Posts Tagged ‘Mount Hamilton’

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“The First Lady” Keeping Her Eggs Warn at the National Arboretum

For the first time in almost 70 years, a bald eagle pair is nesting inside the grounds of the United States National Arboretum. And on today’s lunchtime bike ride I went there to see them in person.  It was just last month that Arboretum staff noticed the eagles making trips back and forth to the site as they built a nest atop a Tulip Poplar tree on the south side of Mount Hamilton, in the middle of the Arboretum’s famous azalea collection. Then the eagles’ behavior changed towards the end of January, when one started sitting on the nest at all times, while the other searched for food to feed its mate. Then the real excitement began last week, when the mated pair of eagles laid an egg on February 10th, and then another one on Valentine’s Day. They are currently incubating the two eggs.

If you are in the D.C. area or coming here in the near future, I highly recommend making a trip to the Arboretum to see this spectacle for yourself. But take heart, because if you can’t be here in person, you can still watch them on two live “Bald Eagle Nest Cams” which have been set up by the Arboretum, in collaboration the American Eagle Foundation and Alfred State, SUNY College of Technology, with resources and support from the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The webcams are available 24/7 to view live streaming video of the iconically-named ‘Mr. President’ and ‘The First Lady’, and can be accessed by visiting the American Eagle Foundation website.

This is the eagle couple’s second go at parenthood, after successfully raising an eaglet in 2015. According to the American Eagle Foundation, “The story begins in the spring of 2014, when a lone male was spotted surveying the Anacostia River area by day, and returning to Kingman Island every night. Then in the fall of that year, when more bald eagles began to migrate through the area, it wasn’t long until the male was paired with a mate.

“In October 2014, the pair was observed flying together and conducting pair bonding flights. According to Arboretum staff, these flights went on for a few weeks during September and October. It is also noted that the new pair was defending their future nesting area against migrating eagles.” The couple then built their first nest in January of the following year, and laid their first eggs in February. Their first eaglet was born in March 2015, who fledged the nest a few months later.

Bald eagles were on the Federal government’s Endangered Species List as recently as a decade ago. But after a dramatic comeback in their population, the bald eagle was removed from the list in 2007. It is estimated that there may now be as many as 11,000 breeding pairs in the United States. The nesting pair at the Arboretum is expecting the eggs to hatch approximately 35 days after they were laid, making the expected due date March 16th for the first egg.  And for the egg that was laid on Valentine’s Day, it is due on the first day of spring, March 21st. This will be just in time for the new eagle family to enjoy the blooming of the Arboretum’s famed Glenn Dale Azalea Collection.

Although the bald eagle is no longer an endangered species, it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Both laws prohibit killing, selling, or otherwise disturbing eagles, their nests, or their eggs. In order to comply with these Acts, the Arboretum is utilizing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines, which call for a buffer zone roughly 660 feet in diameter surrounding the nest site. Signs at the Arboretum are posted on the roads and nearby trails to alert visitors to this restricted area, which limits the ability to see the eagles except from a distance. So while a trip to the Arboretum is certainly worth the time, nothing beats the live nest cams for a close up view.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]
Photos published with permission.  © 2016 American Eagle Foundation, EAGLES.ORG.

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UPDATE (03/20/2016):  There are two new eaglets in the world.  The eggs at the National Arboretum nest have hatched.  The first eaglet, referred to as “DC2” hatched at 8:27 a.m. March 18, 2016 Eastern Daylight Time.  The 2nd eaglet, known as “DC3”, hatched at 7:00 a.m. March 20, 2016, EDT.  “DC1” was the first offspring of Mr. President and The First Lady, who successfully fledged last season.

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“The President” and “The First Lady” Feeding the New Eaglets

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“The President” and “The First Lady” Feeding the New Eaglets

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UPDATE (04/26/216):  The eaglets, originally referred to as DC2 and DC3, have been renamed.  Following a “Name the Nestlings” social media campaign comprised of more than 36,000 votes, the eaglets are now known as “Freedom” and “Liberty”.

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The National Capitol Columns

The National Capitol Columns

One of D.C.’s most unusual landmarks is the National Capitol Columns.  What has been described as having the appearance of the ruins of a Greek temple rising up inexplicably in the middle of a field, the 22 Corinthian columns draw visitors year-round to their current home in the Ellipse Meadow at the U.S. National Arboretum, located at 3501 New York Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.

The columns were originally part of the U.S. Capitol Building from 1828 until they were removed in 1958, and eventually dedicated at their new home in 1990.  The columns with typical Hellenistic Corinthian motifs were among the 24 that were part of the Capitol Building’s east central portico that was designed by an architect from Boston named Charles Bulfinch, who while serving as D.C.’s Commissioner of Public Building oversaw construction of the portico using a design handed down by the original architects of the Capitol, William Thornton and Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

After being completed in 1828, the columns provided the backdrop for presidential inaugurations from Andrew Jackson in 1839 through Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, as well as numerous speeches, protests, rallies, and other gatherings during those years.  The columns, which had originally been constructed long before the familiar Capitol dome was completed, were subsequently removed in 1958 when the base of the Capitol Building was renovated and expanded in order to support and provide aesthetic symmetry for the newly expanded dome.  The columns, which were made out of sandstone, were considered too fragile to support the dome and were replaced with marble replicas.

Soon after the original columns were put into storage on the banks of the Anacostia River, a woman named Ethel Garrett struck upon the idea of preserving them so that the public could enjoy their power, beauty and historic associations.  As a benefactor of the National Arboretum, Garrett wanted the columns to be relocated to the Arboretum’s grounds.  So she consulted with her close friend, Russell Page, a noted English landscape architect, to find a suitable location.

Page determined that the east side of the Ellipse Meadow would be an ideal site, as the columns would be in scale with the more than 20 acres of open space available at that location, and would be visible in the distance to greet visitors as they entered the grounds.  Just before his death, Page sketched a design incorporating the columns in a nearly square formation set on a foundation of stones from the steps that were on the east side of the Capitol.  The design also incorporated a reflecting pool fed by a small stream of water running down a channel in the steps, which would not only reflect the columns, but provide the added elements of sound and movement as well.

It should be noted that only 22 of the original 24 columns stand in formation at the Ellipse Meadow.  So if you want to be able to say that you have seen all 24, you will have to go to the Arboretum’s Azalea Collection on the summit of Mount Hamilton, where the remaining two lie on the ground.  Both are cracked in half and neither still has its base or capital.  Across the Ellipse Meadow from the formation of columns, however, is a capital, or top portion, of one of the columns.  It is presumably from one of the two “missing” columns.  Located at ground level, it allows visitors an up-close view of the craftsmanship of the stone carver and the incredible detail incorporated into the columns.

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