A high pitch call erupts at mid-morning over the skies of the Olinguito reserve. It is a male Black-and-Chestnut eagle carrying, not a pray, but a branch; delivered expressly to the female building a nest just 150 ft from our cabin. This breeding pair had recently lost their nest of many years, located on an old “ceiba” tree that had completed its lifecycle; a good 4-hour walk from our station.
For a couple of months, this delivery ritual is performed several times a day, with the female carefully placing each branch meticulously. She only stops this chore to feed and soar ever high with her companion. Finally, she begins spending more time laying on the nest while the male starts bringing her food. She has also placed some large green leaves on the base of the nest to provide a barrier or support.
For weeks we are kept at bay since the nest is 90 feet high on a Magnolia tree. Our park ranger, Osman Lopez, has been trying to climb a nearby tree to have a better vantage point, but every try has been met with furious attacks from the pair. He narrowly escapes being badly injured with just a few scrapes to his head and upper back from the eagle’s razor-sharp talons. I witness one such attack and recommended not to risk this maneuver on trees close to the nest anymore.
Incredibly the pair had developed such animosity towards Osman, he must be weary while he is at the station or walking through the forest alone. A rope net had to be installed around the station corridor, as the female tried attacking him while he was eating breakfast. On another occasion, Osman had to spend three long hours hiding under forest litter, as he was being hunted by the pair. Finally, while climbing a “far away” tree, where a good vantage point to use a 3000 mm lens was located, he was attacked from behind. The female clinging to his back while he quickly descended until he had to jump from 10 ft high and rolled on his back. Luckily, Osman was wearing a protective vest I had procured him to cover his back; yet a few inches from the talon strike was his bear neck. From this day on, no one could venture alone to try and get images or footage of the nest. Jorge Jaramillo, another one of our park rangers, was commissioned to accompany Osman for this task.
On a February 2019 morning, Jorge finally was able to photograph a small white feathered chick that was probably a couple of days old. Both Osman and Jorge were able to obtain incredible images and footage for the following months, as you can see from the images here. Also, valuable nesting and behavioral data was obtained that will help us provide a safe haven for future generations of eagles.
It is worth noting that Jorge and Osman have not received any formal training in photography. Yet their images are worthy of any photo contest. Jorge has now been with us for seven years while Osman is just completing his first year with The Hummingbird Conservancy. For years, Osman handpicked and packed fruits at a farm in La Mesenia village.
Now the end of April has arrived, and a beautiful Black-and-Chestnut eagle juvenile is ready for its first flight. Taking to the air while escorted side by side by its parents, the eaglet is taken to an unknown location to the south of the station. Surprisingly, he is back in the nest the next day. It appears he is not yet ready to leave the nesting grounds. As I write these final words, I look forward to recording the development of this eaglet to a full mature adult. Many adventures await this magnificent creature of the montane forests of the Andes. Flying high above, one thing is for sure, an eye in the sky will be watching.