Let’s make their future better

I have watched Harriet and M15 and E17 and 18 very closely since those kiddos came back from CROW with their eyes all healed. What I have observed is that M15, the dad, seems to intuitively know when E18 wants to eat but won’t because of E17. Yesterday, M15 filled E17 up and then he turned to E18, on the other side of the nest, and started feeding him. The little fella was full to the brim. And, for whatever reason, Harriet has turned a lot of the feeding duties over to M15 lately. She is a great mom but M15 you get my gold star of the week!

M15 feeding E18, 10 February 2021. SWFL Eagle cam with D. Pritchett.

Today has been a very sad day due to some avoidable deaths in the Bald Eagle family. I so needed a laugh and there it was. Lady Hawk (Sharon Dunne) does a lot of videos from the footage at the eagle and albatross cams. This time she did a bit of a funny one. We all like to cheer for the underdog. So here it is, one and a half minutes of slap stick comedy at the expense of E17. She does deserve it, at times. One and a half minutes. Just so you know who you are looking at, E18, the little underdog is on the left. His older sib that causes all the mischief, E17, is on the right.

Make sure you get that red line back to the beginning. You might want to put it on full screen. Enjoy.

Now, let us quickly move over to that nest up at St. Augustine, Florida – the NEFL one with Samson and Gabby. The little one there, E24 is enjoying some nice fresh fish brought in by dad.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think the second egg will make it. And, you know what? Maybe that is OK. We have one healthy eaglet on this nest that would be much older. I think you can imagine what that might be like. E18 was born within hours of E17. This one would be many days younger. Sometimes Mother Nature takes care of things.

And this little one is a fluffy little butterball. Round and healthy, clean eyes. And look, there is a wee bit of white on that rear end where we will see a tail emerge. And those tiny little wings. Precious.

A friend told me once that the second egg is the ‘insurance egg’ if something happens to the first. In their lifetime, Bald Eagles will hope to be able to replace themselves in the numbers. That is how treacherous it is out there for them.

Gabby feeding E24 fresh fish. 10 August 2021. NEFL Eagle cam.

There has been quite a bit of sadness in the last few days in the Bald Eagle world. It is difficult enough for the eagles to survive hatch. You are witnessing that. We have seen so many loses. But beginning with hatch, just the slightest thing can cause a left egg shell to go and slip itself over the second egg. That eaglet might not be strong enough to get out of two shells! Then there is surviving intruders, avian flu and pink eye and well, a drought that brings no food, floods, or even bad parenting. Living to be two years old is extremely difficult never mind making it to adulthood for a Bald Eagle, a bird that is extremely protected by laws, is a real feat. And anything I say about these beautiful eagles is as easily applied to our hawks and falcons.

Several beautiful eagles were taken into care in the past three or four days. Each one was suffering with high levels of lead poisoning. One eagle was actually shot by someone! Yes, shot. Others ate carion and ingested the lead shot. We have made the world of the birds toxic! Some have died or had to be euthanized. Today, I am bringing you the story of two. One older eagle and one beautiful juvenile and some ideas on how you might help.

The Wildlife Service of the State of Virginia provided the following description. It is good and will answer a lot of your questions: “Lead is a soft, pliable heavy metal and fragments easily. Historically, lead ammunition has been frequently used in big game hunting, including deer, elk, and moose hunting. Even when a lead core bullet passes all the way through its intended target, as much as a third or more of the bullet’s total weight will be broken away and remain inside the animal. A normal practice for hunters is to remove the internal organs of the shot deer or other game animal, and simply leave the “gut pile” in the fields after removing the body of the animal. Nearly all of the gut piles contain tiny shards of the lead ammunition”.

There is something that you can do to help. Talk to people or write to someone with influence to make it illegal for lead to be used in anything that has to do with hunting and fishing. There are viable alternatives that do not poison the wildlife or the water. And they are available. So if you want to do something and you have a few minutes one day, write to your political representatives. You can use the same letter, just change the name. In the US make sure you write to the people in the US Fish and Wildlife Services, the Department of the Interior, your congressperson and your Senator. In Canada, write to your MLA and your MP. You don’t even need a stamp. Do it on line.

If you know a hunter, find out if they will consider taking measures to bring the gut pile home to dispose of it properly.

The Migratory Bird Act protects all eggs, nests, birds, feathers of all birds except house sparrows, starlings, and pigeons. They should then be protected by our human inventions such as lead weights and lead shot. If you know of someone that hunts or fishes, maybe you could also talk about how lead impacts wildlife – and give them a packet of heavy rubber weights or stainless steel shot in exchange for some of their old gear. The lead shot and weights would then be taken to the same depot that would receive other harmful items such as paint.

Notice how the injured beak has healed so that the eagle can hunt.

CT Environmental Conservation Officer Michael Curran found the male eagle in the image above hardly able to move. He recognized it because a local reporter had photographed the Bald Eagle in October with a severe beak injury and posted the image in the local paper. No one knew if this beautiful adult would survive. Most thought it would not. Well it did. Curran discovered the male eagle a couple of days ago starving, with swollen feet in the cold, and covered in mites. The eagle could barely stand for more than a few minutes. That eagle was lucky. Someone found it who cared. Curran knew where to take the eagle and that was to ‘A Place Called Hope’ where it was given round the clock care. At the end of 24 hours this bird still had the will to live so a routine lead toxicity test. The level was found to be 48.9. While no level of lead poisoning is safe, this is a horrifically high level. The wildlife rehabbers at A Place of Hope have started this wonderful, strong-willed ‘I want to live bird’ on chelation therapy. They have not seen an eagle survive with this high of toxicity but this bird is a fighter and they said they will be there to fight with him.

And then there is this beautiful juvenile.

The beautiful juvenile eagle above is Decorah Eagle, D35. She was found dead on 29 January on the banks of the Iowa River just south of Iowa City. An examination on site revealed that she was well fed, had excellent feather condition, and there was no damage to her feet and talons. D35 had a transmitter and it was working. No one could understand why such a healthy eagle would be dead. SOAR (Saving our Avian Resources) did a full necropsy including x-rays. She died of acute lead poisoning. There were high levels of lead in her blood system, #6 lead shot in her stomach, and her stomach acids had worked on other lead shot causing it to break down and be even more toxic. There were also high levels of lead in her liver and fat reserves. She didn’t have a chance. It would have been an awful death.

These are only two of the eagles that have been impacted in the last few days. There are more. I could create pages. One beautiful juvenile bird that was healthy in every other way died and one older one who lived through a massive beak injury is now fighting for its life. You don’t hear as much about these levels of toxicity and deaths in the spring and summer because they happen during the fall and winter’s hunting season more often than not.

And if lead toxicity isn’t enough – something created entirely by humans – then there are balloons. You can also help with this. Spread the word. I am attaching an image that has been circulating on social media to make the point:

Every type of bird from Pelicans to Eagles, tiny little song birds to great big hawks get tangled in balloons. One slogan that is also going around shows a bird’s legs all wrapped in the string of a balloon. It said, “Balloons don’t go to heaven, they tangle bird’s feet”. Fireworks might be fun but they terrify wildlife as well as domestic pets. Balloons are beautiful and we used to let them go full of wishes and hopes. No one knew the damage they would cause. We now know. So we can stop the practice and find another way of celebrating.

I want to close on a high note. These little ones are healthy and strong. We want to protect the future of their parents and them so that one day we can watch E17 feed her babies, see E18 bring in the fish for his kids, and E24 set up their nest. How wonderful that would be.

Samson has lots of fresh fish on deck and E24 loves a nice big feed before bed.

Dinner time at the NEFL nest.

There is a lot of fresh fish on the SWFL nest, too. Dad just brought in that small catfish. Earlier there had been two more fish and a squirrel. Lots of food, thanks M15! Harriet fed them well and they are in their own corners, Harriet in the middle to stop any nonsense.

And I want to leave you with an image of E17 and E18 and Harriet. Look how big they are! Great view over their territory. Gosh, aren’t they lucky. Twenty gold stars for the Pritchett family who maintain the cameras and the nest their dad started. Amazing.

Thank you for joining me today. Remember, ask about those lead weights. I don’t know the regulations in Europe and South American or in China where so many reading my blog live but check. I intend to write Cabela’s and Canadian Tire today to see what lead products they stock and find out who to ask about stopping the practice. Maybe one of the owners of these companies will want to be a hero for our wildlife. You never know.

See you tomorrow. Stay bundled up. Be safe.

Thank you to NEFL Eagle cam and SWFL Eagle cam and the Pritchett family for their streaming cameras where I get my screen shots. Thank you to Lady Hawk for her great video and to SOAR and A Place called Hope for the images today.

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