A Story of Seabrook Island Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle on Crooked Oaks February 2020 – Bob Mercer

Bald Eagles have been part of the Seabrook scene for  dozen years or so.  It has not been an easy gig for them.  They first started a nest near the 5th tee of the Ocean Winds golf course.  Local Ospreys took exception to the newcomers (sounds like humans with the ‘Not in my Backyard’ attitude) and destroyed it.  A tall pine on the 3rd green of Ocean Winds was the next nesting location and it was successful.  There were several annual raising of two chicks a year — even at least once after the pine had died.  I suspect it has been the same original pair, but they have not said.

When that tree broke off and crashed in a storm, there was a bit of ‘turn about is fair play.’   The eagles took over a nesting site the Osprey had developed near the tee box of Cooked Oaks’ third hole.  They remodeled it into a bigger pad and kept providing us entertainment and young eaglets.  The last three years, there has been only one chick.  Maybe two are too much effort for these now more senior adults.  Remember, these chicks have to be fed enough so that in about 90 days after hatching they are ready to leave the nest.  And, at that age, they weigh more than the adult.  It takes humans about 18 to 30 years of food and what all to become ‘empty nesters’.

Bald Eagle sitting on their nest on Crooked Oaks February 2020 – Bob Mercer

The latest chick spent several days edging out onto adjacent limbs in preparation for departure.  Each night he/she decided it was not time to go (it is a long ways down and no way back if the wings don’t start flapping when you push off).  There is daily retreat to the comfort of the pile of sticks — and having the adults supply the take-out dinner which they had harvested from the countryside.  (Sounds like what we’ve been doing for several weeks now what with the dining establishments having to give up onsite seating.)

Immature Bald Eagle sitting on tree on Crooked Oaks May 2020 – Bob Mercer

Along comes F-1.  The tornado’s visit was much shorter than the COVID-19 virus in duration (about a mile) and time (minutes), but its path was maybe 25 yards from that likely 2,000 pound nest located is the crotch of a 120 foot pine tree.  The three resident Bald Eagles had to be there because the youngster had not yet fledged (left the nesting area).  What a ride!  The tornado took out or damaged beyond saving about a dozen large trees in the area between the parallel third holes of our two golf courses as well as stripping leaves and needles.  This damaged area is diagonally across from the eagles’ nest.  The pine tree and the Bald Eagles all survived.  Golf course superintendent, Sean Hardwick, has confirmed that at least 50 percent of the nest was dislodged from the tree. 

Immature Bald Eagle flying above Crooked Oaks May 2020 – Bob Mercer

The young eaglet has since fledged.  On May first, I observed him three times.  Once sitting in a tree and seeming to be eating, once flying overhead, and a third time when he landed (apparently with something in his talons) on the golf course in from of me.  The wings did work.  The bird is learning to find food.  We have mid-wived another addition to the growing number of Bard Eagles in the world.  That process has come a long ways since the scourge of DDT nearly rendered them extinct.  On May 2nd, an adult eagle flew by me on the course, so they are still around.

Bald Eagle high in a Pine Tree on Crooked Oaks in January 2020 – Bob Mercer

Another bit of eagle news is about the discovery of a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in a large cactus tree in Arizona.  This is the first known nesting of eagles in that state in many years.  Now there is an example of of our newest catch phrase — ’social distancing’.   COVID-19 will not lead us toward extinction as DDT did to the Bald Eagles (and Eastern Bluebirds), but it has created a hole in our social fabric.  Stay safe.  Only then can each of us continue to enjoy our feathered friends.

Article Submitted by:  George Haskins 
Photos by: Robert Mercer