Saturday, May 28, 2011

We have lift-off .... to the ledge

After a couple of days of looking, leaning, but not leaping, two of the eyasses finally got brave yesterday afternoon and made it out to the ledge.  Thanks go to Carolyn Sutton who raced down to the nest to get these pictures.  One small step.....

After about 45 minutes on the ledge, both eyasses safely clambered back up into the nest.

Here are some of Kay Meng's pictures from Thursday in the Board Room.  We are in the midst of summer's first heatwave in Philadelphia with temperatures in the mid-90s.  The eyasses were clearly feeling the heat, panting with beaks agape and tongues held high.

They kept sitting back stretching their feet to gain more surface area to dissipate heat.  Those talons, as yet unused, are already formidable weapons.

Their eyes are starting to turn gold, though it is still more of a gray-gold than the characteristic yellow of fledged eyasses.

The feathers are coming in strongly on the wings, but have a long way to go until they can safely fly.

You can see in the image above how the feathers have not yet fully emerged from the feather sheaths.

John Blakeman shared some information in a previous year's blog post about the importance of feather development for the eyasses' safe fledging when that time comes:

"Everyone has noticed how much time the birds spend 'preening,' tucking their heads down into their feathers. In fact, they are using their bills to strip off the drying feather sheaths, allowing the growing feathers beneath to emerge. The feather sheaths still remain at the base and shank of the larger feathers which are still, as we say, 'in the blood.' As the feathers grow out, they actually have blood vessels within, nourishing the growth of these miraculous body features. So, for a while, heavy blood remains coursing through the big tail and wing feathers. Until this ends, when the bird is 'hard penned,' the wings are a bit heavier."

Here, on the left you can see the sheath at the top of the dark feather.

As always, there were various body parts of prey lying around the nest which, because of the hot temperatures, were attracting a considerable number of flies.  The eyasses were very interested in these flies, watching them intently.....

... and snapping at them when they got close enough.

They also watched Kay with enormous curiosity whenever she changed cameras or lenses!

Much as I love these eyasses, I have to say they are currently in a rather unattractive stage of their development.  Long gone are the adorable white fluff balls.  These guys currently look like badly designed vultures!

But the gorgeous chestnut-peach plumage that will eventually cover their chests is starting to become apparent.

Also growing fast are the white "pantaloons" on their legs.

Here, on the eyass in the background, you can see the 36 hour difference between the third to hatch and its slightly older sibling in front which has more feathers showing on its head.

As the afternoon progressed, the eyasses settled into a panting torpor.

 The haggards never appeared on the nest, though we did see a couple of fly-pasts.

LATE BREAKING NEWS!  The Franklin Institute has switched to their other camera so we can now see both the nest AND the ledge

Thank you, Franklin Institute - you're the best!


  1. You guys are the best! Love the part about the pantaloons!

  2. This is a terrific lesson. Compared to the baby eagles I'm watching in WCV and Iowa - these kids will be fledging b/4 they do, Nature in its truest form, I cringe though when they teeter so close to the edge - hopeful that someone will rescue them if they fall from the nest. The ledge shot is however more reassuring. I've named these chics Huey, Dewey and Lewey. Love it,

  3. I wonder what mamma hawk is up to with all the fussing....probably telling them they are making a mess.

  4. I think they've been duly chastized......ha ha