“The young one’s left the nest,” the proprietors of my local garage announced excitedly when I went to fill the tank of my Jeep Wrangler.
I often receive progress reports on birds nesting in gardens or local parks – it comes with the turf when you write the On the Wing column – but this bird story was a little different.
These nesting birds were not in Hobart, or even this state or country. They were a pair of American bald eagles happily raising a family in western Florida in the United States.
Nev and Lynette Rodman, who own the Skyline Garage sitting on the Huon Rd high above the city, have been following the daily life of a pair of eagles who for five years have had several web-cams trained on their nest in a tree overlooking a swamp on the outskirts of Fort Myers.
Over the years the eagles have produced several young and viewers around the world have been given an insight into not only the trials and tribulations of raising a family but the general difficulties of eagle life in the modern US.
The nest site is not in fact in virgin, native bush but in an area bordered by suburbia, as evidenced by the cars that can be seen travelling along a highway near it.
It has not always been smooth sailing for the eagle family and their difficulties and tragedies can somehow be seen to mirror the fate of these magnificent birds throughout the US.
The web-cams were first set up in 2012. Tragically the male of the pair was found injured three years later and never fully recovered from treatment he received for a damaged wing at a Florida wildlife refuge.
The female eagle, however, found another mate and set about rearing a family with him. They produced just one chick this year, but as Nev and Lynette were happy to report on my latest pit stop, the chick had grown big and strong and was now flying far and wide, although he still returned to the nest occasionally for a feed from his devoted parents.
I decided to check out the website myself but doing a Google search I came across some disturbing news concerning bald eagles. The widespread use of the pesticide DDT had once decimated eagle numbers in the US but they had staged a comeback after the chemical was banned in 1972, when the US government accepted evidence that it was poisoning birds of prey and other wildlife.
But more than 40 years on a new threat has emerged. On his first day on the job, President Donald Trump’s new environmental secretary, Ryan Zinke, revoked a rule banning lead ammunition across 60 million hectares of national wildlife refuges where hunting of non-protected species is allowed under licence.
Conservationists say the increasing use of lead shot by duck hunters, which ends up poisoning mainly young eagles which feed on carrion in their first year of life, is likely to set the bald eagle back on the flight to extinction.
The eagle cam is at http://www.dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html#