Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Devastation .. at it's finest.

My parents are away for a couple weeks, and I'm lounging staying at their house to take care of their massive dogs (whom I absolutely adore!) - with Emily.  So it's not entirely simple, or enjoyable.  However, it is where I will be camped out for the next week and a half (with a few exceptions) not an easy thing to do - but we are.  Not a full nights sleep - hard to sleep in a different place - especially when you're 4.  Just keep this in mind, on top of the "normal" sleep issues I have - I'm in a different place, without my husband.

At any rate, I digress. 

I've been following the Norfolk Botanical Garden Bald Eagles since their eggs were laid, and was blessed enough to see all three hatch.

Yesterday, I signed on to the web cam, and was watching as usual.  Then I signed onto a forum I'm a member of, where I have successfully made Eagle Cam Addicts out of quite a few of my online friends.

Then I read This:

NORFOLK -- A plane landing at Norfolk International Airport struck and killed an eagle Tuesday morning, and it has been confirmed that it was one of the very popular eagles from the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Tuesday afternoon, Stephen A. Living, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries confirmed it is indeed one of the nesting pair from the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

These eagles were well known through the Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam provided by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), Norfolk Botanical Garden and WVEC, and have been at NBG since 2001.

Eagle Cam watcher Linda Eszenyi drove from Northern Virginia in hopes of getting a personal glimpse of the pair and their eaglets.

“They told me and I just had to go have a cry.  I was so hurt and disappointed, not for just me but for everybody that watches,” Eszenyi said.

Reese Lukei, a research associate with the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB), has monitored and blogged about these eagles for ten years.
“It’s about like losing one of your kids,” Lukei described.
Moments before the confirmation, Living said "We are fairly certain it's the female from Norfolk Botanical Garden based on the location, the physical characteristics of the eagle and the fact that the female hasn't been seen on the nest since early this morning."

DGIF management is meeting at the NBG.  They're trying to determine the status of the eagle nest.  They are concerned whether the male eagle can raise the three eaglets solo.

“We are going to be watching this nest very closely over the coming days to see if he is able to provide regular feeding for the chicks,” Lukei stated.

Biologists with the VDGIF, CCB, and the staff at NBG will continue to monitor the nest and are working to ensure the health of the eaglets. 

The strike happened sometime between 8:30 and 8:50 a.m.  A US Airways regional jet coming from Philadelphia was preparing to land at 8:50 when the pilot reported the bird strike.  

Shank says the eagle was reportedly feeding at Lake Whitehurst with another eagle when the strike was reported

The plane landed safely and no one was hurt, Shank stressed.   He added that there was minor damage to the aircraft.

Shank told that this is the second eagle strike in several weeks and fourth in 10 years; the others occurring in 2005 and 2001.
Shank said the airport is working with the US Fish and Wildlife office to see if anything can be done to protect airline passengers and wildlife.

Call me sentimental, call me silly, call me whatever - but I cried.  Call me dense, and irrational - but I've been crying ever since - off and on.   I've followed this site for months, others have - for years.  In 2001 this Mama lost her mate, in the same manner.  She and this current daddy, successfully hatched, raised and fledged 19 Eaglets over the course of nearly 10 years.  One of their babies is currently housed at the Wildlife Center of Virginia - where he has been since it was discovered he had Avian Pox.   Sadly, but triumphantly, he is flourishing there, and can never be released to the wild - he would never be able to feed himself, due to his beak deformity.  His name is Buddy, and he is an Ambassador of sorts.

My Friend Cassiopeia made this out of a screen shot she captured from the live cam, and with her permission, I'm posting it here.


The decision was made today - to remove these three gorgeous, healthy, thriving Eaglets, and bring them to the same center their "brother" is.

WVEC: DGIF biologists have decided that it is in the best interest of the eaglets to remove them from the nest and relocate them to the Wildlife Center of Virginia. The removal operation will take place at 10 a.m

At 10am this morning - roughly the same ground crew that helped examine and band these babies a mere Six Days Ago - gathered to remove them from their nest, for a final time, to transfer them to their new, temporary home.

When the professionals were questioned - and lambasted - for this choice, Ed Clark - the President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia said this:

Source Ed Clark, WCV: ...While the male may be able to feed the babies for now, those chicks will triple in size (and appetite) over the next two months. There can be no reduction in nutritional intake during this rapid growth period or the babies could suffer developmentally. If there is not enough food to go around, the stronger chicks will either push the weaker out of the nest, or kill it.

This decision was not an easy one for those involved.

Devastation doesn't begin to cover the feeling I've had all day.

I take some comfort knowing they'll be well cared for, but my heart continues to ache and break, for Daddy Eagle.

This was also posted by a moderator on the NBG Eagle Cam Chat Blog today - multiple times:

In light of the events this year, the 2012 ‘Garden of Eagles’ calendar will be dedicated to the memory of the Norfolk Botanical Garden female  -  and will include photos not only of this year, but will include photos of her from past years. Viewers who would like to receive the informational e-mail on pre-ordering the 2012 'Garden of Eagles' Calendar can go to the Garden of Eagles website (located on the lower right hand side on WVEC website) and use the contact form to place your name on the mailing list. The photos for 2012 will include the 2011 nesting season  -  both in the nest, their growing up at the Wildlife Center of Virginia and their fledging. Information for pre-orders will go out next week - with calendar delivery the latter part of August. The calendar will not be printed until early August - to assure that photos of the fledglings will be included.

Can you guess what I've arranged to pre-order?  The 2011 Calendar is on my office wall, with a gorgeous photo of Mom and Dad on the cover.

Another of the moderators posted this:  (and nailed down how we, the viewers, were feeling too)

Shoebutton♥: Some thoughts from me – to the viewers, and some being my personal friends….to all of you that have come to love the Norfolk Eagles -

It is so hard for all of us to understand why this season has come to such an abrupt halt…

first we watched a “perfect” season with Mom and Dad raising three eaglets, looking forward to first flight. Then we lost Mom yesterday and now the eaglets have been removed from the nest after all the cheers for Dad when he brought fish to the nest. This morning, I have reminded myself several times, to remember that Dad would have to continue to feed the eaglets for almost a month before first flight, three eaglets – not just one, then he would also have to hunt for himself and at the same time, defend his territory and nest if need be. Then after first flight, at least two more months of feeding the eaglets and teaching them to hunt before they left the Gardens. When you think about it, truly would be hard on Dad and it may not have been successful for him or the eaglets. Even though I’ve had a lump in my throat this morning and I am sad, I respect VDGIF’s decision, all the biologists and partners involved. We must trust them, because they all are very experienced in their fields.

Removing the eaglets from the nest is a better means of survival for them and Dad. . As we wait to see what Dad does in the next few days, we will all want to know what his future may bring. Will he find a mate? Will he continue to make the Gardens his home? So many questions and so many will go unanswered probably until next Fall. My best to all the viewers. Despite this sad ending, it has been a wonderful season. It certainly has been a privilege and an honor for myself to be a part of this season. Thank you Pete / WVEC for asking me to be a volunteer.

Thank you Julian for taking care of our precious cargo this morning! To all the schools – teachers and students, all will be ok. I know that you miss Mom and the eaglets right now so my suggestion to you is to talk to each other about all the great fun you have had watching the eagles and all that you have learned prior to yesterday. Laugh and giggle about the eaglets, it is good for the soul

After literally bawling my eyes out for the entire day - specifically when Daddy returned to the nest with a fish, only to find his babies gone .... I have come to the following opinion ... and I can only hope Daddy Eagle finds his way in this world, without his mate and babies, very quickly.

I am running on little sleep, and lots of emotion - I've been watching this nest since just after the eggs were laid - forgive me if I start to sound snotty, snarky, bitchy or unkind at all ---- now that's out of the way .....

At first, I had the same opinion - as those babies were taken from their nest, placed into dark bags, lowered from their home and transferred into boxes - after suffering the loss of their mother - I was through the roof upset.  Angry, Emotional, Sad, Frustrated - you name it, that was me.

After watching the Eaglets, and reading what Mr. Clark had to say, and doing some research on my own - I am convinced that once you put your personal feelings and emotions aside ... you'll see it's the right choice.   There really was no other feasible option for the ultimate survival of all four of these majestic raptors.

As hard as it was for us to watch, and endure, imagine being Julian.   6 days ago he was jubilant, posing for pictures with the babies, holding up a happy birthday sign.  Imagine being that ground crew.  6 days ago they were laughing, joking, measuring, snapping pictures, carrying each Eaglet to the crowds of people to get closer photos.  Imagine being Reese Lukei.   10 Years he has been studying this pair.  Imagine being any of the numerous staff members of the NBG, the CCB, WCV, hell even the news channel that sponsors the damn web cam.

Now, imagine you're the pilot of that 747.

Put yourself behind that windshield.  Put yourself in Mr. Lukei's shoes.  Put yourself in Julian's climbing gear.   Imagine having to report to the millions of people watching this family that Mom isn't coming home.  Imagine having to make a snap decision, with little time to prepare - what the course of action must be to save what is left of this family.   Imagine knowing you're going to piss off a large chunk of people - no matter the choice you make - and either tear apart a family, or essentially sign a death certificate for a family.

After everything that has happened - put your own emotions aside, as I had to - and realize that sometimes, Nurture needs to take Natures place.

E1, E2 and E3 are healthy, and safe.  They will be raised, taught and cared for the best they can be - and then released in an area populated by other Bald Eagles so they may learn in "real life" what they were missing at the WCV. 

It's sad, heartbreaking, and horrifying -- yet it's life. 

It Sucks.

Hopefully in a few months, come mating/breeding season, Daddy Eagle will find a suitable mate - and be able to happily move on with his life.     Until then, we have all learned, loved and enjoyed this family.   We will all continue to learn, love and enjoy this family - just a different way from this point forward.

I am exhausted - mentally, physically, and emotionally ... I can't imagine what those that were actually personally involved are feeling.  They all remain in my thoughts, including Momma and her Family.

RIP Momma Eagle, you have touched the lives and spirits of so many ... May you soar, always.  Thank you for this glimpse into your world.

*Update*  WVEC and the NBG have turned the Camera off.


Jessi said...

I'm not going to lie, I can't read this post. I followed your status updates yesterday and it broke my heart.

This is not "nature", "natural selection" or "survival of the fittest" it's humans invading on wildlife.

So sad. :(

Amy said...

I've been crying for 2 days, and I feel absolutely ridiculous and helpless.

I know it's the right choice, and I KNOW daddy will get a new mate .. I just .. I can't help it.

I have the 2011 Calendar, I'll be getting the 2012 one, and I've donated to the memorial bench. When I get the chance, I'll be donating to WCV ... to help pay for the cost of their care, or the web cam that they want .. Whatever I can do to help. It's not enough, but it's something

Jessi said...

send me the link via fb message and I'll give something too :)

Amy said...

(PS Jessi:
WVEC: We are happy to announce that we have a webcam feed established from the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro showing the eaglets in their temporary home. We will have the live video feed online as soon as possible, perhaps later this afternoon, on the Eagle Cam page.)