There are now two pairs of bald eagles nesting on the lake's shores.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
CLARK, Pa. -- The bald eagles that took over a platform nest at Shenango River Lake last year are expanding their family.
The eagles are back at the nest and already have produced two eaglets, born in early April.
There's also an immature bald eagle hanging around the area, and it is likely it's the eaglet that fledged from the same nest last summer, said James Deniker, a land management officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Bald eagles traditionally return to their birth sites to nest, and it's unusual for a pair to nest atop a manmade platform, he said.
They normally build their nests in trees and expand them every year, he said.
Platform for osprey
This pair took over a 30-foot-high platform atop a pole that was originally erected to attract nesting osprey, brown and white hawks that feed on fish but which are considerably smaller than bald eagles.
Deniker said workers will have to shore up the pole after the eagles leave the area next winter to make sure it is strong enough to support the nest as it is expanded.
It's in a protected propagation area, and people aren't allowed to walk there. That's good for eagles, which are easily discouraged from nesting by the presence of humans, Deniker said.
A pair of osprey nested on it when it was erected five years ago, but a pair of Canada geese, which normally nest on the ground, took it over the for the next two seasons.
They came back last year, but the eagles chased them away and the geese returned to nesting on the ground, Deniker said.
Eagles usually migrate South, but last winter was mild and the eagles left the lake for only a short time.
They started incubating early this year, Deniker aid, noting the female was sitting on the eggs in the nest through the subfreezing weather, snowstorms and windstorms of March.
There are no plans to band the eaglets nor was last year's offspring banded, he said.
Eaglets quickly grow to nearly full size in just 6 weeks, but they don't take their first flight until they are about 3 months old. They aren't independent enough to survive on their own until they are 5 months or 6 months old.
They aren't the only bald eagles on the lake.
This pair is located west of state Route 18, but there's another pair nesting on the eastern end of the lake in the Big Bend area, where the Shenango River flows into the lake.
That nest, in a tree in a secluded area, also produced an eaglet last year and the adults are nesting again this spring, Deniker said.
Eagles are territorial, but Shenango River Lake is big enough to support several pairs, Deniker said.
Fish is their main diet, and there are plenty of fish for them to catch, he added.