Just a few days after a female bald eagle known as “Bangor Mom” died of lead poisoning, another eagle has been sighted at its nest, according to Bangor wildlife photographer and eagle enthusiast Sharon Fiedler. And this new eagle, with mating season just around the corner, is likely pairing up with the mate of the recently deceased eagle.
Sharon, who I’m proud to call my friend, photographed this new eagle on Jan. 17, and posted the photos on Facebook. She was kind enough to notify me about the sighting, offer her photos for this blog, and tell me the story.
“I really think he was scoping her out, giving her free range” Sharon said. “He was sitting on the branch he always sits on, you know. And she was doing the squawking. He was quiet. Like she never shut up, you know, that was so cool.”
The eagle known as “Bangor Mom” died of lead poisoning after being transported to Avian Haven, wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom, on Jan. 12. And that wasn’t her first time at the facility due to lead poisoning. Her backstory is incredible. Here’s the short version:
Nearly three years ago, in the spring of 2014, “Bangor Mom” was found sitting on a sidewalk in Bangor, acting disoriented. The female eagle was placed in a pet carrier by local game warden Jim Fahey and transported to Avian Haven. That same day, the eagle’s mate, also apparently ill, lost grip on a branch and tumbled into a power line. He died of electrocution.
At Avian Haven, the female eagle was found to have high levels of lead in its system. In addition, both eagles had ingested another toxin, according to biologists. This is a common problem for eagles, which ingest lead ammunition and other toxins contained in their prey.
If you ever watch a video of an eagle with lead poisoning, it will break your heart. An eagle with lead poisoning is lethargic, disoriented and often in respiratory distress. Frequently, the result is death.
Game wardens and state biologists knew that the two poisoned eagles were mates because of information provided by local wildlife watchers, including Sharon, who had been photographing the two Bangor eagles for years. Not only did Sharon know the two eagles were mates, she knew where their nest was located in downtown Bangor, and she suspected that there were eaglets in the nest.
With one eagle parent dead and the other sick at Avian Haven, this was a problem. If there were eaglets in the nest, they would die of starvation.
It was my birthday, May 12, when they attempted a rescue. State biologists, an expert tree climber and the owners and founders of Avian Haven were at the nest, and they were going to see if eaglets were indeed inside. They had invited Sharon because of the invaluable information she had provided to them about the eagles, and Sharon had invited me. Fortunately, the biologists agreed to let me watch at a distance as the tree climber scaled the tree (with a harness on and a rope to protect him) and lowered down a most precious package — a bag containing not one but two fuzzy, gray eaglets.
The two baby eagles and their mother — who by then had become known as “Bangor Mom” — recovered at Avian Haven. Bangor Mom was released back into the wild that June, and her offspring were released together that September.
Though released in Brewer, Bangor Mom flew right back to her old hunting grounds in Bangor and took up residence in her old nest. Sharon watched as the eagle promptly found a new mate (to replace her mate who had been electrocuted), and the following summer, the new pair successfully raised two eaglets.
Sharon continued to watch and photograph Bangor Mom up until her recent demise.
On Jan. 12, Bangor Mom was found sick once again, this time sitting on a stump beside Kenduskeag Stream, a body of water the eagle often fishes — and where she had been seen teaching her offspring how to fish. Again she was captured by game wardens and transported to Avian Haven, but this time, she couldn’t be saved. Lead levels were just too high. She died that night.
When Sharon heard the news the next day on Avian Haven’s Facebook page, she posted one of the hundreds of photos she’s taken of Bangor Mom on her own personal Facebook page. “Fly Free Bangor Mom,” Sharon wrote as a caption to a photo of the bird taking flight, its great brown wings outstretched.
So on Jan. 17, when Sharon spotted two bald eagles perched in the tree of Bangor Mom’s former nest, she was amazed. Sharon had been driving to the convenience store, but when she spotted the birds, she forgot her errands and ran back home to fetch her camera. Luckily, the birds were still there in the tree when she returned.
One eagle was likely Bangor Mom’s former mate, but the second eagle was a mystery. But since they both appeared to be tending the nest, a reasonable assumption is that the new eagle is his new mate, or that they’re headed in that direction.
“I sent the photos off to Avian Haven, and they said, ‘Wow, that was fast,” Feidler said. “And I said, ‘Yes it was.’”