Raptors-in-Residence: Monitoring Bald Eagles at Lake Chabot
Bald eagles, an iconic symbol of our national pride and heritage, can be found in the East Bay. Last July I wrote about a pair of bald eagles that raised their first chick near Lake Chabot Regional Park in San Leandro. They’re back for the second year and have successfully hatched another chick. Before fledging, it got ready to leave the nest by “branching” which involves lots of hopping around, wing-flapping and venturing out onto nearby tree limbs. Here’s a short video of the juvenile, filmed by Mary Malec, 2-3 days before it left its nest:
Mary is an eagle monitor along with biologists from the East Bay Regional Parks Stewardship Department. Mary has also monitored other raptors — such as peregrine falcons and golden eagles — for the GGRO (Golden Gate Raptor Observatory) for close to 8 years. Through her volunteer work overseeing these birds and their nests, she’s been able to capture stunning photos that are shared on her Flickr account.
Late September was the last time Mary saw the bald eagle fledgling. She observed a second-year sub-adult at Lake Chabot in April of this year. It’s hard to know if that was the young from last year’s nest coming back, or if it was some unrelated juvenile passing through the area. It didn’t stay.
If you want a chance to see the eagles, you can check them out in the next couple of months at Lake Chabot. I was lucky to see the eagle parents both times I hiked at the lake on the West Shore Trail. The best view is from the Alder Point fishing area. You can also get good views from the dam, although now that the juvenile is airborne, they might be anywhere around the lake. The nest is well hidden and I haven’t been able to spot it.
The eagles’ nesting area was near a long-time great-blue heron rookery. The herons have since moved out to the island in the middle of the lake for this year’s chick-raising marathon, giving the eagles plenty of space to raise their own. Here’s a rare video Mary took of the eagle chick in the nest:
An interesting fact: the underside of an eagle nest is surprisingly a pretty safe place to raise a family if you’re a house finch; they have used the underside of the nest to raise their own brood both this year and last. Mary said she’s seen the eagle chick watching the finches come and go.
You can find other sites to observe bald eagles through the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website or one of these nest cameras. Please remember to stay on the trails and out of restricted areas for your protection — and to keep our eagles coming back each year to our lake. A pair of bald eagles attempted to nest last year on Crystal Spring Lake, but unfortunately abandoned their nest site (perhaps due to human activities.)