So what does the area look like? The Fort St. Vrain bald eagles are nesting in a large cottonwood near the junction of the St. Vrain and Platte rivers. A variety of animals drink at the waterhole just below their nest, western painted turtles sun themselves on logs, fish swim in both rivers, and prairie dogs squeal and dig at a large colony roughly 1,000 feet away. Their grove is populated by cottonwood trees with an abundance of perches, which provide great places to sun and shade while searching for potential prey. Like many grassland groves, it is located on the east or leeward side of a river, which serves as a natural firebreak against fires driven by western winds. While life is not always easy here, the eagles' grove is a small oasis in the dry landscape around them.
The nest itself measures eight feet, one inch by six feet, seven inches by nine feet, ten inches. The total area is a bit tough to calculate since it sits somewhere between a triangle and an oval, but if I calculate for both and average them, I come up with around 30 square feet. It is about 6.5 feet high, constructed almost entirely out of cottonwood sticks - far and away the dominant tree here - and contains at least three other bird nests. It has excellent flyways - perhaps due in part to stick-snapping and nest-building activities - and favorite perches as indicated by well-worn spots on branches right next to the nest.
|A look at the nest area. The plant is about 1/2 mile from the nest.|
|A look at the nest!|
|Bill Heston. He worked with Bob and Joe on the original Fort St. Vrain camera system.|
|Tina Lopez getting ready for the lift!|
|John Howe in the nest!|