[Tweeters] A Big Baby

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign15 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 3 07:35:34 PDT 2019


Well, it's a grey dim morning here in PT after a day of real rain for a
change - the robins are happy, sounds like. Off in the background, the
babies were crying. The big babies.

June was awash in babies. My mom has been feeding birds on the deck and at
times all the juvenile bird's way outnumber the adults. One summer long ago
I worked as a data collector (for a real Ornithologist) on a summer-long
breeding bird survey in the Sierra Nevada. Collecting data amounted to
watching birds all day and keeping track of their territories, nests, eggs
laid, young hatched, young fledged, etc.

Young fledgling birds we referred to as "punks" - despite their grown-up
size, still sponging off ma and pa. While a non-scientific term, punk aptly
described the behavior. In that study, the worst (if you were a parent),or
best (if you were a punk) punks were Dark-eyed Junco's, with Cassin's Finch
a close second. Parent Juncos being harassed by a small herd of their own
children following the parents every move! It was obviously super-annoying.
Here on moms deck, I enjoyed watching three punk House Finches successfully
conning dad into feeding them (while they were standing on a pile of bird
food). Nearby young Song Sparrows and Towhee's exhibited more mature

The big babies around here are Bald Eagles - nest just a block away. I've
been hearing the baby cries for about a month -gradually getting louder.
The eagle nest is not clearly visible from any direction, being in a stand
of Douglas fir trees, with no looks into the nest, so I'd been waiting for
the youngsters to leave the nest, which happened last week: large dark
birds crashing around nearby firs. I knew I'd read somewhere that young
eagles flight feathers were larger than the adults, and refound that
factoid in the Sibley species account. So you're not crazy if you perceive
young eagle wings as appearing especially ginormous - they really are.

So last week was eagle "flight school" which involves a lot crashing around
in the firs. It is amusing to watch young eagles trying to handle those big
ol' wings - it takes some getting used to - taking short "flights''
(barely) at first, then gradually longer, but still staying in their block
of trees. Sunday I watched an early flight of the youngster as it soared
out into the open sky, without much certainty - "whoa, whoaa.....
whooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" it might've been feeling. It did all right in the
end. Maybe the extra large wing feathers are like eagle training wheels,
providing more lift to make staying up a bit easier? I don't know.

Yesterday I watched an adult eagle on the "Eagle Tree" drying it's laundry.
One branch (the one preferred by eagles) is mostly bare (from many years of
eagle use) but the outer end still has a few branches of foliage which the
eagles use as a "drying rack" to spread their wet wings - yesterday maybe
from rain, but also maybe after nabbing a fish. On Monday I watched as an
adult eagle hauled a sizable fish up from the waterfront far below. It
stopped in about three different trees on the way up the hill, possibly to
rest a minute, or maybe to try to get a crow off its tail. Whatever, as it
got closer I could see the fish was one of those gnarly big- headed
sculpin's (also an otter favorite) which it delivered to its big baby in
the fir grove. Yummy.

I'm not sure if there is one baby or more (have only seen one at a time)
but it sounds like more than one - they had two last year. I'll have to try
and get a closer look.

Jeff Gibson
watching the twerps in
Port Townsend Wa
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