Baby bald eagle swept away in windstorm rescued in Strathcona County
'It wasn't in a hurry to be grabbed … there were a couple of nips that were aimed at my fingers'
The sole surviving eaglet in a nest brought crashing down by fierce winds in a thunderstorm near Edmonton is getting a second chance.
The orphaned bird was found last week in Strathcona County — dehydrated, weak and trapped under a fallen tree.
Dubravko Dobi was walking his dog Tuesday night in the woods north of the Legends Golf Course when he found the downed nest.
"I went to go check on the eagles to see how they were doing after the windstorm because I've been watching them for several years and I saw the whole top of their tree was missing," Dobi said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
The mess of twigs and leaves more than two metres in diameter had been home to nesting eagles for nearly a decade.
Dobi found it under the fallen tree, which had snapped in the battering storm the night before.
He scoured the underbrush for signs of life.
"As I kind of rooted around I found one dead one and then my dog actually sniffed out the live one. He was kind of whimpering."
Three of the eaglets were dead. One survived.
Dobi made a frantic phone call.
Ryley Corcoran with the Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey arrived at the site, a few kilometres off the Strathcona Riverside Nature Trail, within the hour.
"This nest was so old, it had actually started to decompose at the bottom, so when it fell down it took some tree branches with it," said Corcoran.
"And that's where the live one was hidden, but once we removed that top we noticed its wing was actually trapped … it was basically trapped with its wing out in a pile of dirt.
"It wasn't in a hurry to be grabbed … there were a couple of nips that were aimed at my fingers."
'Waft of stinky eagle breath'
Wearing welding gloves to protect his hands against the bird's fully-formed talons, Corcoran wrapped the eaglet in his arms, and began the two-kilometre hike out to his truck.
Dobi followed behind with the three carcasses in a blanket, a necessary but unpleasant task.
"They didn't smell too nice on the hike back," Corcoran said. "Being next to the water there, they're going to have a nice wet smell. And they weigh about 12 pounds each, so that's about 30 pounds of stinky eagle.
"The live one was in my arms and he was doing this panting kind of thing in my face so I was getting a nice waft of stinky eagle breath every couple of steps."
Corcoran brought the surviving bird to the nonprofit organization's headquarters in Ardrossan.
The group founded in 1987 specializes in the rehabilitation and rescue of orphaned and injured birds of prey and the conservation of Alberta's raptor populations.
At six weeks, the male eaglet weighs in at five kilograms. Its downy feathers have begun to sprout along thick black, flight feathers, but it was gangly and clumsy, a few weeks shy of maturity.
X-rays of the bird have come back clean and it's expected to make a full recovery.
In time, the eaglet will be returned to the river valley woods where it was found.
"If everything goes well, we're looking to have him released in a couple of weeks," said Corcoran.
Until then the bird will be known as Dobi.
"Without Dobi here, he probably would still be under a tree," Corcoran said.