Hatching season for bald eagles in Colorado is here, and while the famous Standley Lake Eagle Cam has been repositioned for another purpose, there is another camera focused on a Colorado bald eagle couple. And this one in Weld County is even better than the Standley Lake view because it looks straight down on the nest from above.
The Xcel Energy Fort St. Vrain Eagle Cam currently focuses on a nest where three eggs are visible whenever the parents aren’t sitting on them. Those eggs are expected to hatch soon.
At least one eaglet has hatched in the nest at Standley Lake, according to reports on Facebook, but this year the camera there is focused on an island in the lake that is home to dozens of great blue heron nests. Known as Bird Island, that spot attracts pelicans, cormorants, gulls, great horned owls and occasionally the famous Standley Lake bald eagle couple, according to a post by the city of Westminster.
The Standley Lake eagle couple moved to a new nest last year after their previous home crashed to the ground, killing an eaglet that could not yet fly. That occurred when the branch where the nest was built collapsed. Park officials are not disclosing where the eagles are nesting now, hoping to discourage people from visiting the area.
“The nest currently is in a place where there is not a great place to view it, for the public, and the park is concerned about people getting too close,” said Matt Smith, an avian ecologist with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. “In previous years, they had a public viewing station. It’s just the circumstances.”
Smith has some recommendations for people in the Front Range who want to view bald eagles without disturbing them. One is at Stearns Lake in the Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm in Boulder County.
“An eagle nest there is offset from one of the trails a bit, is well-marked, and has signs for a buffer zone,” Smith said. “It would be a good place for people to get out and take a look with some binoculars.”
Another spot Smith recommends is the Star K Ranch in Aurora.
“It’s well-marked, so people can know where they can be in a good viewing location without disturbing the birds,” Smith said.
Smith said he would normally recommend Barr Lake State Park near Brighton, but the nest now is in a difficult-to-reach spot. It has even been difficult for Bird Conservancy monitors, who keep watch on eagle nests along the Front Range.
“It would maybe be just frustrating for people if they went looking for that one,” Smith said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is currently conducting a four-year study to track Front Range bald eagle trends, habitat use and impacts from human disturbances. The results have been encouraging.
“Overall the bald eagle population in Colorado, and in the Front Range specifically, is doing very well,” Smith said. “We’re almost constantly finding new nests. Between our volunteers and CPW staff, we’ve found 15 or 20 new nests this year. That’s for all of Colorado. We’re seeing the population continuing to increase. More birds are taking up residence in suitable habitat. The question now is, when does that reach a carrying capacity? What’s the upper limit of nesting pairs of bald eagles that we’ll have on the Front Range and in Colorado?
“As long as there is still suitable habitat, especially along the Platte River, the Poudre River, and as long as there is still space, I would expect we’re going to continue to see that population grow in the next few years.”