Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary in the Ramona Grasslands when driving down Rangeland Road? You should—two bald eagles are building a huge nest high up in a eucalyptus tree that's visible from the street.
Dave Bittner, executive director at the Wildlife Research Institute here in Ramona, told Patch that bald eagles have been in San Diego County before this, but this is a first for our small town.
“We have a pair nesting in the north end of the county in Lake Henshaw,” Bittner said, noting that those eagles have been there for a couple of years. “This is the first time ever for the Ramona Grasslands—we’re pretty excited about it.”
Bittner said the institute and researches are hoping for some young this year as the pair of eagles work away at building their nest on the eucalyptus, noting that eggs could be laid by January.
“They’re building everyday,” the director of the non-profit institute said.“If they’re successful breeders they’ll be here year round.”
According to Bittner, bald eagles normally nest around bodies of water, as their main food source comes from rivers and lakes.
“They do a lot of fishing,” he said. “We see them hunting in the grasslands, so we’re not sure what they’re eating... they seem to be hunting near the ponds a lot, though.”
The bald eagles have been spotted in the grasslands since the middle of summer, Bittner said, but researches at the Wildlife Research Institute aren't exactly sure where they came from.
“They could be Southern California birds... from the pair of eagles at Lake Henshaw or Lake Hemet. It’s hard to say,” Bittner said, indicating that the Lake Henshaw bald eagles have produced about six chicks in the past two years.
But the grassland bald eagles are at least 5 years old, due to their white heads and tails, which means, according to Bittner, they could've come from far up north.
“It’s possible these birds could’ve originated out of Canada, or Alaska or Washington State.”
The Wildlife Research Institute remains “cautiously optimistic” that this pair of majestic birds will reproduce, but warns residents to stay away in order to help the efforts of increasing the bald eagle population.
Bittner told Patch that the bald eagle population had seen a "tremendous increase" in areas they would naturally occur.
“In the early 2000s, they were taken off the endangered list,” he said. “They’re listed as 'species of concerns.' They’re being monitored… to make sure they don’t go back on the endangered list.”
The Research Institute stated that observers can see the nest from Rangeland Road near the Ramona Municipal Water District spray fields. The part of preserve the nest is located on is not open to the public.
The institute will have "60x scopes available for close up viewing" at all their Hawk Watches every Saturday in January and February of next year. People wishing to learn more can contact the non-profit at 760-789-3992.
“Having Bald Eagles nest here for the first time in recorded history demonstrates how people working together can help and promote wildlife preserves in an area where we can protect them and observe them at the same time,” the research institute stated.
In the meantime, WRI will document the bald eagle's habits, what their needs are, what they're foraging on in the grasslands and more.
The grassland was purchased and preserved with the cooperation of The Nature Conservancy, California Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ramona Water District, SD County and the Wildlife Research Institute and our members. This multidisciplinary group has worked for 15 years to preserve over 4,000 acres of Ramona's Grassland for future generations.
Fun fact: Bittner said both male and female bald eagles have similar markings, including a white head and white tail. However, the females tend to be larger than the male, with their wingspan averaging 7-feet. Male bald eagle wingspans average 6-and-a-half-feet.