[Scroll down to watch video of baby eagle Harmon’s rescue. The actual rescue begins about 15 minutes into the video.]
For the last day and a half I have witnessed something that was truly extraordinary. Yesterday in the early afternoon in the Minnesota Bound Eagle Cam nest, the last remaining baby eagle, Harmon, became caught in the nesting material and couldn’t get out. The mom had made a “bowl” in the damp, post-rain nesting materials, Harmon collapsed in a typical “food coma” after a big feeding and slipped down into the hole. When he tried to move again, he couldn’t get out. His little wing had become caught in the sticky, drying nest bowl.
For over 24 hours thousands of people watched Harmon struggle to free himself while his parents fed him, took turns staying close to him, and made efforts to free him. You could tell that they were concerned and knew something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out how to make it right. If an eagle can have a “perplexed” expression, they certainly had it.
It was so heartbreaking to watch this little three-week-old eagle keep struggling to free itself. It was especially hard considering that a week earlier the other chick in the nest had accidentally been knocked out, gotten stuck outside the “nest crib,” and fallen to its death. My heart just broke the day that happened. I’ve been watching this nest practically since the chicks were hatched and they started their lives together like two little fluffy white angels. I’ll never forget the video of the mom delicately and tenderly feeding the day-old babies. So, of course, it became imperative for all of us who lovingly follow the eagle chicks to save Harmon.
Quite a lot of discussion went on in the “Live Chat Room” as to whether or not it was possible to even approach the nest, since eagles are a protected species, or whether we would have to watch Nature take its course, which seemed too terrible to even contemplate.
Fortunately, some nest watchers knew how to contact the proper authorities and the rescue was set into motion. The first step was to apply for a permit from the USFWS for permission to enter the nesting territory of the eagles. State officials had to be contacted as well. Apparently, there is a $5,000 to $25,000 fine for approaching an eagle’s nest without permission. In the meantime the Minnesota Raptor Center was contacted and a boom truck was driven to the site. “Tree Climber Jim,” a fellow who has experience climbing very tall trees (this nest was 75 feet above the ground) and dealing with irate raptor parents, was put on alert. The Raptor Center is world renowned for treating injured raptors, so if the eaglet needed medical assistance they would be ready to offer whatever help was needed.
Saving Harmon Video
Here is the video of Jim climbing into to nest and saving little Harmon. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/22353672. The actual rescue starts 15:00 minutes into the film. You need to turn the sound up very loud to be able to hear the conversation between Jim and his colleague who was standing in the boom next to the nest. I understand that the mom eagle bravely stayed by the nest until the last possible minute.
I will never forget my joy at seeing Jim climb into that nest and say, “Hello Buddy.” We’d all been waiting for a day and a half for rescue. At that point over 9,000 people were watching the nest cam and every moment people had been sending that little eagle prayers and positive energy. One person had even contacted a home for 150 retired nuns, asking them to pray for the little eaglet. All day people joined in from nest cams all over the country, introducing themselves, saying, “I’m from the Decorah Eagle Cam.” “I’m from the San Clemente Channel Island cams,” all sending their support and good wishes. Support came in world wide.
Surprisingly, Jim was able to pull Harmon easily from the nest bowl. He took off his climbing gloves and, with his bare hands, cleaned the feces and maggots off the sweet baby, cradling him gently and doing everything he could to assess his condition and see if there was any apparent damage. Harmon’s little wings seemed to flap easily, but he seemed exhausted and a bit unsteady on his feet, what Pete called some “equilibrium problems.” According to the Facebook page for Minnesota Bound: “Our eagle expert made a decision to bring the eaglet down. It wasn’t in good shape at the moment. We are going to take it back to the Raptor Center for treatment and hopefully right back to the nest.”
A hard rain started about half an hour after they got the baby out of the nest.
It’s Been a Tough Season for Eaglets
Not all the baby eaglets make it. I’m a San Clemente resident and a Catalina and Channel Island eagle watcher. It’s been a challenging season for us here, and we’ve had our hearts broken twice. The first time was by the loss of the lone eaglet in the Two Harbors nest. Apparently the mom eagle was detained or injured in some way and her mate stayed with her throughout the night. When they came back to the nest with a fish the next morning, the mom looking bedraggled and the worse for wear, their baby was gone, carried off in the night by a fox. The eaglet fought valiantly but was too young to save itself. I cried for days over that one because the Two Harbors nest is my favorite.
I was thankful at least that there was a bright patch. A week before the loss of this year’s TH chick, Solitaire, or “Sassy” as she was nicknamed for her spunky attitude, the lone 2011 TH chick, was sighted on San Clemente Island after being unaccounted for for several months. So Solitaire successfully made it past her first year and has established a territory.
Our second loss was the youngest chick in the Rattlesnake nest. A bad storm with high winds came through a week ago, knocking down several large trees in the canyon, including one adjacent to the nest. The biologists believe that these heavy winds knocked the smallest chick right out of the nest.
What is beautiful to watch, however, is the love and grief that our nest watchers share as our eaglets hatch, grow, fledge, and start their new lives. Once again I saw this love expressed with baby Harmon’s struggle and rescue.
It’s unknown whether Harmon will be returned to the nest, but the prognosis looks good. He/she is presently at the Raptor Center being cleaned up, de-bugged, fed well, and given a chance to rest. The biologists plan on returning him to the nest in a day or so when they’re sure he’s all right. Then we will all hold our breath to see if the parents return and begin feeding him again.
Hopefully, this story will have a happy ending, but for now Baby Harmon is safe. We’re all so happy.