Much to pretty much everyone’s surprise, a pair of bald eagles decided to nest in a tree in the front of an elementary school in Milpitas. This is unusual for a few reasons, because this species usually nests near water and they are generally not terribly happy at close interactions with humanity. The bald eagles that nested near Calaveras reservoir would start freaking if someone came within 80 yards of the nest, and here we have a pair that’s joined suburbia.
In most places eagles are primarily fish eaters, which is why they like nesting near water. Here in the Bay Area, we’ve seen the birds adapt to birds and land animals, especially ground squirrels. This pair is fairly near the sewage treatment plant in the area and has evidently taken to it for hunting and picked up a taste for coots (which I, for one, have trouble feeling bad about). There’s been some thought they may hunt the gull nesting areas along the edge of the bay, too, which again, nobody’s going to complain about.
It’s been a blessing and a bit of a curse. the blessing is that it’s gotten a fair bit of publicity and so there have been visitors out there on weekends (because it’s a school and they don’t need you there weekdays; besides, visibility is limited from the street) and so it’s been an opportunity for outreach and education and helping people discover this species.
But it’s a curse because not everyone behaves. I know of one case documented of someone flying a drone right up to the nest to film, despite complaints by people near him, and causing the female eagle to hunker down and cover the chick with her wing to protect it. Unfortunately, by the time they could get the police there left.
Despite this occasional assine behavior, the two birds have hatched and are raising one chick, which looks healthy and growing. I keep trying to get out to visit the nest, and keep having things crop up, so I’ve only been out there once (in March), right after the chick hatched. So my pictures are few, but I really like them, and hopefully next week I’ll get out there (famous last words).
On the other hand, a good number of local photographers are doing a great job of documenting this nest, so I’m not really needed out there. I just want to see the chick grow up…
I’ve set up a gallery of the photos I’ve taken of these birds, and once I get out there again, I’ll add to it if I get anything decent… Given what we know of bald eagles here in the area, the expectation is the chick will fledge and fly off sometime in the next 2-4 weeks, and then the show will be over until, maybe, next year. I’l be curious to see if the birds return to that nest next year or if they relocate. Given it look’s like they’re going to successfully fledge the chick, I think that makes returning possible. This set of pictures from March are all, I believe, of the male.