In 2004, with plans underway to replace the SR 44 bridge on the Sacramento River at Redding, a bald eagle pair established a nest in a nearby cottonwood tree. But "bald eagles use the same nest year after year" (the largest known nest, in Florida, may weigh three tons) and construction workers were concerned that their activity might result in abandoned eggs.
So in 2007 Fish and Game officials put a large plastic cone on top of the nest. But the eagles would not give up. "Word spread and people gathered," write sisters Terri Lhuillier and Joanne Brady. "The courage and tenacity displayed by the eagles inspired the community to protest the blocking of the nest. ... As for the eagles, instead of leaving, they began building a new nest." The remarkable tale is told in "The Unstoppable Eagles: The True Story of Patriot and Liberty" ($11.99 in paperback from Red Tail Publishing, redtail.com). The children's book is illustrated by Joanne's daughter, Sarah Brady.
Later in 2007 the cone is removed and a wildlife biologist monitors the nest. Bridge construction begins in 2008 but the eagles seem unfazed by the dust and noise. Liberty lays two eggs and that same year, an "eagle cam" is installed (at hancockwildlife.org). Three chicks come in 2009. The birds gained worldwide attention and they continue to nest in the area.
The authors are scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman, host of Nancy's Bookshelf, this Friday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM). An archive of local author interviews is available at kchofm.podbean.com.
Both authors are educators; they provide not only vivid descriptions of the birds but, in an appendix, a section of "Critter Chit-Chatter" about eagles, a Patriot and Liberty timeline, and a glossary especially for kids.
"In early spring," they write, "while the nest tree swayed gently in the warm breeze, the first eaglet began to hatch. The chick cracked a small opening in the solid shell using the egg tooth on top of its beak and gradually worked it way out. Three days later, a second gray, fuzzy chick emerged. Liberty kept her young tucked safely beneath her while Patriot searched the river and ponds for food."
It's a great story from a talon-ted team.