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2013 Nesting Season for Independence and Franklin

They grow so fast. It seems impossible that tiny bobbleheads, unsteady and tottering, can be ready to embark on their own journeys in just 13 short weeks. We Kindred Spirits of this ever-so-special nest, have gathered once again to document the birth and development of 2 little twin eaglets, both hatched out on May 2, 2013 to non-releasable Bald Eagles Independence and Franklin.

In an effort to make the viewing experience even better than last year, 2 new tilt-pan-zoom cameras were purchased and installed, providing clearer viewing than we've ever had before. We added a second provider to stream Cam 2 - with colors and resolution that made us gasp with disbelief. We could zoom in as if we were only inches away, able to see the tiniest of tiny things - and then zoom out for a larger view.

These Alaskan Bald Eagle parents gifted the world with 2 eggs laid 3 days apart; March 23 at 7:55 p.m. EST, and March 26, 2013 at 8:46 p.m. EST. Indy, predictably, began to incubate in earnest only after the second egg was laid.

On May 2, 2013, 37 days after the 2nd egg was laid, both eggs hatched. E1 entered the world at 3:51 p.m.; E2 at 10:48 p.m.

We were in love all over again.



A scrapbook of memories... with special thanks to AEF Eagle Nest Cam Chatters
who contributed such incredibly beautiful photos

A special Thank You to Chatter Barb Wilber, who put together this video of our 2013 nesting season!

Eggs | Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four | Week Five | Week Six | Hack Tower | Videos

Dusting of snow - early March, 2013

Another season approaches

The home of Franklin and Independence -
Early March, 2013 - a dusting of snow on the nest.

Spring brings new life to Eagle Mountain -
Indy and Frank know time is near for Nesting Season

Friends were waiting eagerly

We have an egg!

Next door, there was lots of gossip about
when the eggs would be laid.
March 23, 2013 - We have an egg!
Eggscitement abounds - Indy's work has begun again.

And a second egg!

We have an egg!

March 26, at 8:46 p.m. Indy laid her second egg.
There would be no third egg - brooding in earnest began.
March 31, 2013 - Keeping the eggs warm with her
brood patch, Indy will protect them from harm.

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And then, after waiting through the end of March, all of April, and into May, we were finally on Pip Watch!

It begins!

This is a slow process...

A baby eaglet chirps from inside the egg; Indy
encourages it to keep chipping away.
May 2, 2013 - E1 struggles to break free.

Almost out

Save with Mom

E1 is almost out; E2 is a little bit behind.
May 2, 2013 - Happy Hatch Day, Little E.

Welcome to your world

Nap time

Welcome to your world.
And now, nap time.

One day old siblings


Two little eaglets - one day old - the bobble-head bonk.
May 4 - Lining up for dinner.

Looking at Mom and Dad


May 5 - Waiting for next meal.
May 6 - Tiny bites - offered patiently again and again, until the babies become skilled at taking the food.

The family

Feeding - one week old

May 7 - Indy and Frank and the Babies.

May 9 - One week old eaglets line up for food.
(They're getting better at this!)

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Photos from their 2nd week in the nest....

May 11 - Indy, her chicks, and a feather

How about a little attention here?

May 11 - Indy comes to see her babies - a feather has been dropped in the nest.

May 14 - How about a little attention here?

A sunny day in the nest.

2 Sweeties!

May 14 - Enjoying a nice spring day at the nest.
May 16 - Can't get any cuter than this.

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Week Three - Getting bigger, weathering a rainstorm

May 20, Family in Nest

May 21 - Storm over

May 20 - Eaglets are now 18 days old
and pin feathers are appearing.

May 21 - Indy must sense there is a change
coming in the weather.

Mom spreads her mombrella

May 21 - Indy stays focused

May 21 - A heavy rainstorm moves in, and Indy unfurls her "mombrella" - spreading her wings over the 6' diameter nest.
May 21 - Long hours are spent shielding the babies from the storm. Our infrared camera captured this at night.

Sheets of water cascade off Indy's wings

Back to normal

May 21 - Sheets of rain cascade off Indy's wings
as she protects the eaglets.
May 22 - Everyone's safe from the storm,
and things are back to normal.

May 22 - hopping around

Playful tug

May 22 - Better balance; more activity.

May 23 - Playful eaglet pulls Mom's tail.

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Week 4

May 24- Tug of war

Rat for dinner

May 24 - Eaglets tug over stick.

May 24 - Eaglets eagerly wait for Rat tat tooie!

Feet getting bigger; wings gaining strength.

Rat for dinner

May 25 - Stretching wings - growing bigger.
May 25 - Close-up showing feet & a full crop.

A playful nip

Rat for dinner

May 27 - A playful moment in the nest.

May 27 - Family at home - enjoying the day.

Feeding time.

Feathers coming in at end of wings

May 29 - Feeding time - bigger bites!
May 29 - Feathers beginning to appear at end of wings.

Power nap - nictating membrane over eye.

Twins seem indentical in size - clue to their being the same sex.

May 29 - Power nap. - nictating membrane on eye.
May 29 - Comparison of twins - seem about the same size.

CLose up of face

Twins seem indentical in size - clue to their being the same sex.

May 30 - Close up of face.
May 30 - Another close up of face.

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Week 5

Feathers coming in

Shafts covering pin feathers

May 31 - Feathers clearly appearing on ends of wings.
May 31 - Pin feathers are how new feathers are born. The feather comes out wrapped in a thin shaft of tissue, which will eventually split, allowing the new feather to unfurl and grow to its full size.

Our eagle family - Indy, Frank, and the Twins

A quiet day in the nest

June 1 - Our eagle family: Frank (on guard duty), Indy (in the nest), and the Twins.
June 1 - Enjoying the day on Eagle Mountain

Parents keep eaglets dry during rain.

Everybody's hunkered down

June 2 - Eaglets are lots bigger now, and it takes both parents to shelter the babies from an unrelenting rain. 
June 2 - Will this rain never end?

Growing much bigger! Looking eagle-ish.

Our twins!

June 3 - Where's my dinner? I'm a growing eaglet!

June 3 - The twins.

Will the rain never end??

Everyone is drenched. Bring on the sun!

June 5 - Will the rain NEVER end??
June 5 - Everyone is just drenched. The babies are way too big to be covered anymore. Bring on the sun!

Growing much bigger! Look at that wing span!

Indy brings food to the nest

June 6 - More rain - but look at that wing span! And flight feathers coming in!
June 6 - Neither Indy nor Franklin can really fly, as they were both shot in their left wings while in Alaska, so in order to get fresh food back to the nest, Indy "hop-flies" back up the steep hill with food left by AEF staff.

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Week 6 - With one eaglet already comfortable perching on side of nest, decision is made to transfer eaglets to hack tower.

A new piece of furniture (a big stick!) requires placement.

Detail of growing eaglet.

June 7 - A huge new stick has been found by Franklin, and no decision has been made as to where it should be placed. It doesn't seem to fit anywhere!
June 8 - A definite "eagle-ish" look from this youngster!

Food is delivered - Indy waits for it!

Uh oh. It won't be long now.

June 9 - AEF staff clears the "table" of old food scraps, cleans off the surface, then lays out the buffet of quail, fish, and/or rabbit while Indy waits patiently.
June 11 - Uh oh. Looking over the edge of the nest is a sign that the eaglets will soon be too large to remain in the nest. When they begin to see over the "front" of the nest, they will be able to see the AEF staff bring food. It is imperative they do not associate food with humans at this stage in their life. This eaglet is looking over the back side, which is a bit lower.

41-day-old eaglet peers over nest.

About the same size as Dad.

June 12 - One day shy of 6 weeks old, an eaglet born May 2 now peers over the side of the nest.
June 12 - 41 days old, the eaglet sits boldly on the side of the nest.

Just checking things out

Perched! Just like Dad.

June 13 - Exactly 6 weeks old today - our venturesome eaglet is entirely comfortable, resting on side of nest --- a behavior which will necessitate the removal of both eaglets to the Hack Tower on June 15th. June 13: "Rail Baby" sits contentedly on side of nest. We have watched him sleep, perch, get fed, and flap his wings from this vantage point, then try to fly back down inside nest - but getting down has resulted in some nose dives and belly flops!

The family together in the nest

They have grown up.

June 14 - Our eagle family - Indy, Frank, and the Twins. Sunlight dapples the trees, the nest, and the eagles.
June 14: "Rail Baby" is again on the side of the nest - while his/her brother/sister stands tall below. They have grown up.

The family together in the nest

Parents leave nest as AEF Staff comes to gather up the eaglets.

June 15 - Their last day all together. Indy and Frank have given these babies a great start. Now the eaglets must learn to be wild.
June 15: Indy and Frank have left the nest, as AEF staff approach the nest to gather up the babies.

First eaglet is carefully removed from nest.

Al takes photo of second eaglet.

June 15 - Al Cecere, president of the American Eagle Foundation, carefully removes first eaglet from nest and places it safely in a carrier.
June 15: Then takes photo of second eaglet. The eaglet seems more curious than scared, and does not appear at all disturbed by the activity.

The nest is empty.

Indy's job is done for this year.

June 15 - An empty nest. Those of us who have followed the lives of these eaglets for the past several weeks are filled with mixed emotions of celebration and joy; loss and sadness. We will miss them and wish them smooth winds and safe journeys when they fly free.
June 15: Indy's job is finished for this year. She and her mate, Franklin, will continue to live their days at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, their forever home, protected and loved by the AEF staff.

Being taken to hack tower


June 16- American Eagle Foundation's Al Cecere and daughters Julia Cecere and Laura Sterbens prepare to take the two eaglets to AEF's artificial nesting tower on Douglas Lake in East Tennessee (Fathers Day 2013)

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Why Send the Eaglets to the Hack Tower?

Hack Tower on Douglas Lake
AEF Hack Tower on Douglas Lake

We must transfer the eaglets from the Dollywood Park environment to imprint them to much more typical bald eagle habitat that they can view from AEF's Douglas Lake hack site. 
This usually needs to be done between 5.5 and 6.5 weeks age, or whenever they can see over the top of their nest.  
AEF constructs their nest with steep and somewhat high edges so that the eaglets can remain with their parents, and on camera, longer than otherwise.  If the eagles are allowed to remain in the nest too long, they begin to climb atop the nest, as one already has a few times. 
The transfer to the hack tower needs to be made just before the eaglet(s) begins to peer downward to the ground and Park at about a 45 degree angle.  They could then possibly see AEF staff placing food on the ground inside the aviary, so that the eagle parents can deliver it to the eaglets in the nest.  This could easily result in the eaglet's permanently associating humans as their food source, and thus not learning to fish for themselves, and therefore risk starving to death. 
Likewise, if the eaglets get too familiar with the Dollywood Park patrons by viewing them from 80 feet away for a few weeks, they would tend to lose their wildness to the degree that their well-being would be significantly diminished.  One or both eaglets could therefore be transferred at any time to their survival in the wild.

Even under the best of conditions, only about 50% of eagles survive their first year in the wild (90 % each year thereafter), due primarily to their inexperience in the wild and lack of knowledge about threats to their survival.

In summary, we want to imprint our released eagles on typical bald eagle habitat where they can learn how to survive in the wild.

Contributed by Bob Hatcher: Eagle Consultant and Correspondent at American Eagle Foundation (AEF). Past: TN Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA)

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Videos to Enjoy!

These, like many of the photos above, were captured by the Chatters who watched our nest during the season. It really "takes a village" to document a nesting season, and we are eternally grateful to all of them.
May 2, 2013, 11:55 a.m. EST
2:38 minute clip / Spectacular video / From Pris.
Huge crack in egg on right; more pips on egg on left
Tight, tight zoom at 18 seconds in.
At about 42 seconds, feathers actually appear outside of shell.
Adult eagle fluffs nesting material by eggs – being so careful!
This is by Kelli Rooney, and she has put music with it!  This is really special!
May 2 - Very good capture / 3:31 minutes
At 1:21, can see the big crack in egg with baby coming out a tiny bit. Can see baby move inside egg.
by Naimoj
Video clip 1:09 minutes
May 2, 2013 – approx. 3:50 p.m. EST
Baby fully out of egg.
Great zooming.
7:55 p.m. est Thursday, Apr. 2
Baby E1 all fluffy, stretching, wiggling, sitting up, alert – E2 egg cracking open.
Fantastic footage.
From mochamama22
Feeding – evening, May 3, 2013
With music
Clip is 1:46 minutes.
By naimoj
Wonderful. Sharp, well done!!!!!
Close up of babies ….. not feeding.
By Calle 391
May 4, 2013
Clip is 2:15 minute
This is a view of feeding from Cam 2 (high def cam, overhead view)
May 4, 2013
By Calle391
Clip is 5:15 minutes.
Very clear, excellent.
Indy shields babies from wild storm (night cam)
By Calle 391
May 21, 2013
Clip is 6:26 minutes
June 13, 2013 - 1:15 minutes
"Rail Baby" gets fed by Indy while perched on side of nest. Rail Baby's continued adventurous activity will trigger the removal of the eaglets from the nest to a safer larger enclosure at the hack tower on June 15.
Captured by Suzie Cooper
June 13, 2013 - 5:29 minutes
With music, edited by Naimoj
Our eaglets are 6 weeks, 2 days old in this video. Stretching their already-massive wings, practicing for flights to come later. They have had a great beginning. Secure and healthy, they will finish their growth in the ample enclosures in the hack tower, overlooking lake and trees, waiting their turn to join the dance of life.
Eaglets are removed from the nest
June 15, 2013 - 21:41 minutes
UStream Recording - Excellent video!
21:41 minutes

Eaglets taken to hack tower - June 16, 2013
17.24 minutes
Excellent video with commentary.


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