I don’t spend huge amounts of time and don’t get involved in the online chats associated with some of the cams, but I usually check them in the morning and again the evening to see how the families are doing.
Sometimes I’ve even timed it to see an egg being laid or an eaglet hatching. Watching how these big birds of prey, with their deadly talons and razor-sharp beaks, delicately care for their eggs and newborns is amazing.
This spring thousands of web cam watchers were devastated when the mother eagle at the Norfolk Botanical Garden nest was hit by a jet and killed at a nearby airport. The next day the three eaglets were removed from the nest because it wouldn’t have been possible for their dad to both hunt for food and keep them safe. Those eaglets are now at a wildlife rehabilitation center, almost ready to fledge, and will be released into the wild in August.
Last week there was trouble at the nest in Sidney, BC, and I was beginning to think I didn’t have the emotional fortitude it takes to be an eagle watcher.
One of the three eaglets in this nest had become entangled in fishing line that had been inadvertently brought to the nest, either attached to nesting material or to a fish that had been caught and released by careless humans.
While wildlife experts came up with a plan to free the eaglet, web cam watchers watched for five days as it struggled to free itself. No one gave up hope, though. The parents continued to feed it, and by Thursday afternoon a small army of volunteer rescuers gathered at the base of the tree.
Several problems had to be overcome. The nest is 115 feet in the air, near the top of a dead tree that was deemed too fragile for a climber. The ground around the tree is still wet and boggy due to an unseasonably high rainfall this spring, and a crane would sink to its axles before it could get close to the tree.
The eaglet’s plight made the news, of course, and it wasn’t long before help was on the way. Two companies that install drainage tiles loaned the use of huge flexible mats that could be laid on the mucky ground to create a roadway of sorts that would support the 65-ton crane. The crane operator donated his time, too.
With the crane in place, a veterinarian and a wildlife biologist donned safety gear, loaded themselves and their supplies into the basket and up they went.
The eagle parents kept a very close watch on what was taking place, but to the surprise of many viewers, they did not attack the rescuers.
The tangled eaglet was cut free and carefully lifted out of the nest and into the basket while those on the ground—and the thousands around the world watching on computer screens—collectively held their breath as the vet examined the baby bird for signs of injury.
I’m sure you can imagine the cheers—and joyful tears—when we saw the vet return the eaglet to the nest. The foot that had been tangled in fishing line was in good condition and the circulation had not been restricted, so all that was needed was a little disinfectant to treat a small cut. Best of all, the eaglet could remain with its family instead of being taken to a neaby wildlife rehab facility.
The eagle parents, who’d been watching from a nearby tree, returned to the nest even before the rescuers in the basket returned to the ground, and before long all three eaglets were fed their next meal.
Last Thursday there was an abundance of heroes in Sidney, BC. Don’t you just love a happy ending?
Until next time,
The Christmas Secret (November 2011)
The Wedding Bargain (available June 2011 in Australia)