In 2013, one of Yankee Lake's three eaglet chicks became ill. Resident Linda Lou Bartle, our National Park Service-designated Eagle's Nest Monitor, realized the situation and organized a rescue effort. This is their story.
Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to
the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center to help defray
the considerable costs for the eaglet’s
life-saving medical care.
Details may be found at the end of this article.
In the summer of 2013, the eagles at Yankee Lake produced three chicks, a rare and beautiful occurrence. Yankee Lake, a superb, unspoiled environment, has been part of the magnificent recovery and resurgence of the American Bald Eagle.
Endangered and on the brink of extinction in New York State 30 years ago, eagles have been “promoted” to the threatened species list. This is a huge success story, and Yankee Lake has played a role in that story.
I, like all the residents of Yankee Lake, have enjoyed the eagle mating pair who have lived and nested here for years. Their young, hanging around after having fledged, have been a delight to all who live here.
During the last few winters I have observed, counted, and educated the public about eagles for the National Park Service (NPS), partnered with The Eagle Institute at the Mongaup Reservoir eagle blind. At the NPS 2013 end-of-year wrap up, I signed up to be nest monitor at Yankee Lake. This is a site NPS was not aware of, so I put us on the map! Volunteer nest monitoring is a newer program, partnering the NPS with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). I contacted them as soon as I knew we had three chicks.
Knowing the eaglets must be close to getting out of the nest and onto branches, I spent a week in June just passing the Big Island nest site. I took photos, and didn’t see anything too out of the ordinary. With the heavy rain this year, I did notice the fledglings liked an abandoned beaver lodge just below their nest. Because it had so many sticks, some of my friends at Yankee Lake thought they liked it there because the sticks made it seem similar to the actual nest.
On Tuesday June 25th, I went out to see them and hoped to catch some flight school antics as they had ventured from the nest and out onto the branches. I found two juveniles on the branches by the nest and one at the “beach,” jumping up on a tree stump. All looked as it should. Then, on June 27th, I saw two on the beach, one tucked down, resting like a chicken on eggs. A little while passed and she got up while the sibling flew up to the nest. Clipper, as we know her now, did jump up to the tree stump so I thought I was in the way and moved out of sight. Again, I really didn’t think much of this behavior. I did feel bad though, getting the distinct feeling she was really missing her siblings and that she couldn’t seem to be able to get to them.
Saturday morning June 29th, I headed right out and at first I only saw one eagle standing at the beach and one up in a tree. HMmmm… was the third one soaring, or out and about?? Then a large group of young men in kayaks came around the bend, not too noisy, but enough that the eagle on the beach should have taken off. I was a little stumped, searching for the third eagle, and watching this other one standing steady at the beach. The men in kayaks were polite and conversed with me about seeing only one eagle on the beach. Suddenly, as the last man passed we saw movement; the missing eagle was laid out flat amidst the sticks on the beach. The sibling standing guard was the one we had been seeing on the beach.
Ok… I think, maybe this is what they do in a nest? But as I moved in closer, it just didn’t look right, and to my disbelief she put her head down flat again. My cell phone came right out and I called my friend John Haas, birder extraordinaire, who lives here on Yankee Lake. Without actually seeing the bird, he could not really say there was a problem. I went right home and emailed John, all my eagle friends, experts, rehabilitation people, and the DEC with my “flat out” eagle photos.
John got back to me with a response that evening. We agreed that the bird did not look well. Sunday morning June 30th, two eagles were on the beach and the other sibling was nowhere to be seen. I spent hours with our two beached eagles and this time witnessed some of the most endearing behavior I have ever seen. Clipper was down, and the sibling (we’ll call him #2) snuggled right in with her. Then #2 was up, walking around Clipper, pulling Clipper’s feathers up, stretching her wing out, as if to say, “Cmon! Get up!” This went on for a little while. #2 then put her head right under the backside of Clipper and still there was no movement on Clipper’s part. Clipper’s head just kept drooping and she closed her eyes. Then #2 flew up on the stump and jumped right on top of Clipper. That didn’t work either and they both settled down next to each other. #2 was there to comfort and motivate, but it was to no avail.
In the meantime, the return calls were coming in about the email I had sent out, one of which was from Ellen Kalish of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, NY. Ellen returned my call and was hurrying to Yankee Lake immediately. Until then the weather had been nice, but the storms were coming and I needed a row boat. I called my friends Cindy Coker and Fred Harding. They were closer to the island, and had a row boat. I really hoped Fred knew what he had gotten himself into!
On Sunday, June 30th, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center received a call from Linda Lou Bartle, the official Eagle Monitor of Yankee Lake. She was concerned about a fledgling Bald Eagle that seemed to be in trouble. She forwarded photos of the large baby on the ground, and one could see by the eagle’s posture, it was extremely compromised. An 8-10 week old eaglet lying down mid-day with its eyes closed is a true indication that there is something very wrong.
I quickly gathered my gear and, along with my son Jordan, who is a trained volunteer, arrived by late afternoon amid a downpour. We met Linda and went immediately to Fred Harding and Cindy Coker’s dock to load the rowboat with our equipment. It had been pouring rain by this point, but we thought the radar showed an opening in the clouds. Linda led the way in her kayak while Fred and Jordan took the rowboat to the Big Island where the eaglets had been born. Along the way, Mother Nature once again took charge and dumped even more torrential rain.
The parent eagles had not been observed in three days and all three eaglets were in sight. One was high in a tree and the other two were resting on an abandoned beaver lodge. It was obvious which one was compromised. As we approached, the eaglets became uneasy and started to run, but the sick one was netted quickly. With my son Jordan’s gentle assistance, in the steady rain, we eased the weakened raptor into a Vari-Kennel for transport. From there we had a wet but exciting ride back to the dock with Fred at the helm.
It took many concerned neighbors to orchestrate this rescue, and all at Yankee Lake were relieved to know the eaglet would soon be under a veterinarian’s care. We all decided that we needed a name for this beautiful and amazing creature. Since Linda Lou’s home address is on Clipper Drive, and since the eagle came from Yankee Lake, surely her name had to be “Yankee Clipper”!
After arriving at Ravensbeard’s Clinic, a full examination was performed to determine if she had any fractures or obvious reasons leading to her decline. No clear causes were found. She was thin but not emaciated; IV fluids were started and she was warmed on a heating pad throughout the night.
We took her to our fabulous avian veterinarian, Dr. Don Factor at West End Veterinary Hospital in Newburgh. Botulism and lead poisoning were ruled out right away, but an x-ray of the lungs revealed spots in and around her heart, lungs, and air sacs. A comprehensive series of blood tests was preformed to determine the specific cause of her condition.
By Wednesday, July 3rd, the tests showed positive for Aspergillosis, a fungus that causes upper respiratory infection, which, if left untreated, is lethal. Clipper was started on medication that evening and within a few days, she was responding favorably. Her eyes brightened, her appetite increased, and her posture began to improve. By the weekend, she was stronger and more active. We had great reason to be optimistic.
Once Clipper had been diagnosed and properly treated, she reached the point that she was ready to transition from acute medical care to an approved eagle rehabilitation facility.
Ellen Kalish at Ravensbeard Wildlife Center contacted Paul Kupchok, director of Green Chimney’s School and Wildlife Center in Brewster, NY, for the transfer. Paul’s 30 plus years of experience include falconry network, education with raptors, and the wildlife rehabilitation circle, so she felt his facility would be best suited for Clipper’s extended care.
Clipper was delivered to the center on July 6th, along with enough meds for a four-week regimen. She improved rapidly and, after one week, began to practice her hunting and soaring techniques in the 50’ x 20’ chamber Paul had especially built for the full rehabilitation of her majestic species.
After six weeks of care at Green Chimneys, blood work determined Clipper was all clear to be released on August 16th. An entourage converged on the Yankee Lake residence of BKAA member Eileen Lake. This location is near the Big Island, where Clipper had been born. Ellen Kalish from Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, 3 members of the DEC, and Paul Kupchok from Green Chimneys, arrived at Eileen's house around 1 PM. A few of us who were involved were waiting for Clipper’s homecoming, along with my husband Mike, and Cindy Coker, each in boats in case Clipper needed any help being guided to the Big Island. Clipper had been banded with NYS Blue tag Z94 on her right leg, so we can tell her from the others.
Clipper came running out as soon as the DEC opened the door to her cage! The dock stretched out before her like a runway and she took flight low to the water. She soon lifted to freedom and crash-landed (!) in a sturdy pine tree on the Big Island! Wow!!! It wasn't long afterward she was preening and took a little flight to examine where she was. Instinctively she was heading towards her nesting area... she was home!!
A brief video of Clipper's release can be found below, or by clicking this link.
I put a lot of time, effort (and worry!) into this happy ending, but I must say it took a community of people to help me. The saying “It takes a village” comes to mind. A community of like-minded people with the biggest of hearts! Thank you to everyone who had anything to do with our efforts!
Ravensbeard covered nearly $1,000 in the medical care, medicines, and lab work for Yankee Clipper. And this does not include the cost of any of Clipper’s food. Ravensbeard has no corporate sponsors, relying instead on the generosity of family and friends like you. Ravensbeard is a 501.(c).3 not-for-profit, meaning all donations given to Ravensbeard Wildlife Center are tax-deductible. They will send you a tax receipt for your files.
We certainly don’t mean to minimize the excellent and dedicated work performed by Green Chimneys in Clipper’s rehabilitation. Their efforts were also critical to the success of this effort. But Green Chimneys has many sources of funding, both State and private. Ravensbeard is a small Mom and Son operation. In addition, Ravensbeard has provided educational programs to Yankee Lake in the form of Nature Night presentations.
The YLPA asks our Lake community families to consider making a donation to underwrite Clipper’s expenses. Thank you in advance for your generosity!
Please send donations to:
This article is reprinted, with edits, from the Autumn 2013 edition of The BKAA Guardian, with permission of the Basha Kill Area Association.