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written by
Hailey Wist

Eaglets Beloved

photographs by
Pamela Cohen

Volume: 29

Under the United States Bald and Golden Eagle Act, eagles are carefully monitored and protected nationwide. While they were once on the Endangered Species list, their populations recovered sufficiently. Construction near an active eagle nest is limited to cyclical windows to allow the birds seasonal nesting. This spring, two indefatigable naturalists watched quietly as a Kiawah eaglet learned to fly.


Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring Report

Kiawah Island, SC | Cassique

Spring is all around us right now, from the mild temperatures this morning (~64°F) and notices of daily showers, to beautiful flowers, pollen, and abundant sand gnats everywhere. The 0703 sunrise this morning had to fight through the low clouds that moved by quickly on the steady breezes. A dead-low tide was showing lots of mud bank without a hint of current, and apparently not much food either: just a handful of wading birds, mostly Snowy Egrets, moved overhead, but none were seen using the tide creek in front of my observation post.

I arrived about twenty minutes before sunrise hoping to catch an early Eagle off the nest, but to no avail. One wedge of Double-crested Cormorants came over, heading steadily into the northeasterly winds. About the only thing moving in numbers were Boat-tailed Grackles, circling and making their raucous spring territory calls. In fact, no Bald Eagles, or any other raptors or soaring birds of any kind, were observed for the whole ninety plus minutes of the field session. Inside-construction traffic for the TVW [Trailing Vines Way] house arrived about 0730, six or seven cars & trucks, but made no discernable noise or disturbance in the area. Perhaps the most quiet field session of the 2017 series.

I repeatedly scanned across the whole horizon, looking to all the known perches and thinking I might be missing something in the dim predawn, or in the glare of the sun behind the nest site, but, no, there just weren’t any Eagles to be seen. I did get one quick glimpse of a flapped wing while scoping the small bit of nest structure I can see from the regular observation post. That confirmed to me that there was at least one bird at the nest site. But at 0840 I decided it was going to be a slow morning with just that one hint of the nesting effort I felt certain was taking place this season. So I left the post and decided to take a look at the nest site by car from Trailing Vines Way.

Look what I found: That solitary, needle-shrouded wing flap seen earlier was from a young branchling Bald Eagle perched on a limb stub just at the rim of the #855 nest! No adults were to be seen, but the all-dark plumage and dark beak, and the absolutely still upright countenance of the bird are unmistakable. Perhaps the upcoming SCDNR flight surveys can add details to this observation.

So, by these surveys, we can confirm at least one (no others in evidence today) Bald Eagle chick has made it to the juvenile stage at nest #855 in 2017. I scoped the bird from my truck seat for about five minutes (during which it might as well have been made of lead), saw no other birds, and took a few pictures. No other car or foot traffic passed on TVW during today’s survey. I left the area just before 0900.

Respectfully submitted, Paul Hinchcliff,

Folk Land Management 



I returned to Cassique late yesterday with hopes of finding mature Eagles…but without any luck. So back this morning to try to photograph the immature still in the nest. I’ll tell you, Hailey, this is a tough shoot! The Eaglet is almost all brown, seems to position itself behind branches or pieces of pine, making my job a challenge. On top of that, the nest is high in a pine tree, positioned in the woods with little light. I stayed there a few hours today to find that the light is best near noon, which I would have never imagined. I was hoping at some point one of the adults would come and feed the chick, but I have yet to see that. I’ll go back again tomorrow. 

Let’s see what tomorrow brings…

Smiles, Pamela



I have been out at Cassique every day at various times during the week. Most of the content has to do with shots of the Eaglet in the nest. Yesterday, it managed to come up and do a little practice with wing flapping, most likely because there was a breeze.

Today was what I have been wanting! The adult came by and was nearby on a branch. I only had seconds to make the shot, handheld with a large lens. It is amazing to watch just what unfolds out there in the wild. Yesterday, another raptor/predator landed near the nest. I couldn’t see it, yet heard it land. The reaction of the Eaglet told me what was going on. It hunkered itself down into the nest, fanning out its wings, allowing for a complete and successful camouflage. Soon the predator flew off. Obviously, the young Eagle’s instinct was the winner of the dangerous situation. Wondering what will be next?

I am totally enjoying this opportunity.

Have a good holiday, Pamela 



You can’t even believe all that I have experienced with the Eagles—it has been a terrific opportunity!

I feel as though the Eagle chick is my child! I watched it from being somewhat helpless in the nest, to learning to climb out on a branch like it was a tightrope…and now fly. What a wild ride this has been. 

Today, I watched as the adult and the chick both flew into the nest, the adult bringing its treasure, a fish. Much to the dismay of the voraciously hungry chick awaiting its meal, the fish fell out of the nest, dropping all the way down from the pine tree. The chick was starving and chirping uncontrollably. I knew the adult would have to satisfy it, and it would be a waiting game for me. I used my car as a blind with hopes the adult would bring food and that I wouldn’t be a distraction. It never realized the fish was on the ground but instinctively knew it had to go hunting again. The car was hot, but my excitement never vanished, and sure enough, the adult Eagle came through with lunch! Both were in the nest, and the young one got fed…I got the photos!

The little Eagle can fly. It is amazing to see it venture out on its own, yet still not ready for the big world awaiting. I will continue to check on it.

I will be excited to share all of these with you.




I have been to the nest nearly every day. I feel like I have lived with these two magnificent creatures!




Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring Report 

Kiawah Island, SC | Cassique

The sun seems to rise fast in May. 0615 this morning was black night, but by 0635 you could have read small type easily. On arriving in this first light, I saw the first Bald Eagle of the day, an adult perched on the “far island,” maybe four or five hundred yards to the north across the marsh, turned back toward us, watching. Not much else seemed to be out on the marsh. Water was at dead-low tide, with still cool air under scattered clouds. 

I didn’t have to wait long for a second Eagle. About 0710 a large, dark bird came charging out from the nest canopy, made a clumsy, looping flight along the creek-front forest edge, and took an outer perch on a pine branch about a hundred feet down the island and thirty feet up. It was my first sighting of this young-of-the-year (YOY) #855 Bald Eagle in the air, showing good-but-not-sure flying skills and the ability to find and take appropriate perches. One month ago (05 May, #17-7), this bird was still nest bound, able to walk the nest rim and adjacent, touching branches, but showing no interest in venturing further. Now look at him! While on perch he regularly stretched and flapped his wings, turning often to find a different talon grip as if dancing. He kept up this show for forty-five minutes, until breakfast was served.

At 0755, from low in the northeast (not the typical direction), an adult Eagle came in level to the island canopy, directly (and skillfully) looping through the branches to the #855 nest. Branching was open enough to see a fish squarely in its grasp, about the size of a mullet (!). This is the first direct observation of this pair with prey items. Calling as it came, it quickly caught the attention of the YOY bird, who immediately left its perch, looped back across the creek-forest edge and beelined to the nest rim to meet the meal. Much squawking commenced. Lots of flapping & fuss. It was magnificent. Wisely perhaps, after a minute or so, the adult left the fish to the youngster, took leave of the nest out to the creek-forest edge, found a high outer perch, and began peacefully preening.

On a slow loop drive on TVW, I could readily observe the YOY standing on the nest rim, head down and bobbing. He was still eating. Patches of white showed in the axillaries (underwing area) when he would flap-step around the wide nest. He showed neither reaction to my presence, nor reaction to other sounds in the area. Except, that is, to the appearance of yet another adult Eagle that glided low over the canopy, directly over the nest, as I was leaving. That caused some more impressive and extended vocalizations. Nice way to end the season.

It is my opinion that, while able to demonstrate rudimentary flying skills, this bird still needs several more weeks in a protected exercise environment before it will be able to fly far from the nest site, not require adult supplementation, and live independently. This pair’s nesting schedule & record is otherwise well within a normal time frame and sequence for SC Coast Eagles, albeit this time apparently resulting in a single chick.

Respectfully submitted, Paul Hinchcliff,

Folk Land Management 


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