Readers’ wildlife photos

April 1, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have some lovely photos of bald eagles from Jon Erickson of Nashville, Tennessee. Jon’s narrative and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

A birding highlight over the last year and a half: a mating pair of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) built a nest at Radnor Lake, the state natural area about eight miles from downtown Nashville, Tenn. While the occasional eagle passing through was not an uncommon sight, this was the first recorded instance of an aerie at Radnor.

9/30/21, On a deadfall near where they would make their nest:’

1/20/22, I’m told this was their third start on constructing a nest. Park rangers noted abandoned sites in deeper woods inaccessible by trail, effectively out of sight for park visitors:

2/18/22, Finer, more pliable materials, such as grasses and moss, are used to soften and insulate the nest interior:

3/23/22, Construction continues even as incubation is underway. The pair found acceptable the margin of restricted woods that keeps hikers away from their lake-front site. Observing the nest is possible from opposing shores:

3/30/22, I am unabashedly starstruck by the eagles–the sudden, silent appearance of the roaming adult is always thrilling–and am charmed as well by the woods that are their home. Spring color emerges in the skeletal winter landscape:

4/13/22, Two downy nestlings:

5/12/22: A month later, the eaglets are still far from fledging but are almost the size of their parents. Their oak tree has feathered out nicely.

Here the account takes a disastrous turn: A few nights after I took the photo above, rough weather dislodged the nest. One of the eaglets did not survive the ~70-ft tumble and was discovered the next morning by rangers. Park staff quickly constructed and suspended a shelf on an adjacent tree, about eight feet above ground, and placed the healthy eaglet on it. After about a week of feeding and safeguarding it there, the parents lured it onto a limb some 25 feet away, about six feet above the shoreline.

5/28/22, Well into the summer, the surviving sibling could be seen patiently perched on this horizontal limb of a downed tree. The adults took turns bringing food and standing sentinel. This is where the youngster began its “branching” activity, or pre-flight drills: exercising its legs and wings by hopping and flapping:

10/17/22, By the middle of October the adults were busy again collecting twigs, although where they were taking them was a mystery:

11/08/22, The mayor of autumn, tiny in all these woods:

11/10/22, Last time I saw the juvenile it had developed into a strong, confident flyer, formidably equipped with needle-sharp talons, ripping beak, and trademark raptor glare. It takes about five years for the head and tail feathers to turn white, the beak to turn yellow.

2/7/23: For their second brood the pair has settled into precisely the same site as last year. Observers are hoping for tighter nest construction standards and are delighted that the eagles continue to make their home here.

3/16/23: I think they’ve a wee one in there….

UPDATE: Jon says there’s certainly an eaglet in the nest above, and provided a photo and an update:

There is at least one youngster. Below, from March 28th. I believe the rangers have recorded flashes of movement and glimpses of detail for several days prior. There is probably more than one. Most often there are two eggs, less often one or three, least common would be four. There is a three- or four-day interval between the coming of eggs in a clutch.This brood started a week to 10 days earlier than last year’s. I may have a week left of being able to peer into the nest before spring growth closes off the best angles.

11 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Cool! We have lots of bald eagles in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Always a majestic sight. Beautiful to see them near Nashville!

  2. More than a year’s worth of bald eagle story-telling photographs. Thanks for the great series! Please keep us informed of any new eaglets from the pair. It does look like they’re intently looking at something in the nest.

  3. So nice that eagles have moved to Radnor Lake. Should be a great location for them. Thanks for the pictures.

  4. With almost no changes (but without the gorgeous photos), I could have posted the same! Southern Michigan, and the same set of parameters–large wooded area 8 or so miles from the city center; nest building (on one of our Audubon club’s walks, we saw one eagle carrying nest material), similar-looking nest, change in nest position when the previous year’s nest fell, same timing of events.

    Thanks for the fantastic story & pictures!

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