Monday, April 20, 2009

Bald eagle and babies

I have become a virtual birdwatcher! My parents sent me an Internet link some time ago to a camera above a bald eagle nest in their town, Decorah, which is in northeast Iowa. The photos from it are posted daily on a site run by the Raptor Resource Project, and the director very kindly gave me permission to use their pictures as a drawing reference.

I’ve been watching the nest since sometime in March, and I try to go online at least once a day if possible. They used to have streaming video, but had to slow the camera down because it caused problems for their Internet service provider.

The early nest was little more than a pile of sticks. Gradually the male and female eagles added smaller twigs, mosses, grasses, and corn stalks to the nest. First one egg was laid, then two more. I would log on to find the female on her nest, vigilant; sometimes in the sun, sometimes wet from rain, and once covered in snowflakes.

The week before Easter the eggs hatched! As the eaglets continue to grow, the outer edge of the nest becomes littered more and more with leftovers – fish fins, bird wings, and other eagle goodies brought in to feed the young.

Some time ago I did a pencil sketch of the female in the nest, and recently I did the watercolor sketch of her feeding the eaglets. When I logged on today, I could see the first signs of spring…the bare branches of my watercolor now have tiny leaves, and there’s more green flushing the pastureland below.

My father tells me that when you walk nearby, the male eagle is not far way. When he’s not hunting and bringing back food for his family, he sits in the branches above the nest.

You can see the nest yourself here:


  1. Elizabeth, this is WONDERFUL. I saw your pencil drawing on Flickr some time back, it's one reason I wanted you to be on Sketching in Nature--I KNEW you'd be such an asset!

  2. funny coincidence - I'm watching an eagle nest in Virginia by web! You have done an absolutely fabulous job on them!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! I can't wait to show my children!

  4. Jeanette, that's amazing!

    My father adds these comments on the eaglet's diet:
    "...they have been eating squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, baby pig, trout, and I believe Chuckar partridge...not native but have a shooting preserve near here that releases them for hunts."

    He is a retired Management Biologist with the Iowa Conservation Commission and a birdwatcher.

  5. An eagle update:

    They are also eating fresh water carp and white sucker.

    The eaglets are changing almost every day now! Their black bills are now yellow, and their fuzzy white down is more gray. They are also more active, venturing to the edge of the best and eating more.

  6. Fascinating! Loved reading your observations and viewing your BEAUTIFUL watercolor.


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