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2012 Nesting Season for Independence and Franklin

This is the story about 3 little eagles and how they grew.  It is also a story about their parents, Independence and Franklin - both non-releasable Bald Eagles, originally from Alaska, who found a forever home in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It is also the story about a community of eagle watchers, chatters, moderators, and caregivers — all with one goal in mind: to help the babies grow up safely while sharing their story with their larger network of friends and associates.

So let us begin.

In the cold month of January, Al Cecere - "Chief Eagle" of all of us, went about reconstructing a larger, stronger, higher, safer nest for the offspring we hoped would come.  We were sure Indy and Frank would approve the changes! The nest looked magnificent—sturdy, replete with fresh greenery, totally natural in appearance.

Al wanted to make the viewing experience better than it had been before, so, after lots of research, 4 cameras were purchased, one a tilt-pan-zoom, to create a true Eagle Reality show.  From 4 different angles, the viewers could choose the picture they liked best - and then change it whenever they wanted.  The tilt-pan-zoom cam (Cam 1) became the Signature Cam where detailed, up-close viewing was possible.  And, to top it off, Al put a microphone in the side of the nest to capture all the eagle chirps, calls, loud screams, and extraneous noises from the mountainside.

During March, Indy and Frank seemed to be quite interested in fixing their nest just like they wanted it to be --- Lots of screen shots were taken by many of us showing them on the side of the nest, bringing sticks and stuff into the nest, having long eagle discussions about where to put a particular stick.... Surely they were thinking about increasing their family.

Indy laid her first egg March 24, 2012 at approximately 6:30 p.m. EST. The second egg was laid 3 days later, March 27, at approximately 7:15 p.m. EST, and the third egg was laid March 31, 2012 at approximately 3:30 p.m. EST.

WE WERE EGGSCITED!  According to OUR calendars, and understanding that eagle egg incubation was about 35 days,  E-1 should hatch on or around April 28. E-2 would hatch 3 days later - May 1, and E-3 would hatch on or around May 5. There was only one slight aberration: after the first egg was laid, the parents were not particularly interested in brooding it. We worried.  And after the second egg was laid, brooding picked up, but was not as intense as we thought it should be.  We fretted. However, after the third egg was laid, the parents got down to business and brooding took on a new meaning!  We still wondered about the first 2 eggs. There were "private" emails that went back and forth expressing grave concerns.

When "due dates" came and went - and no pips were apparent (once we thought there was a pip, but it really wasn't), more "worried emails" hit cyberspace.  The moderators were fabulous throughout, encouraging viewers to be patient, to "wait and see."

And, just when we thought it would NEVER BE, pips in 2 eggs were clearly seen on May 6th.  Even though the first 2 eggs had been laid 3 days apart, and the 3rd egg did not come until 4 days after the 2nd, all hatched within a 2-day period. PIP PIP Hooray!

So, (lesson for the day) eagles don't always follow people calendars.


A scrapbook of memories...


Refurbished nest - Jan. 2012

Refurbished nest- 2012

The home of Franklin and Independence -
renovated and awaiting occupancy!
A sturdy, safe interior with fresh greenery, soft pine straw, higher "crib" rails for the babies!


Checking out the neighborhood.



Checking out the neighborhood. A bit of interior design.


First egg


Second egg

One Egg Two Eggs!


Three Eggs!


Brooding begins in earnest.

Three Eggs! And now brooding begins in earnest -- All day.


And nighttime.


Both parents helped

And all night. Our infrared cameras let us observe without disturbing the eagles in any way. Both parents shared in the responsibility.




Adoption card

We bought Tee-Shirts (designed by "Oul") And "adopted" Indy and Frank - TWICE!


"On Eagle Mountain"

Soft light falls magically on our nest at night
Babies sleep; parents close by, ever watchful. Sentinels.

This is Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. This is their home.
Here they are protected, nurtured, loved.

Their parents — never again able to fly in the wild
- and restricted to a space on a shady, peaceful hill—
still find companionship and purpose for life,
forming bonds that will last their lifetime.

The cycle of life repeats each spring.
Eggs are laid, guarding secrets of newly forming life inside.
The parents guard them with their very lives,
knowing the value of what it is they are protecting.

A scratch, a tear, a tiny breathing space. And then a small hole.
Hours of work till finally the exhausted tiny life escapes the small space of shell
and enters a world he will someday soar above.

Two others are hatched - all in the space of 30 hours.
Fighting for dominance and survival - hard wired instincts.    
~ an AEF Chatter


A pip!


Mom hears the chick inside

On May 6th, a Pip. Really and truly. For sure! Yes, indeed! We were absolutely beside ourselves.


Two out! These hatched the same day.


Little bitty fluff balls.

May 7, 2012 - Tiny, tiny fluff balls. It was like we were in the nest. Amazing views.


All three


Independence and Franklin with chicks

On May 8, the family was complete. Independence and Franklin take a break.


Baby eaglets May 9, 2012

On May 9, Al went into the nest to check on the 1 & 2 day-old babies. They were fine, and he got this amazing photo!



They grew by leaps and bounds

June 5, 2012

May 20 - at 12-13 days old, they are growing at an astounding pace. By June 5, 4.1 weeks old, pin feathers begin to appear.


Going to the store for food


Bringing it to the babies

Picking up fresh fish... feed to the babies!


June 16, 2012

Another check-up on June 16: the nest is a bit the worse for wear, but the eaglets, 5.7 weeks old, are thriving!


Last day at nest

When one of the eaglets climbed on the railing June 20 at 6.3 weeks of age, the decision was made to "graduate" them to the Hack Tower on Douglas Lake.


Empty nest

Leaving us with memories to cherish.




At the hack tower

At the Hack Tower on Douglas Lake, the eaglets have lots of room, perches, fresh fish & water, and a million dollar view.


Indy and Frank - empty Nesters

Indy and Frank quickly adjust to being "empty nesters" and enjoy the company of one another on Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.



Farewell from all who watched you grow,

We hope that you will live and know

That, once you fly and feel the air,

Your soul will breathe for us who care,

And when we see an Eagle fly, 

We will remember this goodbye. 


written by John Ernest Lamb 

("papa" to those of us on UStream Chat)









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