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Fuzz disappearing as baby eagle ages

By Staff | May 8, 2020

The eaglet at the National Conservation Training Center stares out of its nest, awaiting another feeding by its parents on Sunday morning. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — It’s good news for those emotionally invested in the eagles, watching the gnarled nest of matted sticks and long-bladed grass that hangs precariously high in the top of a tree on the grounds of the National Conservation Center along Shepherd Grade Road outside of Shepherdstown.

With their attention focused on the EagleCam perched next to the scraggly nest of the parent eagles, people are being treated this spring to the pair’s parenting of a lone eaglet. A slight depression in the middle of the circular nest is where the youngster settles after one of its parents brings it a fish from the nearby Potomac River.

Tearing pieces of a fish into edible bits for the patient youngster, an adult bird feeds the ever-maturing eaglet.

Once the meal has been finished, the down-laden youngster usually moves to the middle of its king-sized home and does a little napping. There is often a wind with some bite coursing past the nest.

In most years, the adult eagles have laid eggs in the chill of February and then had to keep them warm, as not only the cold of the winter warred against them, but also the constant wind and occasional snow. Some seasons have seen them huddled with the prized eggs under them, as the snow settled forcefully against their bodies. The eggs didn’t survive the weather’s onslaught.

But this year, the fertilized egg came later. And the parental nurturing has been rewarded with a downy baby.

Now with May on the calendar, the snow is no more and the wind not as menacing.

The eaglet is slowly losing his earlier fuzz, and the oncoming feathers have overtaken the earlier protective gray covering.

As the top of the tree sways and gives pause to the viewer, the little one grows more rapidly toward adulthood. The ever-vigilant parents do their food-chasing chores.

Danger seems to follow every mean gust of wind. The rain comes and goes, and then come in its spurts once more. But with every passing day, the chances of the eaglet reaching adulthood and then dropping away from the nest in full flight are improved.

Mature flight feathers are still needed. A keener awareness of its surroundings is surely necessary.

But the maturation process seems to be progressing on-schedule.

If the tree-top theater continues on as it has, Shepherdstown should have another bald eagle resident it can count in the 2020 census.