Baby Steps

HNWR Eagle_5605 A3How did we go from this tiny little fellow looking up at his parent…

HNWR Eagle_3868 a2

to this broad-shouldered young Eagle soaring among the trees…


Yes, folks, the Bald Eagle chicks at Heinz Refuge have fledged! They took their first flights over the last weekend, and were already accomplished veterans by the time I saw them on Tuesday. Admittedly, they don’t go far, just fly laps around their Oak Island home, and they still spend time in the nest. But they are flying!HNWR Eagle_3884 acs

HNWR Eagle_3907 aIt looked to me like they were doing a fine job of maneuvering and landing in the trees. They have a new favorite perch, on a large bare tree to the right of the nest. I photographed one Eaglet there, and it wasn’t until I got the photos on the computer that I saw the other was right next to him, but hidden behind some foliage.

Even more surprising was this photo, where I was focused on one Eaglet (center) landing, and only discovered in processing that I’d caught the other Eaglet (upper left) in flight!HNWR Eagle_3882 a

The last flight we saw was a little rocky for one young bird. Seems a few Red-winged Blackbirds decided to chase him, even hitting him on the back a couple of times. I’m sure he was thinking “Mom! Help! What IS this?” Life out of the nest is all new to these guys.

I’ve been watching birds fly for many years. It never gets old, and watching the raptors fly is especially awe-inspiring. But nothing has moved me as much as these young Eagles’ short flights. What a thrill. It’s been a privilege to watch them grow.

Here are a few other young birds at Heinz right now. For starters, Yellow Warbler. HNWR Yellow Warbler_3486 a HNWR Gnatcatcher_2266 aHNWR RW BB_2064 a Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in a row (above)

Red-winged Blackbird (right)

Barn Swallow (below)HNWR Barn Swallow_2035 a

HNWR Mallard Ducklings_1794 a2Female Mallard and ducklings (above)

Female Wood Duck and ducklings (below)HNWR Wood Ducklings_3624 a

FUN FACT: Baby Wood Ducks have a big obstacle to overcome right from the start. The parents choose a nest cavity, either in a tree or man-made boxes. The nest is as much as 60 feet off the ground, and although it’s often over water, it may be over dry land. Soon after hatching, the ducklings have to make their way to water. Mom calls to them from the ground below. They can’t fly yet, so that means they have to JUMP from the nest! It doesn’t hurt them though. I’ve never seen this in person, only in documentaries, but apparently, Wood Ducklings bounce!

For en excellent video of one duckling’s leap of faith, check out this clip from Nature on PBS:

Coming up: Pine Barrens Ramble