The first eaglet to be born at Shenango River Lake is now about 2 months old.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
CLARK, Pa. -- There's a new baby at Shenango River Lake, but it's not the kind you can hold and cuddle.
It's a bald eagle, hatched atop a breeding platform in a protected propagation area on the northern side of the lake west of state Route 18.
In April, a pair of bald eagles commandeered the 30-foot-high nesting platform from a pair of Canada geese and set up housekeeping.
The platform had been erected to attract breeding ospreys, brown and white hawks that feed on fish but are considerably smaller than bald eagles.
Timing: James Deniker, a land manager for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said in May that the eagles had been on the site for about 30 days and that any fertile eggs in the nest could hatch at any time.
"Things have worked out pretty good," said Mike Colgan, state gamelands maintenance supervisor, noting that the nest has produced one eaglet.
He estimated that the bird was born in early May and should be ready to take its first flight around the end of this month.
No one knows if there was more than a single egg in the nest. Eagles are easily discouraged from nesting by the presence of humans, and no one has climbed the nesting pole to examine the nest, Colgan said.
Although the eaglet is already about the size of an adult, it can't hunt and must rely on its parents for food.
Colgan said the adults are most busy with feeding sessions in the morning and late evening hours.
The eaglet spends much of the rest of the day walking around the nest and occasionally stretching its wings when it is hit with wind gusts.
Coming back: Deniker said wildlife officials are excited about the presence of the eagles because the majestic birds are likely to return to their nesting site year after year, and eagles can live to be 30 years old.
The young also could return as adults to build their own nesting sites, he said.
Bald eagles build their nest of sticks, adding to the size each year, and some nests have been known to weigh as much as two tons.
Deniker said workers will reinforce the breeding platform after the eagles leave to make sure it will be safe for next year.
This is the first eaglet born at Shenango, which was built to control flooding on the Shenango River in the late 1960s.
An eagle built a nest in the Orangeville Road area along the lake about seven years ago but abandoned it. Deniker said it was likely that contact with too many people scared the bird away.