Avians and humans share anticipation of baby's first flight

Courtesy Photo: Steve HalpernDay after day, John Dull drove past the man and his mysterious mini-telescopes until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He parked in a nearby church lot on West Union Road and got out to investigate.

“I have to see what you’re looking at!” he told Dennis Manzer.

A peek through one of Manzer’s spotting scopes showed him a 12-week-old eaglet perched on a nest high above the wetland across the street.

“He’s due to fledge any day now,” said Manzer, Washington County’s go-to person for nesting bald eagles.

Dull, a teacher at Forest Grove High School, isn’t the only person to be snared by Manzer and his scopes. A small community has built up around the former parts manager (for an electrical contractor) — and around the eagle family he’s been watching.

Though he hasn’t kept count, Manzer figures more than 300 people have stopped by since he set up his tripod on the grassy strip between the street and the sidewalk three weeks ago. Some return.

On her third day there, Lois Bizieff brought a lawn chair, water and snacks to share. “Are you still watching that eagle?” her grandchildren ask.

Sherrie Stahl, who noticed the adult eagles two years ago, brings her camera and a tripod. Parents bring their children. “I’ve got at least three future naturalists in training,” said Manzer.

Unlike the human parents, the eagle parents are having a harder time getting their child out of the nest.

The busy intersection of West Union Road and 185th Avenue is not the ideal place for an eagle home. Not only are there a lot of people about, there are power lines and sometimes heavy traffic.

But the eagle pair built their nest there, across the street from the Latter-day Saints Church, during the fall or early winter of 2011.

Manzer, 65, spotted it in January 2012. It’s one of 12 he’s watching this year, when after two years of trying, the female finally laid an egg.

Courtesy Photo: Steve HalpernFemale eagles — who are larger than the males — lie down in the nest and don’t leave at night when they are brooding, so Manzer knew exactly when this one laid her egg. He also knew that eagle chicks hatch 35 days later — and fledge 11 to 12 weeks after that.

Manzer, who watches the nest from sunrise to sunset, calculated the eaglet was due to fledge — fly from the nest — by July 17.

The Beaverton resident has been monitoring bald eagle nests, including those at Jackson Bottom and Fernhill Wetlands, since 2000. He’s seen the eagle population grow both locally and nationally.

They are no longer an endangered or threatened species, but they are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

And Manzer knows eagles do best when left alone. That’s why he watches them from a distance, and usually alone.

He started out watching this pair at Bethany Lake, just behind the LDS church, where he had a good view of the nest and of the “sentinel tree,” where the parents kept an eye on their chick. As the eaglet neared maturity, however, Manzer wanted a closer view.

The LDS church members have been gracious about all the additional cars in their lot. Steve Halpern, a professional photographer, gave the church a photo of one of the adult eagles in flight.

Halpern stops by in the morning when the light is best for photographs and usually ends up chatting with people and sharing his knowledge of birds and photography.

“People stop and inquire what everyone is looking at, and they come back to join the group waiting for the juvenile to fledge,” he noted. “More than once I’ve overheard people say, ‘Oh! Now I get why bird watching is cool!’”

by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DEBBY DE CARLO - Dennis Manzer (center) has drawn hundreds of curious onlookers to the spot near 185th Avenue and West Union Road, where he set up a few spotting scopes to wait for an eaglets first flight.People will talk with one another while the young eagle sleeps and parents watch from nearby trees. Occasionally someone will point out another bird, a green heron or a kingfisher. Then someone will call out, “Adult flying toward nest,” and the visiting stops, with all eyes and optics focused on the eagles.

“New friendships form and old ones strengthen from such shared happenings,” Halpern said. “Despite all that’s wrong in the world, sometimes things are still alright.”

On Day 87, the eaglet stretched and flapped his wings and even lifted a few inches off the nest — only to settle back down and stay put. His parents flew to the nest, something Manzer has seldom seen with a 12-week-old bird.

Watchers speculated the adults were giving their youngster a good “talking to.” But a short time later, the female was back to beak-feeding her nestling.

Day 88 dawned. More people gathered around Manzer’s scopes. Some brought family members. One woman brought “good luck” cookies.

by: COURTESY PHOTO: STEVE HALPERN - The 12-week-old eaglet flaps and hops in the nest, but hasnt yet jumped out.The young eagle was not impressed. Day 88 passed.

As of press time Wednesday afternoon, the eaglet had still not fledged. Check the Hillsboro Tribune’s Facebook page for updates.

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