A new season of watching bald eagles

In a tall tree in our neighborhood, there is a bald eagle nest. The area gets roped off by wildlife officials every autumn as the eagles mate and (hopefully) begin raising their young. There are only slightly over 7,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the United States, so we are very fortunate to have one so close. Here’s a map of the nesting pairs of eagles by state.

There is a webcam on “The Hamlet” in our neighborhood, thanks to the American Eagle Foundation’s Northeast Florida Bald Eagle Nest Cam. You can watch the eagles all day and all night.

Romeo at the Hamlet

Last year, things at the Hamlet took a tragic turn. Elise and I had spent weeks watching a pair of eagles named Romeo and Juliet taking turns sitting on two surprisingly enormous eggs.

Eagle eggs

Seriously, if you are going to name an animal couple after famous lovers, don’t pick names that suggest a violent end. Juliet returned to the nest evidently injured and was driven away by a female rival. This left poor Romeo alone to protect the eggs and keep them warm, all while trying to keep himself fed. Juliet never returned to the nest and wasn’t spotted again.

Romeo trying to incubate the eggs by himself after Juliet went missing

On Christmas morning, after opening presents, we finally got our wish: we watched on live television as one of the eggs hatched, revealing an adorable ball of fluff. The whole process took hours to unfold, but it was worth the wait.

A fluffy eaglet hatching on Christmas Day

Juliet’s female rival continued to stalk the nest. After Romeo left to find food for the hungry eaglet, that wicked creature swooped into the nest and carried the baby bird away. The other egg turned out not to viable, but Romeo sat on it for weeks as if it would hatch. Eventually, he flew away.

Bald eagles mate for life, but they have been known to accept a new mate over time if their partner dies. I guess we’ll see, but I am praying Romeo and Juliet are alive and flourishing somewhere out there.

Romeo and Juliet had returned to the nest as a pair for 10 seasons, during which they raised 19 eaglets. They have not returned this year, but one of their offspring has claimed the nest along with his mate. Circle of life. Bald eagles live for about 30 years in the wild, so theoretically a single mated pair can produce a lot of offspring if their rituals are not disturbed.

Samson hatched in the nest on December 23, 2013 and had an older (by three days) female sibling, Delilah. He left the nest on April 22, 2014, at 120 days old, as a strong eagle and excellent hunter. Samson was not seen at the nest again until he decided to stop by for a visit last year.

Samson reclaimed his birthplace on August 26, 2019 and began making improvements to the nest as eagles do when they are preparing to raise a family. It takes eagles around five years to get to mating age, so it’s about time for him.

Gabrielle joined Samson in mid-September and the two have been seen bonding since then. Mated pairs of eagles spend a lot of quality time together. They eat together, hang out on a branch together watching the sunset. It’s very romantic.

Here’s hoping that Samson and Gabrielle keep Romeo and Juliet’s legacy going with years of beautiful baby eagles.

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