Date: 7/3/19 7:17 am From: Jeff Gibson <gibsondesign15...> Subject: [Tweeters] A Big Baby
4:30 AM, PORT TOWNSEND
Well, it's a grey dim morning here in PT after a day of real rain for a change - the robins are happy, sounds like. Off in the background, the babies were crying. The big babies.
June was awash in babies. My mom has been feeding birds on the deck and at times all the juvenile bird's way outnumber the adults. One summer long ago I worked as a data collector (for a real Ornithologist) on a summer-long breeding bird survey in the Sierra Nevada. Collecting data amounted to watching birds all day and keeping track of their territories, nests, eggs laid, young hatched, young fledged, etc.
Young fledgling birds we referred to as "punks" - despite their grown-up size, still sponging off ma and pa. While a non-scientific term, punk aptly described the behavior. In that study, the worst (if you were a parent),or best (if you were a punk) punks were Dark-eyed Junco's, with Cassin's Finch a close second. Parent Juncos being harassed by a small herd of their own children following the parents every move! It was obviously super-annoying. Here on moms deck, I enjoyed watching three punk House Finches successfully conning dad into feeding them (while they were standing on a pile of bird food). Nearby young Song Sparrows and Towhee's exhibited more mature behavior.
The big babies around here are Bald Eagles - nest just a block away. I've been hearing the baby cries for about a month -gradually getting louder. The eagle nest is not clearly visible from any direction, being in a stand of Douglas fir trees, with no looks into the nest, so I'd been waiting for the youngsters to leave the nest, which happened last week: large dark birds crashing around nearby firs. I knew I'd read somewhere that young eagles flight feathers were larger than the adults, and refound that factoid in the Sibley species account. So you're not crazy if you perceive young eagle wings as appearing especially ginormous - they really are.
So last week was eagle "flight school" which involves a lot crashing around in the firs. It is amusing to watch young eagles trying to handle those big ol' wings - it takes some getting used to - taking short "flights'' (barely) at first, then gradually longer, but still staying in their block of trees. Sunday I watched an early flight of the youngster as it soared out into the open sky, without much certainty - "whoa, whoaa..... whooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" it might've been feeling. It did all right in the end. Maybe the extra large wing feathers are like eagle training wheels, providing more lift to make staying up a bit easier? I don't know.
Yesterday I watched an adult eagle on the "Eagle Tree" drying it's laundry. One branch (the one preferred by eagles) is mostly bare (from many years of eagle use) but the outer end still has a few branches of foliage which the eagles use as a "drying rack" to spread their wet wings - yesterday maybe from rain, but also maybe after nabbing a fish. On Monday I watched as an adult eagle hauled a sizable fish up from the waterfront far below. It stopped in about three different trees on the way up the hill, possibly to rest a minute, or maybe to try to get a crow off its tail. Whatever, as it got closer I could see the fish was one of those gnarly big- headed sculpin's (also an otter favorite) which it delivered to its big baby in the fir grove. Yummy.
I'm not sure if there is one baby or more (have only seen one at a time) but it sounds like more than one - they had two last year. I'll have to try and get a closer look.
Jeff Gibson watching the twerps in Port Townsend Wa