A camera pointed at a bald eagle nest caught some incredible parenting behavior during the height of Wednesday’s nor’easter, as a pair of the raptors sat through hours of heavy snow to protect their eggs.
Some eagle pairs weren’t as lucky, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Biologist Larissa Smith said Thursday.
At least two Cumberland County eagle nests were destroyed by the recent storms, she said. One was built in a dead tree that came down in high winds. The other was blown out of its tree. More damage reports may come in as volunteers get out in the field to check on nests.
But Hunterdon County K-2 technology teacher Diane Cook and her class got nothing but good news as they watched the “eagle cam” at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, Somerset County, on Wednesday.
Snow started falling lightly, then quickly picked up in intensity.
Cook started taking screenshots of what she saw the eagle pair do.
“There was an exchange at some point on the nest. Mom won the rights to incubation,” she wrote on her Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey blog. Cook is also the volunteer nest monitor for the site.
“Then something I’ve never seen before happened. BOTH eagles stayed on the nest through the storm,” she wrote. “They laid side by side.”
Cook snapped shots of the pair as the snow covered them. At points, they would shake it off and then get covered up again. Sometimes they were virtually invisible.
“More snow fell. Still the eagles sat,” she wrote. “Finally the male flew off the nest, but stayed on a nearby branch.
“No matter how much snow fell, these dedicated parents remain with their eggs and incubation continues.”
Eagles are early nesters and so had put in about five weeks of incubation time when the storms developed, Smith said. Eagle eggs were either hatched or about to hatch when the nor’easters hit Wednesday and March 2.
“I was surprised there weren’t more (destroyed nests) reported. We have to see what happens if at hatching the cold, rain or snow affected the incubation,” Smith said.
Some pairs may try to lay new eggs after losing nest, but it’s not easy to try again so late in the process.
“They would have to rebuild a whole new nest at this point,” Smith said. “They have already spent five weeks sitting on eggs. We will have to check in a few weeks and see.”
Bald eagle numbers continued to increase in New Jersey in 2017, with 178 nest sites monitored, up from 172 the previous year, biologists from the state and Conserve Wildlife reported.
Some osprey platforms were also damaged in the storms, Smith said, but since the ospreys were not back yet when the nor’easters hit, their nesting wasn’t affected. Smith said volunteers will repair the platforms this weekend.
To view the nest on the eagle cam, visit dukefarms.org/making-an-impact/eagle-cam.