Friday, April 30, 2021

April: Following Nature's Ups and Downs

April's annual weather roller coaster was marked with record highs -- with the better part of a week pushing into the 80s (even upper 80s) -- and then near record lows (with 6" of snowfall on April 20/21 in southern portions of Erie County). But things stayed plenty active on and around the marsh.

The stately parental pair of "our eagles" standing guard on their bayfront nest.

Roy witnessed a very unusual drama playing out at our eagle nest on our Sandusky Bay shoreline. It all started the afternoon after an arctic blast interrupted what was starting to feel like early summer. While the marsh itself did not get any accumulating snow (due to the lake and bay warming into the 50s), the abrupt change may have upset the balance at the eagle nursery in the sky. 

An unexpected intruder to the nest on April 21.

Even if it wasn't the weather, it was a third eagle (above) that tipped us off that something was amiss. While the proud parents were reluctant to do so, Roy watched as they relented to the persistent intruder, ultimately giving up their rightful spots on the nest to take up agitated perches on a nearby cottonwood tree. Roy's first instinct was that he might be witnessing a rare golden eagle predating on fledgling bald eagle chicks.

A close-up of the intruder's heavy bill helped to confirm its identity.

But with the help of a telephoto lens (even in strong bayside winds) we could confirm that Roy was looking at a two- or maybe more likely three-year-old immature baldie. And its presence did not bode well for the welfare of the young eaglets.

While it is difficult to make out what the immature eagle was scavenging on, we feared the worst for the success of the eagle nest -- one of three at the marsh at present.

A lack of activity on the nest since a day or two after the "invasion" makes it clear that this particular brood was unsuccessful. Since bald eagles aren't known (to our knowledge) to predate on their own nests, its our hunch that the eaglets simply perished, perhaps due to bad timing of weather extremes. And is nature is prone to do, the immature eagle (very possibly the offspring of the nesting adults) was just making sure nothing went to waste.

More green in the Rest Pond -- largely broadleaf cattail and soft-stemmed bulrush -- is an indication that things are at least
trending toward warmer and brighter.

New growth through last year's decay.

Roy could only manage to scramble for his smartphone to capture this passing group of nearly three dozen American white pelicans.
Since I first wrote about them in May of 2017, we've seen them sporadically, each spring. It's fun every time.

April wasn't all just wildlife watching -- it also marked the beginning of Roy's labor intensive and relentless annual assault on invasive species.
First target victim: poison hemlock.