Eagle watchers are all aflutter these days about the Harrison Bay bald eagles. The pair of eagles that watchers have named Elliot and Athena has produced three eggs since Jan. 22. It normally takes 35 - 40 days for eggs to hatch so eagle watchers will be on point for hatching eaglets by the first week of March.
Of course you don't have to even go outside to watch the nest on Bear Trace Golf Course at the Harrison Bay State Park. For many years there have been web cameras watching over the nest so viewers from around the world can watch on their computer screens.
There have been problems with the two web cameras recently. At this writing what is called the "Approach Cam" is offline. However the close-up "Nest Cam" is providing an excellent view, although it isn't incredibly exciting since typically you will simply see Elliot or Athena sitting there incubating the eggs.
The real action comes after the eaglets hatch. That is when mom and dad are kept busy providing food for the eaglets. The little guys have a tough life ahead. If all the eggs hatch but there is a "runt" among the group, they will sometimes be pushed out of the nest by larger siblings. Biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say recent studies show that approximately 70 percent of eaglets survive their first year of life.
Athena is actually Elliot's second "wife." The first nesting pair at Harrison bay included another female that watchers called Eloise. However Eloise was injured and died about a year ago after having raised 10 young eaglets since 2010. Watchers were thrilled when Elliot found a new mate.
Most people know that bald eagles, the symbol of our nation, were once an endangered species - killed off mainly by the indiscriminate use of a pesticide called DDT. Dedicated restoration efforts, however, brought bald eagles back. They are no longer federally endangered. In 1963 there were an estimated 487 pairs of nesting bald eagles left in the United States. Now biologists estimate that there are nearly 10,000 nesting pairs of eagles in the U.S. Besides Elliot and Athena, there are at least two more nesting pairs in the Chattanooga area.