• Aspiring eagle parents will have to find new digs By Naomi Klouda Homer Tribune
Photo by Beverly Macy - An eaglet peers out over the edge of its nest on the Homer Bypass.
The tall ancient spruce tree at the corner of Lake Street and the Sterling Highway blew down in recent storms, destroying a popular eagle’s nest where two sets of eaglets were raised in recent years before thousands of eager tourists. Near hurricane-force winds ushered in a frosty November that leaves some residents contending January came early this year. Yet another storm front moved our way Tuesday, calling for more high winds, but warmer temperatures and rain as well. Local artist Beverly Macy was disheartened when she saw the tree reduced to a mere stump and its nest scattered across the icy snow. She had photographed the stages of eagle development for a series she plans to paint the eagle’s progression from hatching to flight. “It’s gone now. The whole tree snapped off at the bottom. It looked like the city plow dumped on top of the nest,” Macy said. “The eagles raised their young there where we could all see. The tourists enjoyed that so much.” The stand of dead spruce trees just past the traffic light didn’t fare too well in that first set of heavy wind storms. A dozen trees were knocked over or splintered, and the famed tree laden with its eagle nest is the most obvious causality. Public Works Director Carey Meyer, who needs to oversee where eagles build nests in case they take a dangerous liking to spots atop street lamps, was surprised from the start to see the nest. “Eagles don’t nest just anywhere. It was always kind of weird that the eagles would pick a location at the busiest intersection in town to build their nest,” Meyer said. The bold parents were undaunted by the traffic or the nearly dozen vehicles pulled over on any given day while tripods were set up to capture a rare look at the raptors hauling dead salmon to feed their young, or teaching the two hatchlings to fly. Retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Dave Roseneau said Homer eagles aren’t shy. Perhaps because of their human conditioning as fed birds when Jean Keene lived on the Homer Spit, these eagles don’t feel as threatened by human encounters. “It all comes down to finding a good tree to build in. They chose that one two or three years ago,” Roseneau said. “People in Homer live, and let live, when it comes to eagles. Homer eagles aren’t nearly as sensitive to disturbances as people might think. They have been building nests in people’s yards where kids are playing.”
Photo by Beverly Macy - Eagle parents tend to their young at a nest they build in a dead tree near the busiest intersections in Homer. Homer residents and tourists enjoyed watching the story unfold of the parents raising their young, from egg laying, brooding and hatching of two eaglets. Recently, during a heavy wind storm the tree blew down and experts predict that the eagles will be back looking for another tree in the vicinity.
He observed visitors taking careful steps beneath the nest, creeping up to avoid startling the birds. “They were concerned they were doing something disruptive, but the birds couldn’t care less. Our eagles are more familiar with people and the things that go with that.” Roseneau watched as an eagle parent dangled a piece of salmon, enticing a reluctant eaglet to try its wings. “The adults will entice them out of the nest, sitting around in trees, teasing them with a piece of salmon. That occasionally happens. They will do this to encourage them to leave the nest,” he said. The dead tree was somewhat ideal for a nesting site. “Once it reached that point as a dead tree it was great for building a nest in,” he said. Eagles have a criteria for good nesting sites – it must have open access so they can spread their wings while flying in. They need branches configured for laying in sticks that won’t fall away. It needs to be a certain distance from other eagles’ nests. “It will be interesting to see what happens next spring. That’s their territory and they will keep it,” Roseneau said.