Re-nesting a Bald Eagle Chick

Last week this young Bald Eagle came to ARC for rehab, after falling out of its nest.

IMG_7996-1He might look a little big for a chick, but raptors grow very fast – from egg to full grown in about three months. This guy is probably just over two months old. His feathers weren’t done growing, and he still had some downy fuzz.

Since the nest was still active, and the parents still in the area, we wanted to try to get him back with his family. The nest was on private land, but thankfully, the landowner was willing to let us access the tree.

One problem with renesting Bald Eagles is that their nests are very high up off the ground. This nest was 30′ in a tree, deep in the woods – there was no hope of using a cherry picker.

Thankfully, Jim, the master tree climber, was willing to help. This afternoon he met us at the tree site with his climbing gear, and we prepared to return the eagle to its nest.
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This was something new for me – a giant slingshot! Jim used it to throw a beanbag with a rope attached over a branch of the nest tree. It took a few tries, but eventually he got a good branch, and was able to secure a rope for climbing.

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Once Jim was up there, you could really see how big the nest was. It was probably 10′ wide.

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With Jim in position, it was time to get the eaglet ready for his ride to the top.

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First, Devin placed a hood on the eaglet to keep him calm. Or that was the idea – the bird quickly wiggled out of the hood.

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If you’re wondering why this eaglet has a black beak, and not a yellow beak like in all the pictures, it’s because of his age. It takes Bald Eagles about five years to get a white head and tail, and for the beak to turn yellow. When they’re young, they’re a very dark brown all over.

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He also went back to the nest sporting some new jewelry. This aluminum band will allow wildlife researchers to gather data about his age and travels if he is found again in the future. Check out those shiny new talons!

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One more step – we swaddled the eagle in a towel to keep him from moving about too much on his ride up.

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And finally, into a duffel bag, so he can be securely raised to the top of the tree.

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We attached the duffel bag to Jims climbing rope, and he pulled the bird up to the nest.

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At the top, Jim made sure to secure the bag to the tree before bringing out the eagle. We also sent up thick gloves so he didn’t get taloned!

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Finally, the eaglet is brought out of the bag, and returned to his nest.

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Jim took this picture of the eaglet in the nest before descending the tree.

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As we were leaving an adult Bald Eagle started making swoops down towards the nest tree, so hopefully that was mom or dad. We figured it would be best to leave the area so they can get back to taking care of their kid.

Although we’ve released several, I’d never been able to help return an Eagle to its nest before, so this was an exciting day all around. We couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from all the volunteers at ARC, and Jim especially. It was a great day for everyone to come together and help out this young eagle. Hopefully the family is back together tonight.

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First with a new Red-Tailed Hawk

IMG_5425-1This Red-tailed Hawk was transferred to ARC for evaluation. It has a bit of a wing drop, which makes flight difficult. We’re hoping to build strength in the wing with a bit of training and flight exercises.

Sometimes for birds that require more intensive rehabilitation, we can give them a bit of falconry training to help. Nature is a hard place, and you can’t just throw a weak bird out into the wild and hope they survive.

And birds can get stronger flying around entire fields than they can just sitting in even our largest indoor flight. Sometimes, after training, we can release a bird that otherwise wouldn’t be strong enough to live in the wild.

But these things take time, and everything starts at the same place.

For our first day, I spent some time with him on the glove. He was able to step on the scale, and get weighed, which was great, because managing the weight on a bird is probably one of the most crucial parts of falconry. And then as a reward for putting up with me, he got dinner fed to him from the glove, while we sat under the oak tree.

Flight Training at ARC

This week the rain has let up, and the weather has turned positively serene. It was a great chance to get some of our education birds out of the mews and free-flying at ARC.

Whisper, our female Barn Owl, jumped at the chance to stretch her wings.

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And Archer, our young Red-shouldered Hawk, proved that he still enjoys untying people shoelaces, even at three years old.

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While Izzy, our Red-tailed Hawk, took no time in getting back into the routine.

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One thing’s for sure – getting the chance to work with these beautiful birds, it’s my favorite thing in the world.

Sky Trials with the Florida Hawking Fraternity

Last weekend was the annual Florida Hawking Fraternity winter meet, and since I wasn’t flying a bird, I brought my camera along to the Sky Trials – an afternoon for the falcons to fly!

I also found out that I’m rubbish at taking in-flight shots, oops. Just another thing to work on. The birds were gorgeous in flight though, and they went until the sun was almost set – a perfect evening with the birds.

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Best Places for Birdwatching in Tokyo

Common Birds on Mt. Takao

Common Birds on Mt. Takao

I recently found myself in Tokyo for a week, and unlike my previous visits to the city, I spent a lot of time looking at birds. I’m a much bigger bird nerd than I used to be. Before, I only really noticed Tokyo birds enough to note that the crows were huge (truth) and the sparrows were pretty cute (they still are) as I doled out extra rice from my lunch.

Before arriving, I googled around for birdwatching places in Tokyo, and couldn’t find very many sites in English, although there were a lot of helpful forum posts. As it turned out, almost any green space in Tokyo was host to many varieties of birds, and since there’s no shortage of public parks in the city, I saw new birds almost everywhere I went.

I didn’t bring my DSLR on the trip (je regrette) as I was trying to keep luggage light, so the pictures are a little lacking, but I still have memories! And eBird. Even though I was abroad, my OCD habits of list-keeping forced me to drag my travel-weary body home and enter a full list of birds seen into my laptop at the end of each day. So I have a good written record of my trip, if it’s somewhat lacking in visual aids.

So, after a week beating street in Tokyo and surrounds, here are a few of my favorite spots for birdwatching.

Ueno

Ueno Park – Central to Tokyo, and accessible by the Ueno subway station, this is a good option if you only have an hour or two to spare. I stopped here after arriving on the train from Narita, and quickly picked up Japanese White-eye, Japanese Tit, Oriental Turtle-dove, Large-billed Crow (the aforementioned massive corvid), and the Brown-eared Bulbul, which I would soon tire of, as they were in virtually every tree, screaming their heads off.

Around Shinobazu Lake, on the south end of the park, I found both Great and Japanese Cormorants, as well as a man feeding a huge mass of Eurasian Tree Sparrows and ducks, mostly Mallards, Northern Pintail, and Eastern Spot-billed Ducks. Hiding in the reeds were some Northern Shovelers, Common Pochards, and Eurasian Coots.

There were also a bunch of Tufted Ducks snoozing in the lake with some Black-headed Gulls, bobbing about like corks in the lake, and a Little Egret hunting on the shore. Not bad for a single afternoon.

Yoyogi

Yoyogi Park – Since most Tokyo apartments are fairly small, and there are neighbors on all sides, when people want to get noisy, they have to go somewhere else. Yoyogi Park, near the Harajuku, or Meiji-jingu Mae stations, is a great place to see people getting down on the weekend – besides the birds, on one visit, I saw a girl group practicing their dance moves, a yoga class, and a bunch of pompadour rockstars jamming out on their boom box.

Despite all the activity, there’s no shortage of birds. The usual suspects are present all over the park – Tree Sparrows, Large-billed Crows, Brown-eared Bulbuls, and Rock Doves, and Eurasian Spot-billed Ducks in the pond.

Usual Suspects in Yoyogi-Koen

Usual Suspects in Yoyogi-Koen

But the real gem of Yoyogi-Koen is the large fenced in Bird Sanctuary on the eastern corner. While people can’t enter the sanctuary, you can look over the short fence into the trees, where a myriad of smaller birds live. In a short visit, I saw several Japanese White-eyes, Varied & Japanese Tits, a Dusky Thrush, both Grey & White Wagtails, a Pygmy Woodpecker, and several colorful Bramblings.

You probably won’t have the place to yourself though – at any one time, there were roughly 7-10 Japanese birders with their spotting scopes and massive lenses, all good-naturedly jostling for the best views of the sanctuaries avian inhabitants. They also seem to have trained a few Varied Tits to take seeds out of your hands, some of the more daring ones were darting from person to person, collecting treats. No idea what kind of seeds though – I tried to give one a sesame seed and it wasn’t interested.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku Park National Garden – I was unfortunate to visit this park in Shinjuku on a day that turned into a rainy mess, but the Japanese Tits and Eurasian Tree Sparrows were out in force – as well as a bunch of Tufted & Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, and a few Common Pochards, among the more common domestic Mallards. I also found a Common Kingfisher hunting in the rain, near the Japanese garden, and a Little Grebe hunting nearby.

Hibiya

Hibiya Park – While it’s not the best birding ever, Hibiya-koen is as central to Tokyo as you can get. A quick walk through this small park near the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station yielded Mallards, Tufted & Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, White Wagtails, a plethora of Brown-eared Bulbuls, Rock Doves, Large-billed Crows and Tree Sparrows everywhere you look.

Takao

Mt. Takao – About 45 minutes outside Tokyo, a short hike up this mountain from the Takao-san Guchi train station makes a good day trip, if you’re itching to get out of the city and into some real woods. I say hike, but it’s really a stroll up an inclined paved path, and you can take a tram half-way up, so it’s not exactly strenuous. It did snow at the top though, so dress warmly in the winter, even if it’s mild at the bottom.

My noisy friends, the Brown-eared Bulbuls were everywhere here too, apparently undaunted by the cold, as well as Japanese White-eyes, and Large-billed Crows. Best of all, I found four kinds of Tits here – Japanese, Varied, Coal and two Long-Tailed Tits. I also found four Pygmy Woodpeckers here, and I’m sure there were many more.

Also, Varied Tits are apparently fearless – I set my Onigiri (rice ball) lunch down on a wooden bench and one of the little devils was perched on top, digging rice out of it before I could blink.

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Kasai Rinkai Park – Across the bay from Tokyo Disney, this park, half grassy woods, and half wetlands, was probably the best birding I found in Tokyo, and the one spot I wish I could have spent more time in.

It’s easily accessible from central Tokyo, Kasai-rinkai Koen is just a few stops away from Tokyo Station on the JR Keiyo line. I heard some people talking about how they got there at the crack of dawn (I admire their stamina) and saw a slew of raptors, none of which I managed to spot while I was there. Although you can’t enter the wetlands area, which is left as natural habitat, you can walk out on a long spit of land nearby, and look over with binoculars or a spotting scope.

This was the best place I’d found for the Japanese Cormorant, although Great was also present. There were probably 300 Greater Scaup rafting in the bay – I thought they were debris at first, there were so many. Closer, there were Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, Common Pochards, and Eurasian Wigeons. Around the wetlands there were Little, Eared, and Great-crested Grebes, Little Egrets, and a Grey Heron. There were also peeps along the rocky shore, including Dunlin and Common Sandpipers. I also found White-cheeked Starlings here, and a mess of Black-headed Gulls. In addition to the usual suspects – Tree Sparrows and Brown-eared Bulbuls – the Japanese Wagtails seemed to be everywhere, as well as their White Wagtail buddies.

There’s no shortage of good birding in Tokyo – most of the parks are centrally located, and easily accessible by subway. Mt. Takao and Kasai-Rinkai Koen would be better done has half-day or full day trips, but wherever you end up, you should be able to find some birds to keep you busy.

Birding at the Jones Ave Basins

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A short turn off of Jones Ave in Apopka, a road more known for its pungent fertilizer fields than birds, there’s a small swampy oasis for ducks and herons. I hadn’t been there since this summer, when it was mostly Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and their chicks, but I stopped by last night and wasn’t disappointed.

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When I arrived just before sundown, the aforementioned ducks were flocking noisely overhead, wheeling in large circles before finally landing for the night. Blue Herons, a Great Egret, Anhingas, a pair of Belted Kingfisher, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker watched the water from bare snags by the road. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron watched me with a red eye, and an adult surprised me just across the lake.

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A small flock of White and Glossy Ibis perched just around the first turn, and I surprised a few Wilson’s Snipe and Least Sandpiper from the brush. A couple of Palm Warblers chipped from the flowering trees, while Snowy Egrets hid with Little Blue Herons in the reedy swamp. There were some Red-winged Blackbirds here earlier in the year, but I didn’t find any last night.

There were three Wood Storks hunting in the muck with another Great Blue Heron in the back-most pond, while a Florida staple – a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk – watched from the old telephone pole near the access road. As I was walking back to the car, I spotted a Long-billed Dowicher, and an Eastern Phoebe twittering from the telephone line.

Back at the car, an Osprey had taken over the snag from the Anhinga, and the female Kingfisher chirruped in the dying light.


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