Bald eagles Harriet and M15 have been through difficult times this year, yet they managed to achieve a small miracle. A pair of bald eagles generally only have one clutch of eggs and a brood of eaglets each nesting season unless the first clutch or brood is somehow lost. And theirs was tragically lost. They took a chance.
The two re-nested and recently brought two more eaglets into the world as the season waned. Not unheard of, but certainly special. And eaglets truly are small miracles.
Their recent eaglets have thrived and are soon to fledge. One has been “branching”– flying a short distance to a near branch. The other might have, too, by now. Both are doing tremendous exercises to develop their wing muscles for the big day.
This depicts bald eagles Harriet and M15 in their nest in Southwest FL. In January 2020, Harriet laid two eggs. One did not hatch. The other hatched and the eaglet was named E14. Twenty-six days later, E14 passed away under tragic circumstances involving pesticides. Harriet and M15 are now incubating a new clutch and hopes are high for this couple.
Shown here are Harriet and M15, a bald eagle pair that lost their 27-day-old baby after a freak accident that caused one of the eaglet’s blood pin feathers to break, creating a flow of blood through the stem of the broken feather that could not be staunched by normal coagulation. I had decided that morning that I’d not been spending enough time watching little E14 growing up in this nest, as I had been rotating between three nests– one on each coast of America, and a third in Illinois. I watched that day as the parents discovered the tragic injury, and watched as they tried to help their infant, but their options were too few. Throughout the day, the little eagle grew weaker, and by nightfall had gone to sleep between its mother’s feet, under the comfort of her warm belly, as she stood watch throughout the night to guard against predators and scavengers that might be drawn to the blood in the nest. At about 3:30 a.m. EST, eaglet E14 took what appeared to be its final breath. Mom remained on guard the rest of that night, but the little bird did not move again after that time.
The following morning, what was intended to have been a rescue team, became a retrieval team, and the little body was removed from the nest and examined to determine cause of death. The drawing above is Harriet and M15’s first night after their loss, roosting side by side above the nest.
E14 Dec. 19, 2019 – Jan. 15, 2020
Note: The above image is satisfactorily close to the actual colors and contrast as I intended and as I was working on the piece. But because of the slight sheen of the color pencils, variations in room lighting cause significant changes in the colors and contrasts in this piece.
This is the final family member in my paintings and drawings of the 2019 Big Bear eagles. Shown here is Angel Cookie, forever 42 days old. The drawing is done using only a small piece of sterling silver, and a small piece of 14k gold. The silver will tarnish and darken some, but will still reflect light (as shown below). The pale layer of gold will never tarnish; you can almost see it in this image, along the back of the head, the eye, and the breast. The gold can also be seen in the larger image below, taken in sunlight too bright for the camera to handle. The method is called “silverpoint” or “metalpoint” and was used during the Renaissance. It’s said to be the most difficult method of drawing (they’re all difficult for me!). This is my 2nd attempt at silverpoint and there’s some surface damage and other problems. But, hey. It’s Angel Cookie. And he reflects pure sunlight. (I had to wear shades to take the sunlight photo.)
The bald eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird, up to 13 feet deep, 8.2 feet wide, and 1.1 tons in weight. And nests are used year after year, with about 2 feet of added branches and “fluff” each season.
Liberty is shown here delivering soft pine straw to her nest just before sundown. It won’t be long, once eagles begin restoring their nests, before eggs are laid. In this case, eaglets Ch’áak’ and Anáaski (Tlingit for “Eagle” and “Alaska”) arrived soon after the nest was restored, comfortable, safe, and near water for fresh fish.