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Bald eagles return to nest in Orange County neighborhood

For the last three years, two bald eagles have landed in a north Orange County neighborhood where they have built a nest and tended to eggs in an old, dead tree perched near a gully.

As the world has grappled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the eagles’ recent arrival has been a source of optimism and joy for the neighborhood.

“It’s just beautiful to see nature thriving in the era of COVID. Life goes on,” area resident Mary Cramer said.

Cramer, 65, recently held a socially distant viewing party in her backyard for neighbors who wanted to take a closer look at the eagles that are perched in a tree about 25 feet from her property. Everyone brought their own lawn chairs, fanned out and sat in the driveway to observe.

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It’s not been uncommon for small groups of neighbors to gather for socially distant cocktail hours and potlucks over the last several weeks, Cramer said. When a group watched the eagles fly over the neighborhood, Cramer suggested the next get-together take place at her home, where the birds are stationed.

A juvenile bald eagle perches on a branch in north Orange County.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Cramer has lived at her house with her husband for the last 22 years and said that the eagles are the most majestic creatures she’s spotted in the area. An entrepreneur who typically works from home, even before California issued its stay-at-home orders, the view from her workspace gives her a clear shot of the eagles that allows her to observe their whereabouts each day.

Carol Hemminger, another resident of the area, has spotted hummingbirds, egrets, herons and hawks — but these are the only eagles she’s seen in the neighborhood in the three decades she’s lived there.

Hemminger, 68, is a retired chemist with Aerospace Corp. She spends much of her time outside — especially now, when so many social gathering spots are under lockdown.

“It’s certainly a stress reliever to be outdoors,” she said. “You can remember that not everything has been turned on its head.”

She ventured to see the eagles for the first time in March. From her binoculars, she said she could also see two chicks in the nest.

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“They were already big enough that you could see them popping up along the nest,” she said. The young birds hopped up on the limbs of the tree and craned their necks. On Monday, Hemminger visited the nest area again but didn’t see the young birds — a sign that they’ve likely taken flight.

Bald eagles typically live between 15 and 20 years. Their first flights can typically start at nine or 10 weeks of age, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The adult female’s wings are visibly tagged, identifying her as a resident of the Channel Islands. Like whales who swim the waters and return to familiar areas, Cramer believes the birds are attracted to the area’s wilderness, which is home to coyotes, possums, a riverbed of fish and plenty of varmint to catch.

The decline in traffic and the increase in more people being at home for longer periods of time doesn’t seem to have affected the birds’ behavior, or any other creatures in the area, Cramer said.

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“The animals can’t tell any difference.”


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