When I was a teenager in Massachusetts in the 1960s and 70s, there were no breeding pairs of bald eagles in the entire state. I remember seeing a bald eagle on a trip west with my family, and it was a huge deal. The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the great ecological success stories for my generation, and even though it is hardly rare to see bald eagles nowadays, there is still a thrill when we get to see one. We understand what we nearly lost. To have the chance to watch eagles in their nests was unheard of when I was young. Which explains my excitement when yesterday I found a third eagle nest this spring with a nesting pair.
Earlier this month we discovered a golden eagle nest on a cliff above the Missouri River. Last week I went out to check on the goldens and found that a pair of bald eagles had returned to a nest about a mile upriver from the golden eagles. From across the river I watched the two of them putting the final touches on their nest.
Yesterday we went to the Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area. Even though we knew that the ponds there are still mostly frozen, we are simply antsy for spring, and it was a beautiful sunny day.
As we hiked closer to this grove of cottonwoods and willows I could see an eagle nest in one of the old cottonwoods.
A little closer yet, and we could see the bald eagle in the nest.
She was pretty well hidden, but she was there!
We walked around the grove, looking for her partner, and found him regally sitting in a nearby tree.
He eyed me as I got closer…
and then took off when I took one step too many.
With pronghorns keeping an eye on us from a nearby hillside, we continued on to the ponds.
Only about a third of the water is open, but we found plenty of geese, goldeneyes, and even a few trumpeter swans.
As we passed the cottonwood grove on our way back to the car, the male eagle had returned and was keeping guard near the nest. We let him be and kept on our way.
(By the way, the Minnesota Live Eagle Cam is up and running, and the mother eagle is now incubating an egg. Well worth checking it out.)