Eagle watch: Harriet brooding a new pair of eggs
Better late than never.
That’s what many who have followed the exploits of Harriet, her now-deceased mate Ozzie, and her new mate M15, said after the eagle matriarch finally laid her eggs after nearly a month of egg watch.
Harriet laid her first egg at around 4:35 p.m. on Saturday and laid her second egg late Tuesday afternoon shortly after sunset, around 5:40 p.m.
The egg came nearly a month behind schedule as Harriet and M15 needed time to get acclimated with each other.
“Harriet and M15 have successfully bonded. We didn’t know when this started taking place if she would have eggs because of the mix-up in the relationship,” said Andrew Pritchett, who runs the Pritchett Eagle Cam, which allows viewers worldwide to follow the pair. “They hadn’t been together for a long time. But this eases our worries because it’s amazing things kick in and they do what they need to do.”
What took so long? Pritchett believes that Harriet needed some time to get used to her new mate after such a long time with Ozzie, who broke his collarbone on March 17 near the train tracks in North Fort Myers. Ozzie was sent to CROW in Sanibel and released back into the wild after 97 days.
During this time, it is believed that Harriet and M15 began to bond. On Sept. 27, it is said that Ozzie and M15 fought over Harriet, resulting in injuries in Ozzie, who died two days later despite treatment.
Michelle Van Deventer, eagle expert at the Florida Wildlife Commission, said adding a new eagle to the mix adds to the unknown.
“Things are predictable with a known pair and known timeline of breeding behavior. Add an adult male to the mix and I guess this will be a new normal,” Van Deventer said.
Since Ozzie’s death, Harriet and M15 have progressed to mating behavior. But unlike previous years when the eggs came right around Thanksgiving, this year they did not.
Weeks went by with still no eggs. The eagles were seen in recent weeks standing guard around the nest as it was thought invaders were in the area.
“It crossed our mind that it wouldn’t happen. Last year they hatched on Christmas and here we were four days before and we’re seeing an egg,” Pritchett said. “They’ll be hatching late January.”
Van Deventer couldn’t speculate, but said it’s possible Harriet was simply wanting to know M15 better.
“It’s not uncommon to see things proceed a little slower or not having productivity the first year, but the primary cause of her breeding was still within the window of what’s normal for eagles,” Van Deventer said.
Other variables can also include weather and availability of prey.
Eagle fans made the pilgrimage to the Church of the Nazarene off Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers on Sunday before church service to watch the eagles, which are nesting next door on the Dick Pritchett Real Estate property.
Mark Piazza and his wife, Debbie, from Cape Coral, followed Ozzie and Harriet last year and wanted to see the new pair for themselves.
“We’re excited for her. It will be a later birth, but we figured nature would take its course and it would happen when it needed to,” Piazza said.
“We put the laptop on the table and we watch them every morning and get texts from people up north watching them,” Debbie said. “They always ask what’s up with Harriet.
Previous eagles fledged in mid to late March and left the nest in May. Those timeframes will be pushed back a month.
Van Deventer said most eagles lay their clutch of eggs by February, although there are outliers who have fledges in the summertime.
“I know there are two couples in Lee County that don’t start nesting until mid-December and lay their eggs in late-January, and that’s their normal time,” Van Deventer said.
The Southwest Florida Eagle cam may be found at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html .