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Eaglet E21 returns home; owls invade nest

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Apr 6, 2023

E21 has returned to the nest where he and eaglet sibling E22 enjoy some together time. Photo courtesy of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam.

In what has been perhaps the most interesting eagle nesting season in history of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, things got even more engrossing over the past week.

It culminated Wednesday when E21, who had not been seen on the 24-7 live cam since Saturday, returned to the nest, allowing the worldwide fans of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam to celebrate and breathe a collective sigh of relief.

E21 was back Wednesday afternoon and landed next to his dad, M15, who soon brought back a fish for him.

For Ginnie Pritchett-McSpadden, co-founder of the eagle cam., it was a very happy occasion for those who keep track of the doings in and around the nest off Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers.

“We were surprised and overjoyed to see him return. It’s not uncommon for them to spend some time away from the nest because at their age they haven’t truly learned to use their wings,” Pritchett-McSpadden said. “After all that has happened this season, this is a little speck of positive news.”

There was conjecture that M15 knew where E21 was and was helping the eaglet out with food. There is no evidence of that, nor where E21 was, Pritchett-McSpadden said.

Shortly after coming home, E21 took up its favorite pastime of fighting with E22, this time out of the nest and by the pond. Thursday, E21 finally get a chance to enjoy its first recorded bath.

Then things got really weird. Late Wednesday night, three owlets flew to the nest and took it over briefly, which was a first. Usually, they are a blip as they knock the eagles off their perch.

“They came into the nest looking for food and they ate a few bites of leftovers. They were there a good 10 to 15 minutes and were unguarded,” Pritchett-McSpadden said. “The owls took over a nest in the west pasture that Harriet and M15 built two years ago.”

For the next three to four week, the eaglets will remain at or near the nest as they learn how to fight, hunt for their own food and practice their flying skills and get stronger before they leave for good.

This is where things will get tough for the eaglets, as they have about a 50/50 shot of surviving the first year, as their skills have not been perfected.

But the fact they even got this far is amazing — their mother, nest matriarch and fan favorite Harriet, went missing before the eaglets fledged, leaving M15 to to the job of two, is amazing.

“If you had asked me six weeks ago where we would be at this time, this is not the ending I imagined,” Pritchett-McSpadden said. “I’m overjoyed and happy that the eaglets have thrived like they have and can only hope to continue.”

After that, it is anyone’s guess. M15 is a bachelor again and there have been several eagles coming by the nest to intrude and maybe win M15’s heart.

“It’s been a whole season of unknowns. It’s special to see these eaglets fledge and be successful with a solo parent,” Pritchett-McSpadden said. “The next hurdle is of and when M15 will return to the nest. Will he return to the nest with a mate or will it be an entirely new couple?”