FROM DAVID HANCOCK:
(Written 3/1/11 at 8:38 a.m. PST)
Catching Pa -- or not catching Pa!
Well Pa is fine but I am deflated. I screwed up but at least I have now seen Pa performing in the wild and I am very relieved. The ground crew was able to call Pa up to the beach offering of sockeye salmon but I had miscalculated on a simple element and the catch was not successful. In fact, as we discussed at the start, catching the eagle would be about a 50% chance on each attempt the eagle made at the bait. Each grab by the eagle would only succeed if a talon actually got entangled in a noose. The eagle took the bait but did not get noosed.
The intended eagle capture method is certainly a well proven technique and one I had personally used to catch many eagles in the past. I could leave the story there but, the eagle would not have been retained due to an error I made, even if a noose had snared the talon. Fortunately, since he did not get snared, my error did not have a major impact -- other than momentary heartbreak. Thank goodness.
But the good side. We all got to watch Pa on and off in his family duties, bringing in nesting materials and carrying off a pound of fish -- our fish. The vigor with which Pa hit the dead branch to dislodge it from the tree was impressive. Then how he carried that branch, which was nearly 5 feet long, over a kilometer and eventually, after circling the nest to gain enough height, to drop the branch into the nest, was exceptional. This was the flight and effort of a very healthy bird.
Then, when Pa took our bait and flew another 1.5 to 2 kilometers, toting the more than 500 grams of fish nearly to nest height, it was apparent that he had even more stamina. As Lynda said, "He was out to impress Ma -- what else at this time of year!" This was all impressive but finally with the viewing scope on him for about 15 minutes enabling close view of his neck, head and particularly his behavior, all of us present gave him full marks for health. The point became why bother subjecting him to any risk due to capture or any risk due to being frightened due to the capture. Maybe even Ma would have experienced angst at seeing Pa caught. Our observations confirm the observations of several of the local ground crew who already gave him 'O' for outstanding. Pa was very vigorous and healthy so let's not bother the natural cycle.
Initially there is no doubt that our group of enthusiasts were divided on whether to intervene or not. Without the personal observations of today I defaulted to a safe position, one of good insurance, that we try and catch Pa to make sure of his neck injury. But in the meantime, since we started considering this insurance policy, over 3 weeks have passed and Pa has not gotten worse. In fact, as today revealed to many of us through our live observation of him, he is doing very very well, thank you. So the decision has been to leave well enough alone. If the ground crew sees any deterioration we are now even more confident he will cooperate in being caught. I will be sharper.
Thanks to all who attended and gave their moral support and to all the viewers, who probably sat strongly in either camp -- to catch and insure or to leave and wait and see -- we are happy to report that Pa and Ma remain steadfast in Pat Bay, Sidney hunting and fishing as before. And they do so now with our personal observation and confirmation that they do this with full strength and optimism for eggs in the coming week -- or two.
Hancock Wildlife Foundation