Two bald eaglets and their parents have a new, sturdier home today in place of the one destroyed in Sunday's storms.
That nest in a skinny pine tree on the western edge of the Mooseheart campus came crashing down when a branch broke. The eaglets, who were in it at the time, were not injured by the 85-foot fall.
But their lives were nonetheless in danger. Birds of prey such as the bald eagles typically do not feed their young on the ground. The eaglets, at 6 weeks old, haven't yet learned to fly. They were likely to starve to death or become somebody else's dinner.
But eagle-eyed eagle watchers from the Kane County Audubon Society noticed on Monday the nest was gone, and alerted Mooseheart's security office, who called in experts -- the rehabilitators from Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.
The Flint Creek crew took the eaglets to their Barrington site Monday for an examination, feeding and overnight stay.
They knew, however, that the longer the babies were gone, the less likely the family would be reunified. "We were afraid if it took us too long to build the nest, they (the parents) might give up and leave," said Dawn Keller, executive director of Flint Creek.
So Tuesday morning, Keller placed one of the eaglets on the ground under the tree, hoping Mom and Pop Eagle would see at least one of their babies was still alive. Mooseheart security workers, the rehabilitators and eagle aficionados quickly built a new nest, out of vinyl-coated hardware cloth and metal electrical conduit.
Then it was time for the aerial work by Brian Ziegler, operations manager of The Care of Trees. He used a bucket truck to lift the new nest 63 feet up, into a sturdier tree, then working from a harness, secured it with I-bolts and steel cable. Meanwhile, the older eagles swooped and soared around, a good sign.
Ziegler lined the nest with the remains of the old one.
Finally, it was Keller's turn to go up -- first to inspect the nest, then to carry the eaglets (one male, one female, weighing 4 and 7 pounds apiece) one at a time to their new home, while helpers on the ground kept an eye out for attacks by the parents. There were none.
"He did such a beautiful job," Keller said of Ziegler. The tree-care company donates its services to Flint Creek for such projects. But this is the first time Flint Creek has built such a large nest, because it is the first time it has helped eagles.
"Eagles' nests in the Chicago area aren't that common," Keller said.
The Flint Creek crew will check to make sure the parents are taking care of the eaglets. If not, they will retrieve the eaglets and raise them with a surrogate. "We should know very soon afterward," Keller said.
The eagles became celebrities last year, the first they raised a family in the old nest. They built the nest in the summer of 2009. The nest is near Randall Road.
The Kane County Sheriff's Office had to remind motorists last year that they couldn't park their cars along Randall to get out and watch the birds, nor could they hop the fence to get a closer look. While it may look like a forest preserve, it's private property, owned by Moose International. The fraternity runs Mooseheart, a residential school, there.
Even though the operation took all day, the volunteers' interest didn't waver. Even when their part -- building the nest -- was over, they hung around several hours, until they knew the eaglets were home. For Moose member Ron Dickenson of Batavia, a few hours was nothing.
"I've been chasing these eagles for six years," he said.