Posted by: rlukei | 2013/05/11

Historic Bald Eagle Ground Nest

While flying a shorebird survey over the Virginia barrier islands on April 26, 2013, Dr Bryan Watts, Director of The Center for Conservation Biology, and Barry Truitt, Chief Conservation Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, discovered that a bald eagle pair had built a nest on the ground in the sand dunes on one of the barrier islands. In the nest were two chicks about 35 days old that appeared to be in good condition. It is likely this is the pair that had previously had a nest on an old shack. The shack was washed away by hurricane Sandy.

Ground nesting bald eagles are very rare and this is the first documented record in Virginia. A follow up aerial survey was conducted on May 9 and the eagle chicks, now about 7 weeks old,  appear to be doing well. There were Diamondback Terrapin shells (turtles) in the nest. The male bald eagle was perched about 15 feet from the nest.


Photos credits Dr Bryan Watts


April 26, 2013

Ground_Eagles_Side_Watts May 9th

May 9, 2013

Posted by: rlukei | 2013/02/04

HK Establishing Territory at Honey Bee Golf Club

On Jan 30, 2013 I posted that HK for the past year has not gone far from Honey Bee Golf Course and the North Landing River in Virginia Beach. That is in contrast to his sibling Azalea and most other juvenile bald eagles who are well known for wandering far and wide. While HK is not wearing a satellite transmitter like Azalea, with the assistance of several local eagle photographers we know from their excellent photos that HK has stayed right around Honey Bee Golf Course for most of the past year.

One area of bald eagle behavior that not much is known is the when and how of territory establishment. Well, we are learning from HK, and again with the help and photo documentation of our fabulous local eagle photographers. It is now known “why” HK is sticking so close to Honey Bee besides being an excellent place to forage for fish. HK is in the process of building a nest on the golf course. The nest location was first identified by the Dynamic Duo of Cary Lynch and Beverly Nettleton on Jan 10, 2013. Does HK have a girlfriend? Maybe. Photographers Jim Deal and Shelly Fowler have captured photos of two bald eagles of the same age (she has darker tail feathers) sitting together and one is definitely HK. Also HK was photographed by Bob Mislan carrying a stick on Feb 1.

For the past three days, Feb 2, 3, 4 I have observed HK bringing sticks to the nest 11 times. During that time I have not seen a female bald eagle come to the nest, and it appears that HK is constructing the nest by himself – apparently establishing his territory. Management of Honey Bee Golf Club is aware of the nest that HK is working on. In fact, while we were at the nest tree HK brought in a stick.

Once again we thank the photographers who have been so observent and provided their photos for all of us to enjoy and learn. All photos are copyright of the photographer.

To view more photos of HK and the other bald eagles visiting Honey Bee go to this link by Pam Monahan-

HK and girlfriend Jan 21 Jim DealHK with girlfriend Jan 21 Jim Deal

Jim Deal Jan 21, 2013

HK with girlfriend Feb 2 at HB Shelly Fowler

Shelly Fowler Feb 2, 2013

HK with branch Feb 1 2013 at HB Bob Mislan

Bob Mislan Feb 1, 2013

HK at HB 02032013 043 (2)HK at HB 02032013 044 (2)HK at HB 02042013 015 (2)

Reese F Lukei Jr Feb 2 and 4, 2013

Posted by: rlukei | 2013/01/30

NBG Bald Eagle HK

Some facts about Norfolk Botanical Garden bald eagle wearing purple band HK:

Egg laid Feb 10, 2009 – Hatched March 21, 2009 – Banded April 29, 2009 Purple HK #0679-01346 – Sex = Male

This is a photo (Reese F Lukei Jr) of HK just minutes after he fledged on June 3, 2009


Juvenile bald eagles are well known for being “wanderers” during their first four or five years. We have certainly seen that with Azalea – Purple band HH and sister to HK, who has wandered as far north as the Potomac River and as far south as Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. We don’t know just how far HK has wandered, but it does appear that he has not flown far from Honey Bee Golf Course on the North Landing River in Virginia Beach, VA during the past year. He is frequently seen there and several photographers have captured his photo. The first that I know about was by Duane Noblick on Dec 26, 2011 –

Noblick - HK Honey Bee Dec 26-2

In the past two months several other photographers took his picture including – Mike Inman on Nov 29, 2012, and Shelly Fowler on Dec 1, 2012 –

HK at HB Nov 29 M InmanHK at HB Dec 1 Shelly F

As of today Jan 30, 2013 HK was still at Honey Bee and he was captured landing with a fish by photographer Mitesh Raval

HK landing w fish Jan 30 2013 Mitesh RavalHK with fish Jan 30 2013 Mitesh Raval

By the time I arrived at Ware Neck Rd where Mitesh had taken his photos, HK had vanished. Well, sort of. As I said above he has not wandered far lately. I located him half mile away in the farm field at Salem Rd and Lynnhaven Parkway taking a bath in a mud puddle in the middle of the field.

Eagles Honey Bee 2013 001 (2)

All photos copyrighted by respective photographers.

Whimbrel, courtesy of Andreas Trepte


Hurricane Isaac captured the country’s attention last month as it lumbered across Florida and raked over New Orleans, impacting millions of people. But before Isaac had even reached land, indeed while it was still not even a hurricane, many in the birding world were watching a single bird struggling against its high winds. I say “watching,” but in reality we were looking at regularly updated maps from the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) showing the location of the bird—a whimbrel—provided by a small satellite transmitter affixed to its back.

Whimbrels are unusual-looking birds, about the size of a chicken with long legs, brown upperparts and black head stripes. Their most striking feature is the long, down-curved bill. Whimbrels are birds of the shore, seen in North America feeding in salt marshes, on beaches, and on other intertidal marine coastlines. They are a surviving reminder of their smaller closest cousin, the Eskimo curlew, a bird now thought to be extinct; the last known individual was shot in Barbados in 1963. Eskimo curlews were killed in the thousands by market hunters in the late 1800s. The North American whimbrel population was estimated at 57,000 individuals in 2000, but their migration routes and timing were not well-understood. A few years ago, a CCB research team began catching spring migrant whimbrels along the southeastern U.S. coast and tagging them with satellite transmitters.

The initial results were amazing. Researchers found that birds flew all the way to Canada’s Northwest Territories to breed. One bird made a nonstop, 146-hour journey from the coast of Georgia 3,600 miles north to the Mackenzie Delta. In the fall, the tagged birds made similarly spectacular flights, to mangrove wetlands of the Caribbean and northern South America. On the way, they flew hundreds of miles over open ocean, often encountering hurricanes and tropical storms. Amazingly, only a single bird died in the process. Sadly though, two that had the tenacity to make it through hurricanes and tropical storms were shot and killed within days of arriving on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where a tradition of shorebird hunting continues.

This summer, the CCB researchers made their own journey to the Mackenzie Delta, where they tagged a number of whimbrels at their nesting grounds. After departing the Northwest Territories, the birds beat their way eastward all the way across northern Canada to the Maritime Provinces on the east coast, refueled, and headed straight out to sea on a bearing toward Africa. They flew day and night, one of them for six days, until the westward winds pushed them to South America. One of the birds traveled nonstop for more than 4,000 miles!

Pingo was the nickname of the bird whose fate was being followed by many birders as, after several days of nonstop flight, she encountered the winds of Isaac. Slowed but not stopped or sent off-course, she landed on the coast of Brazil on Aug. 24. Since she was captured and tagged in June in the Mackenzie Delta, Pingo has traveled more than 8,000 miles.


Pingo narrowly avoided Hurricane Isaac, courtesy of the Center for Conservation Biology


If we needed a lesson about how conservation policies in one part of the world affect nature in another, Pingo and her feathered friends delivered it. Whimbrels can continue breeding only if they have healthy ecosystems in their two nesting regions—one that extends from the Mackenzie Delta to Alaska, and the other from the Hudson Bay to northern Manitoba and Ontario. Oil and gas exploration and climate change are causing major impacts. The Pew Environment Group and Canadian partners are working to protect these wetland habitats in the boreal forest and set standards for responsible development. Likewise, conservation advocates are working to protect habitat along U.S. stopover points. And although many wetlands where whimbrels winter in the Caribbean and coastal South America are under threat, migration studies like those described here put a spotlight on the places that need to be protected first. Let’s hope the amazing journeys of Pingo and her fellow whimbrels will make it easier to garner the public support in all nations to maintain the healthy ecosystems that we all need to survive.

Dr. Jeff Wells is a science advisor to the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign.


Posted by: rlukei | 2012/08/02

2013 “Garden of Eagles” Calendar

You may now pre-order your 2013 “Garden of Eagles” calendar for shipment in September. The calendar highlights the 2012 year of change at the bald eagle nest in the Norfolk Botanical Garden as four different females competed for the attention of the resident male. Calendars may be ordered at this link –

Posted by: rlukei | 2012/06/04

Dr. Bryan Watts Receives Mitchell A. Byrd Award

On May 19, Dr. Bryan Watts received the Mitchell A. Byrd Award for Scientific Achievement during the joint meeting of the Virginia Society of Ornithology and the Tennessee Ornithological Society held in Johnson City, TN. The award recognizes outstanding scientific achievement and contribution to the knowledge of Virginia’s birds. Dr. Watts has produced more than 230 publications, authored nearly 100 papers presented to scientific meetings, and been awarded more than 320 grants to support avian research. The award is named for legendary conservationist and co-founder of the Center for Conservation Biology, Dr. Mitchell A. Byrd.

Posted by: rlukei | 2012/05/31

NBG Female Sunrise Preen May 31

This morning female #3 known as Dirty Tail did some preening at sunrise and one of her down feathers stuck to her beak. Click photo to enlarge.

Posted by: rlukei | 2012/05/28

2007 Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Identified

On March 10, 2007 the first of three eaglets hatched in the nest at Norfolk Botanical Garden. On April 17, 2007 this chick and its two siblings were removed from the nest and fitted with US Geological Survey bands by Dr Bryan Watts, Libby Mojica and myself from The Center for Conservation Biology. The bands would be a means of identification if sometime in the future the eaglets would be seen, photographed, recaptured or found injured or dead.

On May 16, 2012 photographer Mike Inman did indeed get photographs of one of the three 2007 NBG eagles banded 0629-30511. The male is now a handsome eagle in full adult plumage. It was behind the Target store on Military Highway in Norfolk.

2007 photos copyright Reese F Lukei Jr, 2012 photos copyright Michael Inman

Posted by: rlukei | 2012/05/26

Photos from NBG Nest May 26

The camera feed to WVEC is down this morning but the camera is working. Here are a few photos. Both eagles active at the nest this morning. Closeups of male.


Posted by: rlukei | 2012/05/11

Female #3 – Tongue Closeup

This evening female #3 presented the opportunity to get some closeups of her tongue. The tongue of a bird is extremely sensitive, filled with tactile sensory corpuscles. Two features we could see were the hole in the tongue and the backward facing barbs. The hole in the tongue is the “glottis” which is the entrance to the larynx and trachea which is known as the windpipe. The glottis closes during swallowing. The barbs are called “rear-directed papillae” and aid in the swallowing of food.

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