Love is in the air for at least two new winged residents at an Alameda golf course: A pair of bald eagles first seen during a king tide in December are now making a nest in a eucalyptus tree there.
And if a small black dot in the lower part of her right eye and a missing nail in the middle claw of her right foot are any indication, the female is likely Big Jr., who hatched around March 2019 in a nest at Curtner Elementary School in Milpitas.
‘Most birds don’t have tattoos, do they? They don’t wear monocles,” said Rick Lewis, a monitor who on behalf of the Golden Gate Audubon Society accompanied the public on Monday to view the nest in Corica Park.
Lewis was in Arrowhead Marsh, a 50-acre marshland within Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, featuring a group of birdwatchers and shutterbugs searching for rails, a secretive bird that is flushed from the shoreline and usually hides during king tides. Suddenly someone drew attention to one of the eagles.
“Someone said, ‘Hey look, there’s a bald eagle!’ …so I turn around, somewhat doubtfully, and see, in the distance, where this person was pointing, there used to be a sea eagle. So we’re all excited, and it was only in the air for a second — it looked like it was hunting ducks — and it was in the distance so we couldn’t really see it very well, but long enough to recognize it,” said Lewis. “So pretty exciting. We watched it. I took a few pictures, did the king tide thing, went home, and then I kept hearing stories from people who kept seeing the bald eagles.”
On a morning walk near the golf course six days later, one of the birds whizzed over Lewis, right into the couple’s nest under construction.
“It was really serendipity, very lucky,” Lewis said. “I didn’t expect to find a nest at all. There wasn’t — I hadn’t read anything, told no one they were nesting here, no one suspected they were nesting here. So it was just a fait accompli, right? There it is, it’s not just here – hell, there’s a nest! It was really exciting.”
He added that while it’s unusual for the birds to choose an urban, populated environment in which to build a nest, it may be the familiarity of a schoolhouse that Big Jr. to the area – Earhart Elementary School is just down the street.
Golden Gate Audubon Society and The Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve committee are working together to preserve and monitor the nest, where Lewis said the birds are likely to return year after year if not disturbed.
There are at least four other known and verified bald eagle nests in the Bay Area: the one at Curtner Elementary in Milpitas, another at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, and two in Del Valle and Lake Chabot Regional Parks. Eagles usually breed in late winter and early spring, laying one to three eggs over an incubation period of about 35 days.
Lewis said the organization is responding to the surge in demand and is continuing the tours. Come back for registration on the next walk on February 27.