By Sherri Elliott
Let’s start with math. The Decorah Eaglets are 47 and 44 days old. D32 will be 7 weeks old on Thursday, and D33 just turned 6 weeks last Sunday. So even with being 3 days apart, D32 is almost finished with Week 6 while D33 is just starting. Please don’t try to rush them saying they’re both 7 weeks old … the time already seems to be accelerating at warp speed. You might have noticed that D33 appears larger now than older sibling D32, even though still sporting a few white dandelion natal down head fluffies and more wooly down, but take a look at his/her feet when standing next to D32. The tarsus and foot are bigger as well as toes and talons, and D33 is now as tall or taller than D32, and both of them are eye to eye with their parents and are nearly adult size. Both are about 7-8lbs and have wingspans between 4.5ft – 5ft, and have you had any luck counting feathers?
The recent rain barely put a damper on the eaglets fun. Despite an urge to hang out as much as possible under Mom’s carport or scoot under her side wing overhang for comfort, they are pretty water repellent, and we saw droplets beading up on their backs. Nope, it’s not RainX … it’s PreenX … that wonderful oil secreted in the uropygial gland that is distributed by preening giving them a glistening coat of protection. Big yellow galoshes provided a nice pastime parading in quarter inch deep puddles. And both performed their own version of ‘Raindance’ during the drizzles giving wings a workout flapping and bopping Mom and each other in excitement.
We’re used to seeing wingersizing in place, but the game of ‘eaglet-see, eaglet-do’ is encouraging fine-tuning the technique of controlling those huge appendages while building flight and pectoral muscles. Traipsing around the uneven tarmac is even more fun when you can save a step or two by hopping, and suddenly the game changes to rebounding! Add in flapping wings, and hoppersizing is a whole new game that works leg muscles they didn’t know they had! The one foot at a time hopscotch has given way to a slight double up using both feet to push off for lift. There’s not much more than an inch of clearance, but keep your rulers handy to measure as they become more skilled. Throw in a good gust of wind and the game changes to pre-flight simulator status with a chance for the future aviators to test updrafts, downdrafts, and banking letting the air glide over, under, and through longer flight feather fringes.
The ‘Hunger Games’ are amping up especially when the notion of feast or famine is thrown into the mix. The dd’s think their tanks are still on the hourly fill-up schedule, but feedings now are dependent on when Mom and DM2 decide on a drop … and that could be anytime, and in rapid succession or with a long pause between meals. If you think that Mom and DM2 are teasing them by bringing in food and eating it themselves … well, yup! There’s no waiting in the wild … if you want something you better come and get it. Their Screeenami Siren goes off seeing a parent with an incoming delivery, but hesitation doesn’t win in the game of ‘animal, vegetable or mineral’. If it’s not claimed, it’s eaten … you snooze, you lose. But they are learning! Both D32 and D33 have learned ‘hide and seek’ is a good way to come in from the side of a parent, or underneath to grab the grub, and ‘keep away’ is a different version of the ‘hokey pokey’ if you turn yourself around to hide what you grab. The parents are wise to these tricks and watch as a way to gauge progress and readiness before taking possession of prey to parcel out portions proportionally. The dd’s are also getting better at self-feeding from nestovers found raiding the pan-tree. Both are getting a stronger foothold on the food and strengthening neck muscles to pull back bites, or just nosh and nibble at will in their own fish eating contests. The bonk-fests are gone and soon to be replaced with a little ‘wing-wrestling’ to spar with a game of ‘Tug ‘o Prey’. I can hardly wait for the first ‘karate kick’ to a parent or sibling when a tantrum is thrown over a tidbit taken. No, I’m not being mean … it’s all part of being an eagle and asserting to thrive.
The prey count since the last tally on May 10th stands at 91 meals brought in. Mostly fish, including 3 trips from Mom using her BOGO coupon at the hatchery as well as bird, squirrel, 13 line ground squirrel and a furry piece of mystery meat. And yes, I did count the floppy fish that fledged on May 12th because it was delivered even though it took a high dive!
We should see more food aggression in the coming week, but be sure to still stay focused on the downtime activities too. Moving fluff or sticks with their beaks is play as well as prep for cargo loading prey, and soon we’ll see them toting treasure with toes and talons across the tarmac as they experience psi power. Napping solo or in a cuddle puddle is more appreciated knowing they won’t be faceplanted too much longer. They have already carved out special places they prefer when resting during the day, sometimes a little too close to the rails to suit us .. but just wait … it won’t be long before they are sleep standing at night with heads tucked giving us new reasons to have an all-night slumber party watching them. What we assume are pastimes, are rites of passage as developmental milestones are met and personalities evolve, but it’s also lots of fun and games!
Sweet Eaglet Dreams Everybirdie!
In the photo: D33 is on the left, and D32 is on the right. I love this photo for many reasons … they’re both standing still and it’s a great way to compare beaks, commissure points (D33’s join is straight, while D32 has a smiley upturn), and I just love the Whittle Branch … one of Dad’s favorite places to pause. Look closely there and you’ll see the diamond shape in the bark I have used every year to help measure how many amendments are added each season, and in the upper left corner is a heart-shaped piece of bark, and new heart-shaped Cottonwood leaves which the eaglets will pick at.
Thanks to RRP and our camera operators who always give us more to see in one brief moment in time.