Eaglet's of Jefferson Reach 2011

Eaglet Update, May 2011.  In Jefferson's Reach on the James, there are five pair of resident bald eagles.  Four out of five pair have had successful egg hatches this spring and are busy feeding their young eaglets.  In 2010, three out of the five pair raised eaglets to fledge and fly off on their own last fall. Four total chicks were raised by three pair and many of the immature bald eagles we are now seeing are probably offspring of Jefferson's Reach eagles.

The last couple of years, I can tell you exactly when and where the Discovery Barge II was during the first eaglet sighting of the year.  Last year it was March 28, in the main channel looking at Virginia & James' huge nest, when out over the top of the nest came the little bobble head of an eaglet.  Barely strong enough to support it's own head.  This year, on April 7, in the old river channel, near Deep Bottom while looking at the nest of Baba & Pops, up popped a big head and neck, full of dark feathers and a big dark beak"Lee" can be seen on nearly every trip now, as this eaglet is getting bigger each day and recently we saw Lee stretching it's wings.  We have not seen a second eaglet in the nest, but that doesn't mean there isn't one in there. Soon Lee will be on the edge of the nest hopping around and flapping its wings preparing to fledge sometime in June.

Of the five pair of bald eagles in Jefferson's Reach, Baba & Pops, Virginia & James, Varina & Enon and Rebecca & John have eaglets in the nest.  We can tell by the flight patterns of the adults after hunting.  Once a parent catches a fish, they will fly up and over the treeline and straight back to the nest.  Two of the five nests are visible from the River.  The other three range from 10 yards to hundreds of yards from the river's edge, but the forested river banks hide all three.  When the leaves fall this autumn, two of these three nests will be visible again.  The only one not visible at any point is Rebecca & John.  They recently moved their nest from Jones Neck to the mainland on the west side of Jones Neck.  Rebecca & John's story had developed into a fascinating one, and will be the next blog post.  Bandit & Smokey is the only pair to have lost their clutch.  They were harassed by a pair of mature birds for a number of days and lost their eggs somehow, possibly having the intruding pair come into the nest and killing the eggs.

A few interesting notes about the breeding population of resident eagles in Virginia.  Today, there are well over 700 established pair of resident bald eagle in the state.  Over the last 34 years, the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary has documented over 10,092 eaglets.  What is amazing about this number is how many of them were documented in the last decade.  Since 2000, over 70% of the 10,000+ chicks were produced, or an average of 1 eaglet per resident pair.  In 2010 8.7 percent were produced, or close to 900 chicks.  That is an amazing comeback for Virginia's bald eagle.  Thank you Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Center of Virginia for a job well done.

The Photo's Stories?  Top Left:  This is wonderful image of a mature bald eagle with a chick in the nest.  Look at how large the beak is.

Bottom Right:  Another image by Dave Parrish.  He is a great wildlife photographer, and if you get a chance check out his webiste (http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveparrish/).  This eagle is approaching the later end of it's immature days. Notice how the head is starting to turn white, and look at the tail feathers, how they are starting to turn white on the inside.  Wow, what a stunning shot of an immature bald eagle of the James.  This was taken within the Jefferson's Reach area.  --Photo by Dave Parrish