Eagle Update: Jefferson's Reach to the City of Richmond


Last week of March 2011

The bald eagle activity has been phenomenal on the James River since the middle of March, which coincides with the time of the hatching of their eggs.  If the resident birds laid their eggs at the end of January, or the first days of February, then the middle of March is when they should hatch, or roughly 35-37 days of incubation.  It’s been a banner year for the resident eagles of Jefferson’s Reach.

Recent observations on the river include the following:  finding Varina & Enon’s nest, locating Virginia & James’ new nest, realizing Bandit & Smokey’s eggs have failed, and seeing so many new bald eagles in the area, all the way to the City of Richmond. 

After two years of searching, we’ve finally found Varina & Enon's nest.  Their nest isn’t high in a tree, like most of the eagles along the James, but it’s built about midway up in a very large pine tree. Lower than anticipated, which made it so hard to find even for how big it it. Their nest is massive.  The biggest nest I have ever seen.  Last year, Varina & Enon didn’t have any chicks, as they were both on the river all spring, meaning neither one needed to be on the nest, so no eaglets to watch over and feed.  This year, they definitely do and fly back to it on a regular basis. 

Virginia & James also have a new nest.  It’s much smaller than the nest they lived in for many years.  Their nest fell last fall in a storm and they’ve built in a tree behind a small stand of pine trees just off the river. It was an amazing feeling to see them fly back with a fresh caught gizzard shad back to the nest to feed the little ones.  For the las seven or eight weeks, many of the birds of Jefferson's Reach have been along the side of the river, one at a time, which only can mean one thing ... eggs on the nest.

On a sad note, Bandit & Smokey have abandoned their eggs.  They are still using the same nest, but neither has been on the nest lately.  There were a number of days about two weeks ago that another mature bald eagle was harassing them.  There were two eagles harassing them one day, but for the most part, it was one mature eagle remaining close to their nest and flying near, causing a disruption with Bandit & Smokey’s routine.  I understand that there is such a high number of eagles on the James now that some territories are being fought over and eaglets and eggs are being killed. This could perhaps be one of those situations.

One of the most interesting observations is seeing how many eagles there are in the area between Osborne Landing and the City of Richmond (upriver from Jefferson's Reach).  I have never seen so many bald eagles in the City.  Yesterday, March 29, we saw seven bald eagles flying around within one mile of Ancarrows Landing.  In one instance there were three mature eagle and one immature eagle hanging out in one tree.  I need to find out more about why this is happening.  It’s my understanding that all the migratory birds are gone now.  Are these resident birds that are now mature looking to ‘pair up’ to become mates for life?  More to follow ...

--Capt. Mike

The Photos Stories.  Top Left:  A wonderful image of Bandit and all her glory.  If we blow the image up really large, we can see two of the numbers on the band, but they are already numbers we know of.  So far, we know of three numbers. 6 ... 2 ... 5.  I'm thinking that anyone who can get a number from the band, one that we don't have get's a free eagle tour.  Photo by Lynda Richardson

Bottom Right:  A beautiful shot of the finest pair of bald eagles on the James River, Bandit & Smokey.  Bandit is on the right, Smokey on the left. Photo by Lynda Richardson