On my most recent visits to the Nith River bald eagles’ nest the adult eagles have been largely absent. The three eaglets, which have been flying roughly six weeks now, must become more independent if they are to survive the wild. This is the time, then, for tough love. The adults spend less and less time at the nest to encourage that independence.

The fact that two of the eaglets are usually found on a branch next to the nest or in a nearby tree calling out suggests that they aren’t quite ready. But their sibling seems to be a quick learner. Although I am not keen to visit the nest on weekends – I find more there’s usually more human activity in the area then – I took a chance Saturday evening. I was very pleased I did.

One of the eaglets perched next to the nest calling out for the adults to bring food. After photographing a nearby blue heron and, seeing no activity around the nest, I decided I’d come back another day.  And so I began my walk back to the parking lot. I hadn’t seen a single person in the hour or so that I had been out and maybe that was the reason why I felt the urge to continue along the river. I  wondered if I might be missing something.  I followed a trail through the woods.

Talk about serendipitous moments. One of the eaglets came out of a tree and flew over my head landing in another tree hidden from view. The eagle looked down at the river as it flew. Was she actually fishing?

I took off my back pack and, since the light was still fairly good, I thought I would wait in this spot and see what might transpire.

Very little time passed before she appeared, landing on the side of the river about 25 to 30 metres away. I couldn’t believe my luck. I can’t confirm she is the same one I have observed at eye level multiple times but she was definitely comfortable with my presence. So, I must assume this is her. After a minute or two she walked into the water and took a drink.

The river is very shallow in this vicinity and besides the eaglet I could see two blue herons further along. The eaglet flew across the water, a distance of about 5 metres, and landed on a patch of pebbles and grass. She then walked into the water and pulled out the remains of a fish. I don’t know if she had caught this fish earlier, and had returned to finish her meal, or whether it was simply carrion. Back to the solid ground she went where she quickly gulped down the food.

I kept still the whole time and watched as she flew around some trees and disappeared. There was still some decent light so I sat down on the pebbles and waited to see if she might return. There was movement in the grass and I watched as she took another drink to wash down her dinner. Looking around and,  sizing up her options,  she flew to the other side of the river. I had been blessed with forty wonderful minutes of close contact with this eaglet and didn’t want to overstay my welcome.  It was time to leave the area.

Once again, I had experienced another great photography session – totally unexpected – just because I hung out a bit longer than I had intended. The lesson……..get out there and enjoy!

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    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks Linda! I am glad you enjoyed this blog. It is a great time to follow these eaglets as they try to figure out where their next meal is coming from. While I watched this one I could hear – at a distance – the sole eaglet at the nest calling out. Enjoy!

  1. Jeff P Evans

    Great stuff Paul. Thanks again. I do appreciate the fact that you are so aware of the potential impact you have when interacting with these birds and the respect given to them.
    Jeff & Leigh

    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks Jeff! I try to be as non intrusive as possible. The fact that this eaglet took her time drinking water from the river and eating that fish, while I snapped images, told me she did not see me as a threat. I recently asked a zoologist whether eagles, like snowy owls, recognize individual people. She believes they do. I dare say that if someone else had been there and the eagle and I were no longer ‘one on one’ she might have left the area. We should all be cognitive of the fact that if our presence causes an animal or bird to alter its behaviour then we are too close. The welfare of the animal or bird is of paramount importance. I am afraid there are photographers that forget this when they become anxious to get a good picture. Again, thanks for your support!

    1. Paul E Gains

      It’s wonderful to see! Let’s hope these eaglets continue towards total independence. I have seen juveniles from previous years fly past the nest – a positive sight for sure!

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