Sheri Nadelman, Bird Nerd Adjacent – A True Story
When you’re lucky enough to share your interests with your partner and they become as passionate about it as you are, it enriches the way you see and experience life. It is no secret that “My Artie” got me a camera and I’ve become privy to a whole new way of looking at the world, one frame at a time.
Artie is an avid bird enthusiast and is involved with several organizations, which makes me “bird nerd adjacent.” Fun fact: upon announcing that he was going to become a “naturalist” I immediately thought to myself, “he doesn’t even like to go shirtless at home.” Imagine my relief when he explained that it meant he would be volunteering as a Bird Naturalist at the popular Sarasota bird watching haven, The Celery Fields.
Photography has given us the opportunity to meet so many interesting people who share their passion and expertise. Some love the challenge of looking for hard to find species, some like to take photos, and others just want to enjoy the outdoors.
Then there are the folks who do remarkable work protecting, rescuing, and monitoring wildlife. In addition to the many rescue organizations and individuals throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties, there are organizations that are species specific, such as Eagle Watch which is based out of the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. It is fascinating to see this network of individuals, many of whom are volunteers, in action. Definitely not for the faint of heart, these unsung heroes do remarkable work oftentimes putting themselves in danger. Which brings me to the recent encounter I was lucky enough to observe when I witnessed the renesting of an eaglet.
Let me preface by saying that it is humbling and gratifying to photograph the majestic Bald Eagle, especially during mating season. If the pair are successful and the eggs are viable, they take turns building and staying on the nest during and after the 35-day incubation. The babies will grow, eventually becoming strong enough to fledge at about 10 to 14 weeks.
Sometimes, however, circumstances and nature dictate otherwise.
This was the case recently when one of two eaglets had fallen from its nest.
Because the nest is monitored, word quickly spread. Due to the quick actions of all involved, the eaglet was taken to The Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida, located in Venice. She, as it was determined, was x-rayed, given a clean bill of health, and was given the ok to return back to its nest.
Christina Judd, the outreach coordinator with the center, arrived with the eaglet in a pet carrier. Bill, a volunteer who clearly has no fear, arrived with his trusty dog who patiently kept watch in the passenger seat. Without any fanfare and using proper gear, we watched as Bill effortlessly climbed up the tree. He then hoisted the pet carrier up via a rope pully. After securing the carrier, he put on safety gloves and goggles. Ever so carefully, he opened the hatch and removed the clearly distressed eaglet from its confines. Reluctant to leave its safe space at first, the eaglet successfully made its way onto the branch. All while one of the adult eagle’s was circling and squawking above! Unphased by all of it, Bill and the bird seemed to share a poignant moment before Bill descended back to the ground. He told me was a retired teacher, which explained his incredibly calm demeanor. He has been doing rescues like this for years. And just like that, he and his dog rode off. I never even got his last name!
It was an emotionally charged moment for sure. I couldn’t help but think that in a world where there is so much negativity, bearing witness to such an act of sheer selflessness restores one’s faith in humanity.
In the days that followed I couldn’t help but worry even though I knew the nest was being monitored. To my dismay when I went back, the eaglet was back on the ground. This time however, she was flapping her wings and rising a few feet off the ground. I was in touch with those involved and was assured that she was healthy and although on the ground, she was doing ok.
When asked what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day, I could think of nothing better than spending the early morning photographing the eagles. We arrived only to find one eaglet up in the tree. I began to get a sinking feeling and so I started searching expecting to find her on the ground. Then My Artie shouted “incoming” and as I looked up in the sky, there in all of her majestic glory, was the eaglet flapping her wings right over me, making a perfect landing back up in the tree. We stayed for a while taking photos of the adults flying in and out, fish in tow, babies squawking and feeding. I knew that Mama Eagle was also having a pretty awesome Mother’s Day!
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Sheri Nadelman Photos