Mossy Bank Eagle Watch

4/22/14 EARTH DAY – Great news. Brenda Todd has provided photographic evidence that the Bald Eagle nest below Mossy Bank Park has successfully hatched 2 eggs and is actively feeding these chicks. What a great present for Earth Day.
Randy Weidner

Mossy Bank Eagle
Picture from Anne Keddy 4/27/2014:

3/15/14 – Hello Fellow Bath Bald Eagle Watchers, I hope that in the next few weeks it will be getting warm enough for a number of you to get out and do some “in person” Eagle Watching. However, over the last couple weeks I’ve bared the cold and done some (winter) eagle observing. I’ve also gotten more photographic documentation accomplished in the process. Please read (and view) on!

On the 9th, of March – six days after my last observation – I was able to catch our local eagles once more upon the nest together. (See top photo on the right)

While I had walked into Mossy Bank that afternoon, I saw neither of the eagles in their usual locations – on the nest or in the Perching Tree. However, on the way home (~ an hour later, just after sunset) I stopped along the RR tracks and Rt. 17/86, just south of Babcock Ladder Co., and saw both of our eagles on the nest together. I got several pictures, but the light was fading and – due to my efforts to balance my camera above the 6’ tall fence along Rt. 17/86 – my camera was not quite steady.

While observing, the pair began to frolic once again. I captured multiple images, but due to conditions, the sequence came out seriously blurry. But my own eyewitness report of the event is that the eagles were doing a wonderful job of bonding!

Then on Tuesday, March 11th, I hiked in along the north side of the Cohocton and got some great images of both of our eagles. At first, the male was in the lower branches of the nesting tree. (See 2nd picture down on right) But only after a few minutes he took off – perhaps to get some hunting in. But, up in the nest, the female was sitting proud. At one point she stuck her head straight up in the air. Maybe she was calling for hubby to come home? (See 3rd – 4th picture down on right).

Some 15 or so minutes later the male returned and joined the female on the nest. However, he didn’t stay very long and left to fly over to the Perching Tree. I was again very lucky and caught a sequence of rapid shots of the male’s flight from the nest to the Perching tree. I have put them together into an animated .gif file. It’s just impressive to see these large birds in flight. They’re a little different than the sparrows at the back yard feeder! (See 5th frame down on right)

It should be noted that around this time of year the female bald eagle lays her egg(s) and begins to remain on the nest just about full time – until hatching occurs. Eggs can even be laid as early as the last half of February. And, as I recall last year, our female eagle was already on the nest in the first week of March. With this in mind, I have been watching for nesting activity indicting that one or more eggs have been laid. Time has right for nesting to begin. But, then . . .

It should be noticed that the 3/9 and 3/11 pictures include no snow on the nest. But that changed when the recent snowstorm struck on Wednesday the 12th.

In fact, I was very worried about our mating pair in connection with the storm. The reason being that a couple years ago they produced no offspring. One potential contributing (or direct?) cause/effect may have been a bad snowstorm in early March, which included a serious drop in temperature. While mother eagle had been on the nest prior to that storm, she was not present for several days afterward and by early April no nesting behavior was taking place.

Being concerned about this upcoming mating season – due to this year’s snow storm – I went out on Thursday the 13th, to see what I could see. I didn’t have the time to trek into Mossy Bank, so I again made my observation from just south of Babcock Ladder. I didn’t have my serious telephoto lens with me, but I did see an odd projection of white above the rim of snow around the eagle’s nest. (See 6th photo down on right) I was pretty sure that that was the female eagle’s head and that she was seriously on the nest – despite the previous day and night’s 25 + mph gusting winds, ~ 8” of snow fall, and overnight sub 10° temperatures.

Yesterday, on Friday the 14th, my guess was confirmed. After xc skiing up the old Magee Rd, then on up to the eagle observing spot in Mossy Bank, I found that mother eagle was on the nest!

She was not just “on the nest”, but the nest was also clear of snow. And, while shooting, she switched positions and “settled” down (wiggling her body) into a laying position. I would guess that this means there’s at least one egg that needs to be well covered and kept warm and protected from the weather. If I am correct, it looks as if we may have at least one new baby eagle on the way! (See 7th & 8th photo down on right)

Finally, while up top, I didn’t happen to see the male eagle. But as is beginning to be my habit, I stopped near Babcock Ladder to check if the male had “gotten home” and noticed one eagle in the Perching Tree, and the other on the nest. (See 9th and 10th photo down on the right)

With the weather it’s been an interesting last few days for Bath bald eagle watching. It’ll be nice when the warmer (and drier) conditions arrive. Good eagle watching in the mean time!

3/7/14 – Today is March 7th, so spring must be right around the corner! That is, unless you’ve looked at the thermometer over the last few days! And while most local Bath bald eagle watchers begin watching as, or when, the weather warms up, I’m just crazy enough to want to observe our eagles whenever I can get out to the hill side – cold weather or not.

The first newer observations I have provided here include pictures from February 22nd. Once more, I was observing from the north bank of the Cohocton River. I was lucky enough to catch both the male and female in and around the nest area. Top picture to the right – The female on the nest.

In the course of getting a few shots of the female, the male suddenly joined her on the nest. After a minute or so it appeared as if the eagles were engaging in mating activity (or just frolicking?). I took a fast, sequential, series of shots during the next several moments and put those pictures together into an animated .gif file. See the second frame down on the right (parental guidance may be useful for young people).

The next, and very informative, shot from Feb. 22nd, was taken a short while later when both the male and female flew off to the nearby Perching Tree. They landed almost side by side.

What’s revealing about this image is how easy it is to tell the male from the female. Male bald eagles are somewhat smaller than females. In this photo it appears that the eagle on the left is smaller, and the one on the right, larger. This would make the bird on the left the male, with the female on the right. It is also quite easy to see that the male’s brown feathers are noticeably darker in tone. This information may make it easier to ID the male (and/or female) when only one of them is in sight. See the third picture down on the right

Finally for this report, on the 3rd of March, I snapped a quick picture – with my not-so-high-powered (or sharp) telephoto lens – of our mating pair both perched close to the nest. This was around mid day from the north side of the Cohocton. See fourth picture down on the right.

2/22/14 – Greetings again Bath bald eagle watchers. Over the last week I’ve gotten a few more pictures of our local bald eagles. Read on for something new near the end.

On February 18th, during a hike along the north side of the Cohocton River I spotted one of the eagles in a tree to the hill side of (behind) the nesting tree (Top picture to the right). This is a very popular perching area for our local bald eagles. They aren’t always in that tree, but if you check the area you may spot one or both eagles there abouts.

When they perch in one or another tree, to the hill side of the nest, they can be seen from Mossy Bank’s Eagle Watch overlook, or from the valley. If you pull over and park along side Rt. 17/86 to observe the eagles please be very careful! Much better yet is to hike in and observe from along the north side of the Cohocton River.

Also on February 18th, I caught a glimpse and a picture of a second bald eagle almost hidden within the trees at the east end of the Mossy Bank ridge (second photo down on the right). It’s tricky to spot a bald eagle at 3-400 yards, with lots of branches in the back ground, in the winter. So many trees have small bits of white snow in the forks of their branches that it can appear as if there are bald eagles perched in trees all over the ridge. lol However, this spot, on the sky line along the east end slope of Mossy Bank ridge, has revealed at least 10 sightings of

bald eagles for me in the last couple months.

Note: One thing to keep in mind about this section of the Mossy Bank ridge is that it can not be seen from any established observation point in the park. You’ve got to be in the valley below to see the bird(s) when they are perched in this area.

On February 19th, once more during a hike along the Cohocton River, I captured a picture of one of our bald eagles in their favorite perching spot – what I’ve been calling the “Perching Tree”, to the hill side of the nest (third picture down). I looked for activity on or around the nest but none was apparent.

Next on February 20th, around 5 pm, I was again observing from the Cohocton River area. It was very overcast, dark, and (at least) drizzling. Due to all this, I was equipped with a relatively small telephoto lens on my DSLR. This was necessary so that I could fit it under my coat and keep it out of the weather as much as possible. This is why the next photos I will describe are very much not “art” photos. But they did document a “FIRST” for me in the 4-5 years I’ve been observing our Bath bald eagles.

(Technical Info: Both photos from the 20th were shot with an 800 ISO setting, and a 400 mm (doubled to 800mm) lens. Shutter speed was about 1/60th of a second. The pictures are dark and grainy, but under the circumstances that is to be expected.)

The first shot shows one more picture of one of our bald eagles in the Perching Tree behind the nest (fourth picture down). There’s nothing too unusual here.

However, on my hike back to my car, and from the north (Babcock Ladder) side of Rt. 17/86, I happened to look back toward the sky line along the east end of the Mossy Bank ridge, and on a branch of one of the scraggly pines I saw two “clumps” that normally are not there. Where I was standing was at least a quarter mile from that tree. So, I grabbed my 10x binoculars, focused in, and sure enough, the “clumps” were two bald eagles perched together on the branch (fifth photo down).

From where I was I could shift position some and then also see, across and over the highway, to the Perching Tree – and – !ding dang! – there was the other bald eagle I initially spotted, still sitting on his/her perch!

For the first time in my experience I was observing 3 (local?) bald eagles all within fairly close proximity. Please note that what looks pretty fuzzy in the second photo of the two birds on the branch was much clearer though my binoculars. It was definitely a pair of mature bald eagles.

Now, as Dr Weidner has suggested here on his “What’s Up At Mossy Bank” Blog page, perhaps what I have observed is/was a pair of more northern bald eagles who are “wintering” here in the more balmy (than say, central Canada) Bath area. They may also be “on there way through” Bath back to their home to the north.

It’s had to say for sure, but time my give us an answer. If, in a month or so from now, more than two bald eagles can be locally spotted within close range of each other, it could be that one of our mating pair’s offspring has matured and is looking to “set up house” near its birth/fledging place here in Bath. If that is the case, then that should result in us having TWO mating pairs of local Mossy Bank bald eagles!

S C Wise

PS – From information sources I have read, immature bald eagles are the most likely to migrate to warmer climes in the winter. However, mature adults quite typically, or at least more often, remain in their (year round) territory. Given this information, my partial impression is that our local adult mating pair does stay in the area year round.

My additional reasoning also includes the (local) eagle’s repeated presence in either identical and/or similar perching locations – winter, spring, summer and fall. I don’t think that foreign, visiting, or migrating, eagles would inherently know about the “great places to perch” that our local eagles have established over the years.

One thing is for sure; there is a LOT to learn about the wild creatures that surround us. They’ve got a bunch of surprises in store for us! And, Mossy Bank Park is a great place to stumble on those surprises!

2/13/14 – An update from Scott Wise: Hello fellow Bath bald eagle watchers. Over the last two weeks I have been able to get some more photographic documentation of our local birds, as follows, . . .

On January 29th, I was hiking along the Cohocton River once again and got the top picture (to the right) of one of the eagles perched in a pine, part way up the hill, at the end of Mossy Bank ridge. A couple of the scraggly pine trees in that area seem to be favorite eagle perching places. There’s a likelihood that they may favor these spots on days when the wind is from the east to the south. The slope in that area faces in those directions and is likely to provide better lifting air currents for (easier) soaring flight.
Then, on January 31st, I was able to get a number of shots of the eagle(s) on the nest from the “Eagle Watch Overlook” in Mossy Bank Park. This was before the 6″ snow fall. First only the female(?) was on the nest (second image down on the right) but then she(?) was joined by the male(?) (3rd image down on the right). In this picture the eagles seem to be sharing a meal which, I guess, was just delivered to the nest.

Next, on February 8th I got a couple more pictures of one of the Bath bald eagles in the south Mossy Bank Ridge pine. The first shot was taken just after the eagle landed, and the second, a short while later (5th and 6th image down from the top on the right).

Most recently, on February 11th, I cross country skied into and around Mossy Bank. When I neared the overlook pavilion area (on the lower trail) I got a look at what I’m confident was one of the immature bald eagles being “chased/harassed” by a crow or raven. The two were soaring toward the south, about 100 feet over the ridge, and disappeared behind the trees before I could get a picture. But then, about 40 minutes later, I got some video of both the adult bald eagles soaring over the pavilion overlook area.

1/30/14 – An update from Scott Wise: I may just be lucky, but the Bath bald eagles are making themselves more visible lately. I take my dog for hikes along the Rt 17 side of the Cohocton River (opposite Mossy Bank) every few days and am always on the look out for the eagles (or red tails, or ospreys, or other raptors).

Last week on the 15th of Jan. I spotted one of the adult eagles in a pine tree part way up the slope of Mossy Bank (pict 1 – see attachments). After getting a couple shots of him/her in that location, he/she took off and flew south below Mossy Bank ridge. I got a somewhat fuzzy but okay shot while the eagle was in flight (attached pict 2). The eagle then flew to and landed in a pine tree at the east end, and about half way up the slope, of the Mossy Bank ridge. I got a fairly good telephoto picture of him/her in that spot ( attached pict 3).

Then, on Jan. 25th. I got a quick glimpse, and a picture or two, of both the adult bald eagles soaring and circling, once again, over the east end of Mossy Bank ridge. I got one grainy but identifiable picture of the eagles flying together (attached pict 4). It was a little while after sun set so the light was not good for a sharp and clear picture – but sometimes the idea is to document an event rather than create a work of fine (photographic) art. lol

What I was not able to get any pictures of (on the 25th) was the mating pair then landing together in a pine tree (perhaps the same tree as in pict 3). From what I could see through my binoculars the two eagles seemed to be “frolicking” a bit. From what I read on the internet, it could be 5-10 days (from the 25th) that the bald eagle nest will, once again, become active. That roughly fits with mid February as being the accepted time when bald eagles lay their eggs (seems early to me, but it fits with articles on the subject and my local observations).

Additional Note: I noticed, while trying to get the Jan 25th picture(s), that after landing, the two eagles seemed to be “frolicking” a bit. From what I read on the internet, it could be 5-10 days (from the 25th, or so) that the bald eagle nest will, once again, become active. That roughly fits with mid February as being the accepted time when bald eagles lay their eggs. Now, this may seem early, but it fits with articles on the subject, as well as past local observations. What a time of year to be trying to keep eggs warm!