DOW bands eaglet at Aspen Glen
High above the Roaring Fork River – and the 10th hole at Aspen Glen golf course – Brent Bibles hung suspended from thin, blue webbing straps. Above him was a massive stick-built bald eagle’s nest and its sole occupant, a fledgling eagle Bibles was intent on removing from its nest.Bibles, a raptor biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife in Fort Collins, was in the air this windy blue-sky Saturday to band the eaglet, the only one to hatch in the nest this year.DOW has an agreement with Aspen Glen that the 10th hole be closed to play until July 1, giving the nesting eagle pair time to lay their eggs, hatch and fledge their young. Last year two eggs hatched, but only one eaglet survived. This is the first time a baby eagle has been banded at the Aspen Glen nest, said DOW district wildlife manager Kevin Wright.Wright negotiated with the developers of Aspen Glen when the 18-hole golf course and upscale homes were in the planning stages in the early 1990s to protect the nest, which is built about 75 to 80 feet above the ground in a sentinel Ponderosa pine that holds pride of place on a bluff above the river. The nest has been an aerie for bald eagles since the early 1950s, Wright said.
Before ascending the tree, Bibles strapped on metal logger spikes and sorted through his climbing gear. Then he put his arms around the trunk, dug in his spikes and worked his way up the trunk until he reached the first branches. He then climbed slowly from branch to branch until he was just below the nest. He found the birds this year had built a second story, so to speak, above last year’s nest, making it all the more difficult to get level with the bird. Beneath the tree were backup wildlife managers from the area including area manager Pat Tucker and district wildlife managers Jason Duetsch and Kelly Wood. A handful of spectators came and went as the branding unfolded over about two and a half hours that afternoon.Under the nest, Bibles secured his webbing slings and stepped up to a level with the bird in the nest. Bibles used something that looked like a large shepherd’s crook to pull the bird toward him. But the bird stepped back to the edge of the nest again and again, flaring its already broad wings. The DOW managers arranged themselves around the tree, and one was below the bluff by the river, in case the bird fell out of the nest. Although it was grown enough to glide, it could not fly, Wright said.
Bibles eventually got the bird into a canvas sack and lowered it to the ground on his climbing rope, assuring his colleagues that it didn’t appear the bird had injured itself badly.As the bird was being lowered down to the ground, one of the adult eagles could be seen some distance downriver. It circled around for some minutes then disappeared.Once on the ground the bird was quickly removed from the sack. Wood put her arms around it, pinning down its wings and trying to keep away from its stabbing beak and stiletto-sharp talons.First, a silver U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identification band was attached to one leg and a DOW band with a bright yellow tag to the other. The yellow tag is easy to see and will help track the bird’s movements, Wright explained.Several measurements were also made to help determine the age of the bird. According to the length of one of its primary wing feathers, the bird appeared to be about 63 days old, or eight to nine weeks.
After the banding and measuring, the bird was returned to the sack, which was also weighed, with the known weight of the bag subtracted to determine the weight of the bird, approximately 2.2 pounds.Bibles, meantime, remained at the nest ready to receive the bird and remove it from the sack. With the afternoon sun silhouetting the top of the pine, Bibles looked like a strange round-headed creature that had invaded the nest.The banding was all in a day’s work for the DOW folks, but there was a palpable sense of relief once the eaglet could be seen again apparently unharmed and back where it belonged.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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