Spectators have been gathered at the pinery narrows area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park for the past week to catch a glimpse of gift of nature: two baby eaglets and their parents are nesting within view just across the river.
The eaglets can be seen peeking over the edge of their huge nest, while the parents come and go throughout the day with food. Park officials say the young eagles are expected to remain in the nest for the next 10 to 12 weeks, until mid- to late July.
The Cuyahoga Valley, with its secluded wooded wetlands and healthy fish populations, has become an ideal place for eagles to feed and nest, said park ranger Brady Bourquin.
"The eagles are one piece of the greater ecosystem and if we develop appreciation for something like the bald eagle and get folks excited about the utilization of green space and waterways, we are doing our job in helping create that next generation of stewards of these natural places," Bourquin said. "The eagles are a beautiful symbol that represents a lot of different things. Vistors and residents of Northeast Ohio have the opportunity to come literally face to face with that symbol of an enhanced ecosystem."
To protect the eaglets until they are ready to fly on their own, the area immediately surrounding the nest tree is closed to pedestrian traffic, including the railroad tracks and the 30-foot-right of way on either side of the railroad tracks from the S.R. 82 bridge at the Station Road visitor use area, north to the railroad tracks at the Fitzwater Yard.
Also, the Cuyahoga River downstream of the dam under S.R. 82 to the Fitzwater Road bridge is closed to all water activities. Fishing is permitted at the dam.
Vistors can see the eagles nesting by following the bike path on the east side of the Cuyahoga River, where volunteers and visitors have been congregating to watch the small family.
The show is expected to last through the end of the summer, as the young eaglets will frequently return to the nest to get food for nearly two months after their first flight, Bourquin said.
Bourquin said one of his favorite aspects of his job is seeing people come and appreciate the park.
He said bald eagles have been nesting in the same general area since 2007, the year after they returned to the valley for the first time in 70 years.
Morgan Dailey, 9, of North Royalton was on a quest with her brother Jack, 12, and their friend Kyle Vasil, 12, of Broadview Heights, to catch a rare glimpse of the newly-hatched eaglets and their parents.
"I thought it was cool how the mom protected the baby eagles," said Vasil.
They waited eagerly with their binoculars in hand hoping that the little eaglets would poke their heads out from the nest.
The group of young spectators couldn't keep their eyes off the mother eagle as she soared in through the blue sky above them. About 150 yards away from the nest, her mate sat on guard, perched in a tall tree.
Bourquin said many people don't realize how wide an adult bald eagle's wingspan is until they see one in person.
"Eagles have a 7-foot wing span -- which I always compare with Žydrunas Ilgauskas. You get a tall man in the NBA, you tip him on his side and that's the wing span (tip to tip) of the bald eagle," Bourquin said."It's a bird that is 16 inches tall and has a 7-foot span when it opens up its wings. That's a big expanse. Sometimes we forget when we watch them in the sky what that really means."
Heather Beyer: 330-541-9432