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Cross-species community of parents eyes nest

by: COURTESY PHOTO: STEVE HALPERN - The 12-week-old eaglet flaps and hops in the nest, but hasnt yet jumped out.Day after day, John Dull drove past the man and his mysterious mini-telescopes until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He parked at a nearby Latter-day Saints church and got out to investigate.

“I have to see what you’re looking at!” he told Dennis Manzer.

A peek through one of Manzer’s spotting scopes showed him a 12-week-old eaglet perched on a nest high above the wetland across the street.

“He’s due to fledge any day now,” said Manzer, who monitors bald eagle nests across Washington County, including at Fernhill Wetlands, Jackson Bottom, Banks and this one at West Union Road and 185th Avenue.

Dull, a teacher at Forest Grove High School, isn’t the only person to be snared by Manzer and his scopes. A small community has built up around the retired parts manager and the eagle family he’s watching.

“I think I’m just going to stop for 10 minutes. But soon it’s an hour or two,” said Anne Geotz, one of hundreds who’ve stopped by.

One woman brought a lawn chair, water and snacks. Another brought cookies. Another her camera. Parents bring their children.

“I’ve got at least three future naturalists in training,” said Manzer.

Unlike the human parents, the eagle parents were having a harder time getting their child out of the nest.

Female eagles — who are larger than males — lie down in the nest and don’t leave at night when they are brooding, so Manzer knew exactly when this one laid her egg. He also knew that eagle chicks hatch 35 days later — and fledge 11 to 12 weeks after that.

By Manzer’s calculations, the eaglet’s first flight would be July 17. But fledging day came and went with the eaglet still grounded.

The LDS church members have been gracious about all the additional cars in their lot. Steve Halpern, a professional photographer, gave the church a photo of one of the adult eagles in flight.

Halpern visits the nest in the mornings, when the light is good for photos. “More than once I’ve overheard people say, ‘Oh! Now I get why bird watching is cool!’” he said.

People will chat while the young eagle sleeps and its parents watch from nearby “sentinel trees.” Occasionally someone will point out another bird, a green heron or a kingfisher. Then someone will call out, “Adult flying toward nest!” and the chatting stops, with all eyes and optics focused on the eagles.

“New friendships form and old ones strengthen from such shared happenings,” Halpern said. “Despite all that’s wrong in the world, sometimes things are still alright.”

On July 24, at 7:15 a.m., the eaglet finally flapped and rose into the air for a short flight, then returned to the nest, ate food delivered by his parents, and took a nap.

By the next day, the eaglet was a celebrity, having appeared in local newspapers and on television.

“I’m so jealous!” a woman on a boat in the San Juan Islands texted a newfound eagle-watching friend who’d sent her the news. She’d delayed her vacation by three days in hopes of seeing the eaglet’s first flight and had missed it by a day.

Local experts say it will be a month before the eaglet is fully capable of feeding himself. By then, the eagles — and their watchers — will have moved on.



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  • 23 Oct 2014

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