Jackie and Shadow, the bald eagle couple whose triumphs and tragedies have captured the hearts of the thousands who watch them via livestream, appear ready to start again.
The two are in nesting season, busy flying in sticks and rearranging them in their home roughly 120 feet near the top of a Jeffrey pine tree which stands near Big Bear Lake.
The pair have even been seen mating which viewers and members of the group who installed the 24/7 nest camera hope will lead to Jackie laying a fresh clutch of eggs next year.
“Though bald eagles do mate year round, it is exciting to see the bonding continue as we get closer to egg laying,” said Teri Ashmore, public liaison for the nonprofit Friends of Big Bear Valley. “Egg laying for this area is January through March with January being the most common month for Jackie.”
Ashmore said the increase in daylight hours toward the end of December will trigger Jackie’s fertility.
Many expressed their well wishes for the couple on the nonprofit’s Facebook page since it’s been more than two years since the eagles have successfully raised an eaglet.
His name was Simba and he took flight from the nest in 2019. A brother, Cookie, was not so lucky and died during a storm prior to Simba’s fledgling.
Although bald eagles have no natural predators, a young bald eagle still has less than a 50% chance of surviving its first year, according to the American Eagle Foundation.
In 2020, Jackie laid two eggs that didn’t hatch and were eaten by ravens. Unfortunately, the same fate befell the first two eggs the eagle mother laid this year while a third broke in January.
Jackie seemed undeterred, however. She went on to lay a record-setting two more in February.
The fourth egg caused excitement among the many who loyally watch the couple when it began to pip or show a break in its shell on March 18.
“I'm egg-static for this eagle pair and for all of us who stay tuned and hoped for a successful clutch,” one viewer wrote. “After last year's heartache of the nonviable eggs and this being their second clutch of the season, we all deserve this.”
The next morning, no chirps were heard. The chick had died. The fifth egg laid never hatched.
“We do not know and cannot know what might have happened, no matter how much our human minds would like to speculate or try to figure it out,” said Sandy Steers, the nonprofit’s executive director, at the time. “With this nest camera, we are observers of nature. We have been granted the privilege of watching the daily lives of this beautiful pair of bald eagles. I am willing to watch and to learn and to both laugh and to cry at the things that we see here.”
This year, the nonprofit hired experts who — after three days of work in the tree — replaced the nest camera with a new model.
The older camera was installed in a location to allow a wide view of the top of the pine, which Ashmore said allows watchers to see “action outside the nest that we would otherwise miss.”
“The mating, we saw Shadow defending the nest against 2 red-tailed hawks… it’s given us a more broad view into their behavior!” she wrote.
U.S. Forest Service officials announced this week that the area in Fawnskin surrounding the nest would be closed to the general public from Friday until July 31, 2022.
Zach Behrens, spokesperson for the San Bernardino National Forest, said the closure will help “protect the nesting site and maintain natural bald eagle behavior.”
“The species is sensitive to human interference and may abandon nesting activities, including eggs and offspring, if feeling threatened,” he wrote in an email. “The area is also used by other bald eagles in the area for foraging and roosting.”
Anyone caught violating the order could be subject to fines of $5,000 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Jackie and Shadow continue to build their nest which can sometimes bring laughs to the people who watch them.
Recently, Shadow could be seen on the camera flying in with a “perfect stick … just right for a crib rail …” as the Friends of Big Bear Valley described it.
As he lands, though, the stick promptly bounces off the nest and falls to the floor. Shadow’s typically stern expression appears baffled, to a human.
“Hopefully eggs will be fertile! I love Jackie & Shadow!” one Facebook commenter wrote. “Wishing the best of everything for them!!! Bless them!”
Daily Press reporter Martin Estacio may be reached at 760-955-5358 or MEstacio@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_mestacio.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Big Bear eagles Jackie and Shadow build their nest again