Circle of life continues for Mooseheart bald eagles
The future of the bald eagle nest in the Mooseheart football parking lot near Batavia was uncertain a year ago when one of the adult raptors was struck and killed by a car, raising doubts if two eaglets would survive.
But the circle of life has continued: The eaglets grew and left the nest, and "Mama" eagle has a new partner. The new couple welcomed an eaglet that hatched this month.
"People were really sad last year. It's something else to think about, especially this spring," said Dave Soderstrom, a St. Charles resident and nature photographer who has watched the Mooseheart nest at the northwest corner of Route 31 and Mooseheart Road for eight years. "It's God's creation, and he works things out."
Soderstrom recalled the heartbreaking sight in May 2019 of the remaining adult eagle looking in vain for her partner as she flew over the Fox River.
"The first day was really tough. It was just a sad day," he said. "We were concerned whether or not the adult would take care of (the two eaglets) or abandon them."
The remaining eagle did stay to look after the eaglets, who grew strong enough to leave the nest last summer.
Wildlife officials never tested the gender of the eagle that was killed. Early reports were it was the female, but the picture became clearer weeks later when a suitor showed up in June.
Soderstrom and Gordon Garcia, a Bartlett resident who has watched eagles since 2009, both noted that adult female eagles are about 25% to 30% larger than male counterparts.
The new eagle that showed up a month after the fatal accident was smaller than the remaining eagle.
"She raised the two eaglets by herself. It was an undertaking for her," Garcia recalled. "She was leery of the new male at first."
As summer 2019 progressed, the mother eagle warmed. By mid-July, Soderstrom said, the two were flying together.
"We were all excited to see that. Everyone was very encouraged," he said.
And this February and March, the pair were seen together in the nest, with the male finding mulch to fortify the home.
Last week, Soderstrom caught a shot of the adults feeding a new eaglet.
Cathy Pollack is a biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2000 whose duties include tracking bald eagle populations and more than 30 nests in the six-county area around Chicago. She said it's hard to gauge whether the mother eagle's caring for the eaglets was rare, as most eagle nests aren't constantly monitored and she hasn't witnessed a situation where an eagle parent dies.
Pollack is thankful the mother found a new mate and stayed put; when an eagle finds a new mate, they often build a new nest elsewhere.
"Mooseheart is the one (nest) the public pays the most attention to," she said. "We don't have people at all of the active nests (in the collar counties). But that nest, people sit there (to watch) because it's so easily viewable from the road."