25 AM EDT  
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David Hancock
Written on June 2, 2013.


Added by JudyB - this article was written when it looked as if little Bogey might beat the odds against a much smaller, four-day-younger eaglet; sadly, that did not happen - Bogey passed away at 5:09 am on June 6. Rest in peace, little one.
sad


Harrison Mills Eaglets - doing fine in spite of size difference.

A four day differential in hatching dates is an invitation to a "survival of the fittest" challenge going the way of the bully but so far our HM chicks seem to be coping. At 9:44 AM, June 2, both chicks are peppy and with half full crops. The parents are apparently doing a good job providing food. Oops -- as I write, 9:50 AM, big chick head pounds the little one who instantly turns away to lessen the beating. This of course, the turning the other cheek, is the successful way to thwart fratricide. However, the other side of that issue is that when the big sibling is full, there still must be enough food to keep the little one growing and healthy. You would also like to think the little one would catch up but this surely does not seem to be happening here -- at least not yet. At 10:00 AM the big one again pounded the little one -- and yet they both have 1/2 full crops.

From the first couple of days the size differential of the two chicks seemed to be expanding -- and this has continued. On the other side, the little one has learned the "turn away response very effectively" and has been getting enough food to keep vibrant, active and apparently healthy. Now at 23 and 19 days of age the size difference is quite exceptional considering there were only two eggs - though they were laid four days apart. 'Perky' seems to be the desired behavior and the little one seems to foil attacks effectively and come back strong -- but smaller in proportion -- each day. My guess is that if enough food is delivered we will see both chicks fledge. If not then the system has done presumably what it was supposed to do -- at least produce 1 chick under poor food availability rather than let both starve.

I have no real insight into the two chicks' gender. The obvious difference in size suggests that one might be a small male and the other a larger female. This is probably the case but we could also, as some of you have observed, be seeing the accentuated growth of the bully well over the stunted growth of the late chick -- regardless of or exaggerated by innate gender size expectations. By fledging time the chicks should be to full size and the gender differences more normal. To my understanding there is no data to suggest that the first hatched is predominantly one gender or the other.

At some point I have probably pointed out that in most raptors the smaller male actually develops its final body and flight feathers 2 to 4 days before the female -- or at least catches up with a larger female at the last stages of feather growth. This data is more from observations of hundreds of captive bred raptors raised side-by-side. This presumably lets the smaller male catch up and participate in fledging activities -- flight and hunting training for some species. The interesting question is, 'Can such a smaller late developing sibling ever catch up to its full potential size by fledging time?' Or will it remain a runt? I think it will catch up to its potential size.

The Harrison Mills adult pair and the chicks have been a marvelous study. As some of you know, I had already written off the productivity of this territory for 2013 since we had so little adult activity at the site from October through February. When I had installed the two cams back in September, 2012 I had been elated to find a dead chick in the nest. That was my first confirmation that the site had been occupied since seeing adults on site in April, 2012.

We had some early winter excitement with the toeless eagle in attendance a few nights, visits by a couple of other adult birds but nobody showing regularity or staying power. Then these adults came along late, went through intensive but brief nest building, laid eggs and followed through with incredible discipline of incubation, brooding and now feeding the young.

I believe this is a new pair that took up residency, showing up on March 10, 2013 and laying the first egg April 4. They seem a well experienced pair. They are certainly doing well and if the river and fields produce the food we could easily see the pair fledge both chicks. The pair directly eastward across the Harrison River beside the Old Orchard Campsite now have two big chicks -- their usual.

To me the really interesting question about this pair is "Where did they come from?" How or where did they seem to acquire all the professional experience to do so many things right? When you compare the inadequate behaviors at the White Rock nest, with all the different birds attempting to nest this year that resulted in total failure, this late arriving pair seems to have it all together. How? Did they come from another nest nearby? This is actually more possible that you might have thought.

About two miles north of this nest is the famous Morris Valley Slough and this area has been part of my study. It is just on the northern side of the Sts'ailes village - the Harrison Mills nest is on the southern side. The Morris Valley nest, overseeing this very famous and rich Morris Valley Slough had a pair of eagles nesting on the eastern shoreline. By the way you can see one nest from the other across the Chehalis alluvial fan. This nest was directly in line with the newly advancing BC Hydro power line and the nest was removed. I was actually brought in to consult on the mitigation. What could be done in return for removal of the nest? Well the answer was quite simple in my mind. First considerations were given to the rare and endangered frogs in the slough. Then there were lots of adjacent very large trees that could support a bald eagle nest. The 'removal permit' had requested Hydro to improve two or three alternative but nearby trees. I simply advised the climbing crew what nearby trees to place crossbars and take out a couple of "flight blocking branches" to facilitate a new nest. The real challenge here was that the nest removal and work up in the new trees was done in late January when the eagles were already on territory. Then with the huge helicopters, the many work crews and researchers using this same site I doubted we could expect the eagles to establish a new nest this season.

Perhaps this pair decided to simply move downstream two miles and take advantage of the unoccupied HM site. I personally suspect this is the case and the Harrison Mill nest site and territory was literally the immediate territory to the south and they took advantage of it. Six years ago there was another nesting territory between the Morris Valley nest and what is now our Harrison Mills nest. However, that nest tree on the Sts'ailse village site, was in a tree that fell. This meant that the Morris Valley pair held the adjacent territory making the move even less a shift. If the experienced Morris Valley pair are indeed our pair it certainly explains why they arrived on the scene late - when they were driven off their territory in February by continuing human activity - and why they had so much parental experience.

I was back once to see if the Morris Valley pair was there but I could not see them I will follow up on this shortly. In the meantime our pair of HM chicks are giving us some marvelous further insight into the eagles' ways. The Harrison River has been defined as Canada's first Salmon Stronghold river because it produces so many fish. Let's hope our HM pair benefit adequately to rear both young.

David Hancock

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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 06:30 AM EDT  
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David Hancock
Written on June 4, 2013.

forum/viewtopic.php?topic=531041#531041

Hi All: Re the Harrison Mills Chicks:

Nature works in ways that are not always obvious. The Harrison Mills nest seems at times to have lots of food but the second hatching chick is certainly not getting its share. In fact the big chick is totally bullying its little sibling -- maybe fatally.

As most of you know I don't see supplementing food as a negative but at the same time this is not always something that is effectively done. The Harrison area has several nests withing a mile radius and who would be getting the supplemented food? This would be difficult to predetermine. At the same time the adults at this nest seem to have been bringing in adequate food but the parents don't seem to have been effectively feeding the young. Maybe the small chick is just not putting forward adequately. Maybe the large chick is too aggressive. Then maybe the habitat is not effectively generating enough food. I am not trying to make excuses for the parent, but the answer is not necessarily easily evident.

The one conclusion is that the smaller chick has not been getting adequate food even when food was available. Maybe more food would reduce the sibling pressure but this is not as apparent to me as it appears to some of the observers. While I am not at all a purest when it comes to feeding scavengers like bald eagles, as they readily adapt to new food sources, this is why this bird has bounced back so readily, I have no opposition to someone giving them extra handouts. However, doing so is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Generally, if the habitat does not provide the tucker that is unfortunate, or the limitations for the inhabitants can't find and supply it, then the area is not ready for more production. Generally, if you view the wilderness areas of the British Columbia or Alaskan coasts where eagles reign supreme, one chick is certainly more than a territory average. So from that perspective our Harrison Mills pair will likely be more productive than on average. On the other hand many of the territories in the urban area do better.

The interesting possibility here is that the region of the Harrison River may be more reflective of wilderness than it is of the rural -- suburban areas where a proliferation of ditches and roads provide more food than in more wilderness-like areas. Certainly early in the season this pair seemed to being providing very well: at one point they had 8 fish carcasses on the nest yet only one chick was being effectively fed. The spawning season for the salmon is just beginning and scavengable salmon carcasses are still months away. While a few big spring salmon are already in the river, getting a 15 to 40 pound carcass up to the nest is not an option. At this season they have to catch something small and transportable. Then they have to get the chick to eat!

Some people have apparently suggested this is a young pair -- possibly. I don't think so. The black line on the upper right side of the tail of the male looks to me like a "black upper tail covert" as opposed to a sub-adult tail feather. I take it to be a moult imperfection -- that may remain black in other years. Be that aside, it does not mean that this pair has had experience in raising young. They may well be new at this and not yet adequately experienced.

So my conclusion is that we may actually be experiencing the failure of these parents to find adequate food immediately in their territory or they may not be sufficiently experienced to hunt and feed chicks effectively. I of course want them to succeed but time will tell.

I realize nobody wishes to watch a chick die but rescue is not in the cards. Perhaps the river will generate a few more minnows and the larger sibling will let up its incessant domination. This pair got a very late start and perhaps that is part of nature's scheduling. Possibly, if you nest earlier you find more food than if you wait longer! Nature works in ways we do not always understand. Why is this pair over a month behind all the other eagles in our area?

David Hancock.

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By: JudyB (offline) on Wednesday, June 05 2013 @ 09:23 PM EDT  
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Response to requests for intervention
Posted by JudyB on June 4 at 9 am
forum/viewtopic.php?topic=530701#530701

The only ones who can help the little one are his/her parents. I'm sorry. We all are hoping for a miracle - Bogey is a spunky, feisty little eaglet, and would make a great eagle. But sometimes that doesn't happen.

It's very difficult to get a permit to intervene in a nest - and almost impossible when the issue is the natural course of events, and not a problem caused by humans (as was the case when the Sidney eaglet was tangled in fishing line a couple of years ago). Beyond the difficulty of getting a permit, there's the very real concern that going into the nest to remove Bogey would put Birdie at risk. If you read David's article a few pages back, it looks likely that this pair moved here because of disturbances in their former nesting area - and there's no guarantee that they wouldn't abandon the nest if someone interfered here.

I don't know a lot about rehab - but do know that the young of most species have the best chance for survival and success as adults if raised by adults of their own species. I don't know where one could re-home an underfed three week old eaglet. And there is no guarantee that he would survive if he were removed from the nest. We think the issue is lack of food (and that's certainly part of it), but there may be other underlying problems.

I wish I had a different answer - but these are wild creatures, and this is what happens in nature. I'm sorry.

hug

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