Big Junior’s mate ‘Cory’ has come home to roost in Corica Park
Birdwatchers and golfers alike have been waiting and watching to see if the bald eagle pair, Big Junior and her mate, would return to Corica Park Golf Course after their nest failed in a huge wind storm last spring. On November 7, a male adult bald eagle was spotted in the area. He has since been seen frequently, roosting in trees that the pair favored last winter and spring, and flying to and from Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline across Doolittle Drive.
The dedicated eagle monitoring team from the Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve (FAWR) are mostly certain that it’s Big Junior’s mate, come to stake out their nesting territory for another season. Rather than always referring to him as “Big Junior’s mate,” the team has nicknamed him Cory, for his Corica Park fame. He comes and goes from the park and has only been seen sporadically with sometimes many days between sightings and doesn’t have a reliable schedule for when he’ll be at the park. This is normal for raptors during non-nesting seasons.
The eagle pair first appeared here last December, built their nest, then lost it in March. As first-time nesters, they built their primary nest in the “V” of a eucalyptus tree on the edge of the golf course nearest Island Drive. They didn’t engineer it very well, leaving one entire side unsupported by branches. They laid at least two eggs. One of the eggs wasn’t viable. In a stunning photo series, Rick Lewis captured the dramatic incident of the egg sticking to the male’s chest feathers and dropping off the eagle as it flew from the nest.
Then, in the extreme wind storm of March 21, the interior of the nest toppled out, along with at least one remaining egg, which smashed on the ground. Cory and Big Junior remained in the area, even after the loss of their nest. Their pair bond remained strong and they continued to mate, hunt for carp, birds, and squirrels, and roost in the park. They didn’t pursue constructing a new nest, as some other bald eagles have done in similar situations such as the Big Bear pair which has their own nest camera. Our eagles, Big Junior and Cory, were last seen together here in the area in late June.
You may be wondering where the pair might have been between last June and now. Most of the bald eagle pairs in the Bay Area, including those at Lake Chabot, Ardenwood, and Del Valle Regional Parks, as well as Milpitas (Big Junior’s birthplace) keep their territories year round and don’t migrate. First-year fledglings from our local nests, though, disperse to food-rich areas as distant as “Fraser River in British Colombia for salmon, Pullman, Washington, for ground squirrels, ranchlands in Nevada for carrion, or California’s Sacramento Valley for winter waterfowl like ducks and geese,” according to raptor expert Allen Fish from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. Perhaps, especially since Big Junior recently went on those fall-winter feeding forays, they both left their nesting territory to go to one of these other favored sites.
With the return of Cory, we’re hoping that Big Junior won’t be far behind. The Eagle Monitoring team from FAWR has resumed daily monitoring duties to better track their presence and behavior. We’ll keep you posted.
Learn more about our area’s birds or sign up for a free guided walk to see the eagle’s territory at Golden Gate Bird Alliance.
Sharol Nelson-Embry is a Board Member with the Golden Gate Bird Alliance (formerly Audubon) and co-chairs the Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve (Veterans Administration-Alameda Point). She retired from the East Bay Regional Park District as Supervising Naturalist at the Doug Siden Visitor Center at Crab Cove, Crown Memorial State Beach.