Washington DC 2018 Nesting Season
Our archived page for the 2018 Season of Bald Eagles Mr. President & The First Lady along with their eaglets Victory & Valor begins with a 2018 Season Review featuring highlights and special memories of this special eagle family at home in their nest high up in a Tulip Poplar tree at the DC Arboretum.
We leave this season with memories of our special eagle family—smiles and tears both in abundance. A caveat on the DC cam page cautions: “This is a wild eagle nest and anything can happen. While we hope that all eaglets hatched in this nest will grow up healthy and successfully fledge each season, things like sibling rivalry, predators, and natural disaster can affect this eagle family and may be difficult to watch.”
After a well-deserved vacation, Mr. President returned to the nest on Sept. 28, and The First Lady joined him on Oct. 9. The pair doesn’t spend a lot of time at the nest when they first return, they tend to slowly ease their way back into their routine, sometimes not showing up at the nest for days, and when they do appear, they don’t stay for long. Their visits are so sporadic at this point, that our volunteer team gets excited when they see a leaf fall!
Everyone celebrated as the cams finally went live on New Year’s Eve. We were all eager to find out if Mr. President would close up the notorious V with sticks this season. We watched in earnest as Mr. President dutifully delivered sticks and worked so diligently to place them in just the right spot, only to have The First Lady come behind him and rearrange his masterpiece, sometimes even grabbing sticks right from his beak!
There were lots of nesting activities, vocalizations, bonding – and our remote cam operators captured many spectacular fly-ins by this famous pair of Bald Eagles. Mr. Squirrel (AKA “Nutterbutter”) also made several appearances, (at times with narrow escapes) as his home is in the “basement level” of the huge nest structure.
A LATE SEASON
This year seemed to be “The Year of Visitors.” In addition to our gray squirrel stars, we also had visits this year from the albino, black, and Southern Flying Squirrel. A larger visitor was the ever-persistent raccoon, who we watched climb into the nest from below the nest several times. We also had a beautiful Osprey and several hawks stop by. It was the visiting eagles, however, that got the most attention. We had eagles of varying ages hang out, some for a few minutes, some for a few hours. A few of them came to the nest several times. One in particular seemed to be particularly persistent, hanging around for a long time, even moving sticks with Mr. President.
The previous two seasons, The First Lady laid her eggs in mid-Feb., As mid-Feb. approached, the anticipation grew, and when Feb. ended with no eggs, viewers were getting anxious. As we got further into March with no eggs, people were worried that there wouldn’t be any eggs this season. Why were there no eggs? Was The First Lady too old? Was it the weather? Or, could it be the persistent visitor somehow affected The First Lady’s hormones? Maybe it was simply that The First Lady’s fertile period was just a month later this year? We will never know! To everyone’s relief, The First Lady finally laid her first egg (DC6) on March 25 at 4:36 pm, and then her second egg (DC7) on March 28 at 2:46 pm.
How carefully these eggs were guarded and protected by the parents. For the most part, brooding was peaceful with no drama. However, ever on guard, when danger appeared, the parent on duty would guard these eggs with his or her very life!
TWO LITTLE EAGLETS AND HOW THEY GREW
The technology afforded by high definition video cams provides unparalleled views of the daily lives of growing eaglets, from tiny bobble heads to mighty eaglets fledging into the world of Nature. A playlist documents the entire season, providing memories that can be viewed over and over. As these videos show, both eaglets developed normally with the help of skilled and proficient parents who cared for them night and day, keeping the pantry well stocked with fish and small mammals.
VICTORY FLEDGES FIRST
It was an accidental fledge—On July 12, 2018, Victory was perched on the lateral branch. In turning around, he/she slipped and lost his/her balance and fell—possibly to the ground, possibly to a lower branch. Arboretum staff spotted Victory flying toward the nest, and the eaglet returned safely to the nest the next day, making somewhat of a crash landing near where Valor was sitting (Valor obviously knew Victory was approaching, and there were lots of vocalizations from Valor!)
On Thursday, July 26, around 1:00 a.m., Valor was perched on the lateral branch of the nest tree when he lost his balance and dropped into the night. At 12 weeks of age, Valor was old enough to fly, and when he was spotted on the ground the next day by Arboretum staff, he appeared to be fine. It is not uncommon for eaglets on the cusp of fledging to have an accidental fall, so there was very little doubt that Valor would soon make it back to the nest. Thursday afternoon Valor was observed flying up into a Sycamore tree, and was spotted higher up in another tree on Friday.
After that, he was not seen for several days, which prompted an active search. He was found Monday, July 30, on the ground, gathered up, and transported to City Wildlife. Outwardly, there were no signs of injuries, but it was observed that Valor was thin and his prognosis guarded. On August 2, Valor was moved to Tri State Bird and Rescue in Delaware, in very poor condition.
Sadly, Valor had contracted West Nile virus – perhaps after falling from the nest, because he had no symptoms before that – and his deterioration was sudden and devastating. He was humanely euthanized August 7. That marked a very difficult day for the AEF and our many supporters, followers, and friends of the DC Eagle Cam family. Words are not enough to convey the sadness we felt for the loss of our precious eaglet, Valor.
To the entire AEF-DC team, the loss of Valor was absolutely raw. Two entries (August 7 and August 8) on our Event Log reveal the depth of feeling our team has for these eagles:
VICTORY IS OFF ON NEW ADVENTURES
Life was still vibrant, if changed, at the nest. Victory gained confidence and strength, soaring over the trees, learning to hunt in the Anacostia River, flying alongside Mr. President. Still squeeing wildly to encourage fish deliveries, Victory’s appetite kept both parents busy! Time passed, and Victory spent more time away from the nest.
A post in the Event Log from August 15: Victory calls out a greeting. S/he looks so fit and strong. Mom and Dad must be feeding you well off the nest. S/he’s so curious as s/he perches on the branch, watching everything that goes by. So cute how s/he tilts her/his head almost upside down to see what’s flying by. We just want to sit back, bask in her beauty and soak in this moment. Each and every minute we have with her is a gift now. Earlybird_AEF
And on August 28: I have some happy, happy, happy news! Did I say happy?! Although we haven’t seen our DC eagle family on cam, Victory and MrP are still in the area! Victory was seen flying through Kingman Island, hunting alone, MrP followed about 10 minutes later. We are so proud of you Victory! We knew you were ready and you’ve just proven it. You’ve got this sweet Victory. Way to go big eagle! Earlybird_AEF
A FAMILY OF CHATTERS
Over 13,500,000 visits were made to our DC Video Eagle Cams during 2018! The Q&A Chat Session, held 6 days a week over an extended period of time welcomed and hopefully educated all who participated. The last chat for the season was August 29, and we were so delighted to have everyone join us to share comments and reminisce about this sweet eagle family.
THIS SEASON ENDS – AND WE AWAIT A NEW ONE
Finally, on September 4, the final post in the Event Log was made:
THANKS TO OUR DC TEAM!
A huge Thank You to all our incredible volunteers—remote cam operators, mods, event log chroniclers, and IT personnel – YOU ARE AMAZING! And we hope to do it all over again next season!
2018 PRESS RELEASES
- 4/30/18 — Business Wire: Mr. President & The First Lady’s Two Eggs Soon Due to Pip & Hatch Inside Their US National Arboretum Nest on DC Eagle Cam!
- 3/27/18 — Business Wire: Famous Bald Eagle Pair Mr. President & The First Lady Welcome First Egg of 2018 into Washington, DC Nest — Just In Time For Easter!
- 3/27/18 — USA Today: D.C. Bald Eagle Couple Mr. President and First Lady Welcome Egg