Saturday, December 19, 2009
New Kids on the Block
Saturday December 19 2009
We may be getting some new neighbors on the crick.
There's a young couple that has been cruising around here, checking out the empty places to live. I haven't seen them up close - they prefer to keep to themselves - but they look like they'll fit in with us very well, blending into the Owyhee woodwork of somewhat reclusive animals and humans just fine. They will be most welcome.
They're checking out the opportunities for starting a family - weather, location, education opportunities, food, privacy. I think I know which place they've narrowed it down to.
One of them flew down Pickett Creek this morning - right outside my window - in the heavy fog, gliding just above the treetops to find his way. I've seen the pair of golden eagles a few times perched by one particular nest that was empty last year, and used by red-tailed hawks the year before that. I've twice seen one of them hunting down a nearby draw; and a half-mile from from the nest, I've seen one or two perched on a pointed hill, where they have a long-distance view of this particular nest. Bird biologist Karen S and I rode along those hills a few weeks ago on horseback, and spotted both of them flying high above the same draw (I ALWAYS see eagles when Karen comes here to ride!) A few days later I was on an ATV up there and was aghast when I startled both of them near that hill - I haven't been up there since, and certainly not on an ATV. (Unfortunately, it looks like these trails are now being marked for ATVs.)
I hadn't seen them for over a week, and had almost given up on them, until I saw the one fly by this morning, and saw one perched on that pointed hill a half-mile from the nest this evening.
Golden eagles are birds of open country, and we have plenty of that here. Their favored diet is jackrabbits - of which we have an abundance in the desert sagebrush.
The birds, protected since 1962 under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, prefer cliff nests - and there are plenty golden eagle territories in the numerous cliffs in Owyhee county, particularly along the Snake River - but will also nest in trees. They usually have a couple of nests in their territory and will rotate between nests each year. The nests will be added to with sticks and fresh "greens", so each year it's used, a nest will get bigger. They can be as large as 6' in diameter and 5 high. They'll use aromatic leaves to deter insect pests.
The nest on the creek at which I've seen them at the most is in a strong spot in a cottonwood tree - supported by at least 3 trunk branches - and it will be well hidden once the leaves return. Unless you know the nest is there, you won't see it. That will be good, because they like their privacy.
We Owyhee'ns will be most honored if these golden eagles choose to nest on our creek in the spring.
(There's one eagle on the left, and another on the right, just above the nest.)