See that platform on the new electric power line? It’s actually a box … and in it is an eagle’s nest. Moved by humans from its old spot on a nearby power line off to the left.
It’s a crazy story. PSE&G is replacing its old lattice-style towers with taller monopoles all over New Jersey. But bald eagles had been nesting on this one tower on Three Bridges Road in Hillsborough above the South Branch of the Raritan River and having babies every year since 2014. You can’t evict them! They have special rights, even if they are no longer on the endangered species list.
And eagles’ nests are big — many feet across. How could it safely balance on one of these poles?
The solution? Pack up the nest after eagles had moved on for the season in 2020, put up the new tower, build a special box for the nest and move it before the eagles returned for the 2021 nesting season. It looks a bit tight, so put in a couple of perches so birds have a place to flap.
And it worked! The eagle parents came back, and two eaglets were born in early April this year.
PSE&G also added a videocam so we could all snoop. Of course there was a hiccup — it didn’t work properly so someone went up and fixed it in May while the parents were out. (Looking right now, I think it could still use some adjusting to give a full view of the nest.) The babies were banded at the same time. If human scent bothers eagles, these parents chose not to abandon their chicks. Crackling power lines don’t seem to bother them either.
Three of us braved a heat wave to bike through historic Neshanic Station to the viewing spot on the road. Only one fledgling was in the nest. We watched as he stepped out onto the edge and flapped his wings. Was this just boredom before the parents came back with food? He certainly seemed to be in no rush to fly, though he had fledged the week before. He ventured out onto the pole’s crossbar, then to the far edge of the crossbar. And then he was off! Soaring over the fields and then out of sight.
Here’s a photo from the cam in May, with one parent standing guard over the young: