Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Eagles, eagles and more eagles

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a great day to be outside. Although at one point the temperature inland reached 18C, it barely got to 8C out at Rondeau once one was exposed to the wind coming off the ice of Rondeau Bay......there was still a fair bit of ice, and the water wouldn't have been much warmer.

I wanted to get out to the south end of the Marsh Trail at Rondeau to see what the eagles were up to. I had suspected that the nest that the one pair had been using for the last few years was no longer there. This is the very distinctive nest tree within about 200 metres of the Marsh Trail.
photo of 2014
In checking more closely yesterday, this nest tree is indeed gone. Presumably it got blown over in one of the fierce wind storms of last fall. Of course it is an ill wind that doesn't blow in something good, and those storms resulted in some memorable birds such as the invasion of Franklin's Gulls, the Sabine's Gulls, etc.

But for the eagles, it presented a problem. Fortunately they decided to move to a nearby White Pine tree that they deemed suitable and built the nest....perhaps this tree is not quite as sturdy as the previous one, but it may work. At least it doesn't have as much foliage at the top to catch the wind, so maybe it will last. Yesterday, one adult eagle was on it for awhile, with the other adult perched in a dead tree not far away.

photo of new nest, 2016
I decided to hike out to Long Pond and then to the very south end of the trail, a total hiking distance of about 8 kilometres. There were thousands of waterfowl out on Rondeau Bay, with the usual mix of divers and puddle ducks, but also including a single male Eurasian Wigeon. A wigeon with a brick red head is nice to see, but was too far away to photograph, unfortunately, so a 'scope view was all I was able to get.

A couple of Sandhill Cranes emerged from the marsh, giving their trumpet tremolo.

Land birds were beginning to build. There were several hundred Red-winged Blackbirds, not surprisingly, and all males.
A few American Robins were around....I saw probably at least 50 in the park, but only a small number on the Marsh Trail which isn't there prime habitat.
There were a few Swamp Sparrows lurking furtively in the lower cattail vegetation, but none cooperated for the camera. Same for several Song Sparrows. But the good number of American Tree Sparrows did not let me down.
A year or so ago, it seemed that a second pair of Bald Eagles had established a territory in the expanse of the Rondeau Marsh, right near the south beach at the edge of the forest. At first I wasn't certain if it was just a second nest by the known pair, as sometimes they will build one or more other nests. This may happen when one of the adults dies and a new one enters into the pair. But yesterday I saw a pair of adults in a tree within 100 metres of the nest tree at the south end, so it is apparently a separate pair. The birds are about 1.5 km from where I took this shot, so with the thermal shimmer, distance and heavy cropping, it isn't all that sharp.

Much to my surprise, I came across a third pair! I saw an adult perched in a tree at the Rondeau marsh/bay edge, where the cormorants have recently taken up nesting. While watching the one adult, another adult flew into view, went to the water's edge, then to the edge of the marsh where it picked up a stick, and flew up to a small tree and proceeded to work away with it in the largest nest structure of that tree cluster!
This image shows the two adults, at quite a distance, and if you look closely at the right hand side of the image, there is a white arrow that points to the largest nest structure. Clearly this is not the kind of tree that I would expect a pair of eagles to build a nest in, but who knows? It may just be an early attempt that will be for naught. Or they may attempt to occupy this nest and raise young. Or eventually move to a better tree before wasting too much time with this flimsy structure. I expect that the presence of the other nests in the trees, made by cormorants, may have stimulated the eagles to try it out. At any rate, it will be interesting to see if anything comes out of this apparent nesting effort.

It was during the first half of the previous century that there were typically two pairs of Bald Eagles nesting at Rondeau. That dropped to one pair by mid-century, and didn't increase back to two pairs again until likely 2014. Now it seems that a third pair is trying to get in on using this large marsh/bay complex, which would be precedent setting as far as I am aware. It certainly seems that with the increase in the area's Bald Eagle population which I described a couple of posts ago, it may not be all that surprising that a third pair is around. It would seem that there is adequate territory, as the nests are all at least two kilometres from each other. All of the pairs stuck pretty much to their nest area during the entire 4+ hours I was out there.

It is also interesting that a 7th eagle, a sub-adult, was around yesterday, too, but well away from any of the three nesting pairs.

Another reason I wanted to get to the south end of the trail was to see how the controlled burn for Phragmites turned out. I mentioned this event a couple of posts ago.
I was impressed! I haven't seen this swampy ridge this clear of vegetation ever, and hopefully the nasty Phragmites that used to be here will be less of a problem for a few years. Maybe it will give park staff a chance to attack the many other areas in the interim where Phragmites is dominant.

After leaving the park, I decided to swing around by the Ridgetown Sewage Lagoon. There was a good variety of ducks, and several hundred Canada Geese, but only a couple of dozen Tundra Swans. However at least 5 Greater White-fronted Geese were still around.


  1. I saw 7 Bald Eagles from Mitchell's Bay waterfront this evening on my brief visit.

    1. I had heard that there were at least 5 eagles there in the last few days. Probably one pair is the one that is nesting up along the Chenal Ecarte. Certainly a nice change from not that long ago when even one eagle would be unusual!