Monday, March 21, 2011
March 21 2011
You may not believe it by the weather, but it's springtime - nesting time for birds of prey in Owyhee.
Karen S, retired bird biologist and endurance rider, keeps tabs on the eagle nesting sites in the county, and whenever I can, I hitch a ride (by vehicle or on horseback), to peek through her spotting scope at the birds on their nests.
The Bates Creek golden eagles are trying again. Last year they were on the nest (the male and the female will switch off) for several weeks - and then they disappeared before any eggs would have hatched. They are a skittish pair, and how or why they picked a nest in a cottonwood tree less than 100 yards from a dirt road that has a fair amount of vehicles on it, is a good question - other than it is a nice big secure nest in a protective tree. I expect what really was the last straw last year was the hay cutting in the field right below their tree.
They've been on the nest for a couple of weeks now - and no tractors have been in the field yet - so I can only cross my fingers.
Last year the pair of golden eagles on the Brown's Creek cliffs raised one youngster. Eagles usually rotate between several nests in their territory, and you'll often see many nests on a cliff face. On this cliff, there are at least 4 nests. Last year's is on the far right.
When we approached the canyon, an eagle flew off the opposite cliff face - we didn't see exactly from where - and as we moved closer to scope the nests, we found all of them empty - and then saw 2 golden eagles soaring far away.
Karen did spot a nest that looked like it had fresh 'greens' on it - every year the eagles will add more sticks to their nests, hence you may see a nest that is six feet tall - including a fresh piece of green sagebrush. We'd figured that this pair had started but decided not to nest this year, since they were both off flying and no nest had been occupied for the 15 minutes we'd been watching, but just as Karen noted some downy feathers on the 'fresh' nest - one of the eagles landed on it. She (or he) stared back over her shoulder at us - we sat very still behind our binoculars and spotting scope and talked quietly - and she took her time moving in and finally settling down on the nest.
Success! A confirmed nesting in this territory again.
This week we plan to ride out on horseback to check another territory.