You are cordially invited to a special coming-out party — the release of Norfolk Botanical Garden's three motherless eaglets, now grown and ready to head back into the wild.
The event, open to the public, happens at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 27, at Berkeley Plantation, a historic site next to Westover Plantation in Charles City, just below Richmond.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia, where the eaglets have been raised, asks that anyone wanting to attend RSVP so plans can be made to accommodate everyone. Currently, the center has more than 1,000 RSVPs, including people from 24 states and Canada.
"We've held many eagle releases at Westover Plantation, which is right next door to Berkeley," says Amanda Nicholson, director of outreach at the wildlife center.
"It's an excellent spot for bald eagles and both plantations are right across the river from James River wildlife refuge, which is home to many bald eagles.
"Berkeley is set up for events, and will be able to handle the parking."
The eaglets were transferred to the wildlife center in Waynesboro after their mother was killed during an airplane collision in late April. Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries made the decision and transported the eaglets because they were concerned the male eagle could not provide sufficient food for the then 5-week-olds.
The eagles, which weigh 8 to 9 pounds each, are doing fine and getting ready for their big day.
"They are flying well and ready to go," she said.
"We did get some live fish the other day and put them in their tubs. Two of the eagles went 'fishing' and pulled about six of them out. We're continuing putting dead fish in the tub, so they get the idea of what's where fish come from.
"Fortunately, eagles do a lot of scavenging and stealing too – so getting them to 'hunt' isn't quite the same as say, an owl or a falcon."
At Wednesday's release, state biologist Jeff Cooper will attach a transmitter to one of the three bald eagles, so wildlife center staff and game and inland fisheries biologists can track its travels for up to two years. Cooper has outfitted five bald eagles with the GPS devices in the past three years. The wildlife center's website at WildlifeCenter.org will feature those travels, so visitors can also see where they go; the website features a Q&A about the transmitters and how they work.
On April 21, the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary banded the birds for tracking purposes while they were still in the nest at the botanical garden, just days before their mother was killed. In honor of the 2011 eagle season, the botanical garden has just released the "Eagle CD" complete with more than 100 images from this year's "eagle cam," including pictures of the April banding and the last images of the female bald eagle; the CD is $10 in the gift shop or at norfolkbotanicalgarden.org.
Guests going to the release should plan on arriving at the plantation between 10 and 10:30 a.m.; there will be directional signs at the front of Berkeley's driveway. It's suggested you bring water, sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray, camp chair or blanket and a snack or picnic lunch. No dogs allowed, please, according to wildlife experts. You can take pictures but you will not be close to the eagles; the wildlife center will take and post professional-taken pictures for later viewing.
"We'd encourage you to not worry too much about the 'perfect shot,' just enjoy the event," said Nicholson.
•WVEC will provide live streaming of the release at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 27, at http://www.wvec.com/marketplace/microsite-content/eagle-cam.html
•Learn more about the eaglets at the Wildlife Center of Virginia at WildlifeCenter.org and Berkeley Plantation at BerkeleyPlantation.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times