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Raptors-in-Residence: Monitoring Bald Eagles at Lake Chabot

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Parent and juvenile Bald Eagles on their nest at Lake Chabot. Photo by Mary Malec

Parent and juvenile Bald Eagles on their nest at Lake Chabot. Photo by Mary Malec

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. 

What mother doesn't enjoy a nice relaxing bath away from the kids?  Photo by Mary Malec

Mary Malec thought the female might be flying down to fish, but was surprised when she landed and began bathing.  What mother doesn’t enjoy a nice bath away from the kids? Photo by Mary Malec

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.) 

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Category: Biology

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About the Author ()

Sharol Nelson-Embry is the Supervising Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center & Aquarium on San Francisco Bay in Alameda. Crab Cove is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest and oldest regional park agencies in the nation. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Natural Resources Management and an epiphany that connecting kids with nature was her destiny. She's been rooted in the Bay Area since 1991 after working at nature centers and outdoor science schools around our fair state. She loves the great variety of habitats stretching from the Bay shoreline to the redwoods, lakes, and hills. Sharol enjoys connecting people to nature with articles in local newspapers and online forums. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.