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Bald Eagle at Lake San Antonio
Breeding Bald Eagles at Lake San Antonio in Monterey County, 2009

Bald Eagle Update -- August 4, 2009

There were 20 eaglets successfully fledged in 2009 in the California Central Coast Region, bringing the total since 1993 to 163! Of the 14 occupied nesting territories confirmed in 2009, 12 of the territories had documented success in breeding. Following is the breakdown by county indicating number of eaglets produced this year: Alameda- Unknown, Contra Costa- 3 fledged, Monterey- 4 fledged, San Benito- 0 fledged, Santa Clara- 1 fledged, San Louis Obispo- 12 fledged. – Sal Lucido

Bald Eagle Update -- February 12, 2009

Bald eagle being treated
Bald Eagle being treated

Bald Eagle 5M being examined on February 7, 2009 by Dr. Amy Wells of the Avian and Exotic Clinic of the Monterey Peninsula and assistant Sue Campbell
On February 1, 2009, personnel from the military base, Fort Hunter Liggett, located a Bald Eagle entangled in barbed wire. They rescued the bird, which had a leg band with the alpha-numeric code of 5M, and Pacific Wildlife Care of Morro Bay initially treated the bird. VWS Executive Director, Kelly Sorenson was contacted soon after the initial treatment since the eagle was banded and originally released by Ventana Wildlife Society. It turned out that the eagle was released in 1993.

5M was collected from a nest in the Tongass National Forest, near Juneau, Alaska, on July 22, 1993 at which time VWS biologists determined that she was female. Her first flight in the wilds of Big Sur was on Aug. 1 of that same year. She was radio tracked for at least two years after her release and probably seen many times again while breeding in the area but we couldn't confirm her survival until she was found injured. By the time she was found injured she was nearly 16 years old.

On February 7, 2009 5M was transferred to the SPCA of Monterey County where Dr. Amy Wells and Dr. Michael Murray could treat her wounds. Fortunately she suffered no broken bones but both of her wing muscles were severely damaged. At present, she is recovering slowly but whether she will be re-released to the wild is uncertain.

Between the years of 2002 and 2008 no releases of Bald Eagles took place. We continued to monitor nesting eagles in the California Central Coast region and are proud to document how well the population has grown, see chick counts page.

Bald Eagle Update -- November 13, 2001

A Ventana Wildlife Society-released bald eagle was recently found injured in Lake County, California. Unfortunately, this female eagle sustained permanent damage to its wing. She also suffered from an eye problem which may have led to its wing injury.

What is interesting about this eagle is that we had not documented her whereabouts since September 6, 1994 -- one year after her release to Big Sur, California. Even though this eagle now has long-term physical disabilities, it is exciting to know that she survived her first eight years in the wild. Since bald eagles begin breeding at age 5 or 6, it is likely that she produced young of her own.

As part of the annual release routine, we collected baby eagles from wild nests in Alaska, Canada, and northern California. In this case, we climbed into a bald eagle nest on July 21, 1993 along the Lynn Canal, Tongass National Forest in Juneau, Alaska. We took only one chick from each of the nests we climbed so that the parents would still have the remaining youngster to raise and we could re-establish a population in the California Central Coast Region by transporting the collected birds to our release site in Big Sur, California. This young female young was banded as "5C" and was given a federal band, #629-39823.

Thankfully, the Lake County Wildlife Rehabilitation Center treated this bird and reported the federal band number, which allowed Ventana Wildlife Society to discover what had happened. The results of bald eagles we released are difficult to obtain since these birds travel so widely (one VWS-released bald eagle was later found in Saskatchewan, Canada).

Bald Eagle 5C will now be cared for by Kim Stroud in Ojai, California and will be used for educational purposes. We wish both Kim and eagle 5C the best!
Kelly Sorenson, Wildlife Restoration Coordinator

Final Update for Eagle Project 2000 -- August 15, 2000

Summary: Our bald eagle project for the summer of 2000 has come to an end. On June 10th we released two immature female bald eagles, identified as 5B and 5U. For the month of June we surveyed from a "blind" in hopes of seeing our two bald eagle chicks return and feed at the rearing facility. But only one sighting of 5B occurred three days after the release date on June 13th. Throughout the month of July we utilized an alternate survey method to cover a larger area of Lake San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento which would enable us to increase our chances of sighting the two released bald eagle chicks. As we left off in our last update there was one sighting on July 6, 2000 of an immature bald eagle flying around the Lake San Antonio area but there were no definitive sightings of our two chicks. Three additional sightings occurred and are listed below. We also monitored the local bald eagle nests established by Ventana Wildlife Society to discover their chronology and success. This year, a total of six wild-hatched bald eagles successfully fledged from four nests in the Nacimiento/San Antonio lakes area, bringing the total to 33 chicks raised in the California Central Coast Region since 1993.

Recent Immature Bald Eagle Sightings: During our last two weeks in July, on 3 separate occasions immature bald eagles were seen.

On July 13, 2000 one immature bald eagle was seen while we were driving on our survey route near the neighboring lake of Nacimiento, which exists south of Lake San Antonio. It was seen circling above us for a few minutes.

For the second time at a location on Lake San Antonio we observed an immature bald eagle flying on July 14, 2000 while surveying from a boat. It continued to fly until it flew out of sight over a mountain ridge in the general direction of Lake Nacimiento.

Our final sighting also occurred in the same location on July 21, 2000. It flew above Lake San Antonio and appeared to be harassed by a red-tailed hawk as it was seen swooping in on the eagle. This eagle did the same as the other immatures seen here and flew out of sight over a mountain ridge towards Lake Nacimiento.

It is possible that these sightings were of the released bald eagle chicks. But due to the fact that they were always seen in flight and too far away, no positive identification was made. Although we do not know the current status of these bald eagles, we suspect they are doing well due to their excellent physical condition at the time of their release and that a local breeding population of eagles as well as an adequate food supply exists.

Check back next year for another release of bald eagles…

Bald Eagle Update -- July 15, 2000

In our last Eagle Release report, we were waiting for the results of blood samples to determine the sexes of the two bald eagles released on June 10, 2000. We now know that both of these birds are female.

After the Release: After the release of 5B and 5U, we conducted daily observations from a "blind" designed to conceal the biologists approximately 300 meters away from the release pen. Only one sighting was recorded from the blind during the first three weeks after release. This sighting occurred 3 days after release on June 13, 2000. Eagle 5B was observed flying at the release site being followed by an adult bald eagle. They both came from the east side of the lake and perched on a big oak tree. The adult stayed perched for a few seconds and then flew west. 5B stayed perched one hour, then also flew west. Each day during the first three weeks after release we placed food for the birds at the release pen, but at no time did we observe them feeding.

Bald Eagle Searches: Beginning on July 1, 2000 we re-structured our field methods to focus on standardized surveys covering a larger area than just the release site, which increases our chances of spotting the recently released eagles. We established four different routes taking the observers to strategic points where eagle prey is abundant. We also look for our two eagles at the established bald eagle nests, considering that we might have a chance to find 5B and 5U there. More importantly though, we are documenting the exact chronology of when wild-born bald eagle chicks in the area are fledging out of the nest. This information may in turn then help us to determine the identity of immature bald eagles we sight.

Since the surveys started we sighted one immature bald eagle on July 6, 2000, which was also reported by a Lake San Antonio volunteer on the same morning. Neither observer had a good enough visual on the legs of this immature bald eagle to confirm the presence of identification bands. It is certainly possible that this sighting was one of the birds' we released based on the location and timing with respect to the known whereabouts of the immature bald eagles produced in the wild nearby. We will keep our fingers crossed and will let you know more in a few weeks...

Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring News... (As of July 8, 2000)

Five breeding pairs established their nesting territories within the Nacimiento and San Antonio Lakes Region, and we are keeping a close eye on their progress. A total of six bald eagle chicks either recently took their first flight out of the nest with their parents or are nearly ready to do so, which illustrates the success of the Ventana Wildlife Society's bald eagle reintroduction program from 1986 to present. The following details are provided for each of these five nesting territories.

Nest 1: Originally two chicks were observed in the nest but on May 21, 2000 one chick fell out of the nest. He was rescued a couple of hours after and found with a broken leg and a few broken wing bones. This chick underwent surgery at the San Francisco Zoo and was then transferred to a rehabilitation clinic in Sacramento, California. The remaining chick fledged on June 29, flying to a pine tree near the nest tree. The immature and its parents are still regularly seen in the area of their nest.

Nest 2: One chick was observed in the nest throughout the nestling period. On our latest visits on July 5, we observed the immature flying above the nest area where two adult bald eagles looked on from pine trees nearby.

Nest 3: Two chicks were observed in this nest throughout the nestling period. One adult was observed feeding both chicks in the nest on July 6. We also had a very good visual on one of the parents, which is a young adult without leg bands. This means that the pair changed from last year since both birds in the original pair were wearing leg bands.

Nest 4: Two chicks were observed in the nest, with an adult nearby on July 7. Another adult bald eagle was seen a couple of times briefly flying in and out the nest dropping food in the nest. We observed one chick climbing up a nearby branch, while the other chick wing-flapped in the nest.

Nest 5: No chicks were observed in this nest, even though we saw both adults in the nesting territory during most visits. Unfortunately, our last visits to the nest confirmed that, for the first time in the history of this pair, the clutch failed to produce chicks for an unknown reason.

Eagle Release Pen

Eagle Release Site
Top: View from eagle release pen at San Antonio Lake. Top Lower: Transferring Eagles to Release Site.

Eagle Banding

Two Eagles Relased
Top: Banding Eagle Before Release. Top Lower: Two Eagles Before Being Released to the Wild.

Bald Eagle Release June 10, 2000

Through a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ventana Wildlife Society continues its work to restore bald eagles to the wild. On June 10, 2000 we released two additional first-year bald eagles to the California Central Coast Region, bringing the total number to 70 eagles. The chicks originated from Catalina Island where the Institute for Wildlife Studies collected them as eggs and took them to the San Francisco Zoo where they were raised by adult eagles. This process took place because if the eggs were not collected they would have died due to persistent presence of DDT in the environment at Catalina Island. (DDT causes eggshells to be laid dangerously thin.)

Instead of releasing these two eagles from the Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur where we are restoring California condors we chose to establish a new site at San Antonio Lake, a Monterey County Park. We decided to conduct releases there because many of the bald eagles we released from 1986 to 1994 established breeding territories in this area. This established breeding population of bald eagles is likely to provide guidance to the youngsters we released.

Beginning in May, we constructed a new release pen for bald eagles at Lake San Antonio with a spectacular view of the lake. Then on May 23, 2000 we transferred these two chicks to the release site and then placed identification bands on their legs. One of the eagles is banded as 5B and the other is 5U.

At this time, we do not know the sexes of the birds; however, a blood test soon to arrive will reveal the truth. From May 23 through June 9, these two baby eagles acclimated to their surroundings. On June 10, 2000 when these two birds were ready to take their first flight at 10.5 weeks of age, they were released to the wild. For an update on their progress, check back with us at the beginning of July.