After the storm, bald eagles ‘Nick’ and ‘Nora’ left desperately searching for their eaglets

The screeching cries of a pair of bald eagles pierce the treetops of an urban jungle on the edge of a popular Dallas lake.

The beloved eagles perch 75 feet above their nest, damaged by a fierce storm system that tore through North Texas on Tuesday. Inside the nest were two nine-week-old bald eagles, which were thrown from their sanctuary by hurricane-force winds.

The mother and father have spent the days since the storm circling and searching the ground below for their offspring. The scene was heartbreaking to watch for Chris Giblin, an amateur photographer who spent three years documenting the eagles.

“It hurts,” Giblin said. “It hurts to see them in pain. Nothing is promised when these storms pass.”

This bald eagle family has developed a legion of followers and admirers since they made this spot around White Rock Lake in East Dallas their home nearly three years ago. They became known as “Nick” and “Nora,” after the husband-and-wife detective characters in the 1930s film “The Thin Man.”

Their every move is documented in neighborhood Facebook groups and by a dedicated and fiercely protective contingent of photographers. The eagles have so intensely captured the imagination of the neighbors below them that residents speak in mystical terms of these birds of prey and their presence as ‘divine intervention’.

The eagle’s nest is located in a plane tree at the end of Krista de la Harpe’s street. She describes the relationship between the birds and the neighborhood as a “three-year love story.”

When the storm hit the city, all she could think about was the eagles and their babies who survived the fierce winds and falling trees.

“I sat in my closet throughout the storm and just prayed for them,” de la Harpe said as she watched the eagles perched in the trees this week. “It’s so heartbreaking.”

‘I found one’

After the storm passed, the neighbors ran outside to check on the nest and the eagles. The water flowed over the banks of the creek below the nest. The fierce winds toppled a mix of large oak, cedar and American elm trees, and the eagles were nowhere to be seen.

Brett Johnson, urban biologist and wildlife manager for the city of Dallas, rushed to the park after the storm. He saw that half of the nest was gone and the two eagles were missing.

Later that morning, Bryna Thomson was searching the creek area with neighbors when she heard her friend shout, “I found one.” I found one. I found one.”

The video she captured shows an eagle shivering and soaked from the rain, but apparently not seriously injured, and even eating a fish it caught in the floodwaters.

“They were healthy babies,” Thomson said.

The neighbor called to report what they had found. Johnson says he has been working with state game wardens and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to obtain permission to handle the federally protected bird and move it to a rehabilitation center that specializes in the treatment of bald eagles. The facility did not respond to CNN’s request for an interview.

On Sunday morning, specialists from the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center returned the surviving eagle to its breeding grounds around White Rock Lake in hopes that it would soon be reunited with its parents. Nick and Nora were flown around the area and specialists say they hope the parents will hear the eagle’s screech and return to care for it.

The second eaglet has not been found and officials say the bird likely did not survive. Fallen trees have made it impossible for searchers to safely access areas where the eagle may have fallen. The area is also home to bald eagles, such as coyotes and bobcats.

The raptor specialists brought the recovered eagle in a large box to the wooded area. The bird’s face was covered with a hood to prevent it from seeing and experiencing this confusing environment.

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center officials carry a crate containing the surviving eagle on June 2, 2024. – Courtesy of Chris GilbinBlackland Prairie Raptor Center officials carry a crate containing the surviving eagle on June 2, 2024. – Courtesy of Chris Gilbin

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center officials carry a crate containing the surviving eagle on June 2, 2024. – Courtesy of Chris Gilbin

Hailey Lebaron, a rehabilitation specialist at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center, secured the eagle, carried it up the stairs and placed it in a makeshift nest made just for the moment.

Lebaron removed the hood from the eagle’s head and the bird immediately spread its wings and rustled around the nest. He reacted exactly as the specialists wanted when the bird realized that a strange creature – a human – was so close.

“Fortunately it wasn’t happy,” Lebaron said. “The feathers rose, that’s their: ‘Look how scary I am.’ It’s a great sign for us.”

After the eagle was recovered on Tuesday, rehabilitation specialists gave the bird of prey a full examination, including x-rays and blood tests. The bird was deemed healthy enough to return to the wild after several days of monitoring.

On Friday afternoon, the rehabilitation team knew it was a race against time. After a week of separation, the parent eagles are more likely to abandon their offspring.

“We had to take action,” Lebaron said. “It’s really time sensitive if we want it to work. Otherwise the baby would be rejected by the parents.”

Volunteers from the rehabilitation facility will now work in two-hour shifts until Monday evening to monitor the eagle from about 100 yards away. If the parents do not return to the eagle by then, officials say the bird will likely be returned to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center.

If that happens, facility officials say they will protect the bird until it can fly properly and learn how to hunt and fend for itself. At that time, the bald eagle would be released into the wild, but in a different location, away from its territorial parents.

Earlier this week, Scott Meril, a retired physician, came to the nesting area to take photos of the eagle’s grieving parents. The footage shows one of the eagles screeching in the sky with its head tilted back in a position that seemed to reflect the bird’s desperation.

Meril said he was struck by the eagle’s majestic and powerful gaze as they scanned the urban landscape for the eagles.

“To see them in Texas, it’s wild,” Meril said.

White Rock Lake bald eagles 'Nick' and 'Nora' care for their two young eaglets in East Dallas.  The eagles were born around March 20 and were just a week or two away from being able to fly on their own.  -Courtesy of Chris GiblinWhite Rock Lake bald eagles 'Nick' and 'Nora' care for their two young eaglets in East Dallas.  The eagles were born around March 20 and were just a week or two away from being able to fly on their own.  -Courtesy of Chris Giblin

White Rock Lake bald eagles ‘Nick’ and ‘Nora’ care for their two young eaglets in East Dallas. The eagles were born around March 20 and were just a week or two away from being able to fly on their own. -Courtesy of Chris Giblin

“You can’t fight this stupid Texas weather.”

This isn’t the first time tragedy has struck Nick and Nora’s quest to bring a successful set of eggs into the world.

In February 2022, the mating bald eagles built a nest in the same area near White Rock Lake. Residents came from all over the city to catch a glimpse of the neighborhood’s new stars, waiting for the babies to hatch. But a violent storm with high winds tore the nest and branches apart. The eggs fell to the ground.

“They’ve been through a lot,” Johnson said.

In 2023, Nick and Nora built a second nest around White Rock Lake, but abandoned it and never laid eggs. Johnson says the nest was built in an area that was likely too close to the crowds of people who use the lake for recreation.

This year, residents thought the eagles had finally succeeded. It took only a week or two before the eagles could fly on their own. At that point, Nick and Nora would teach them how to hunt their own food.

The day before the storm, Giblin captured stunning images of the little birds “branching” from their nests – their first attempts to jump from their nests onto nearby tree branches.

The cycle of natural life seemed almost complete, but once again nature tragically intervened.

“They just can’t catch a break,” Thomson said. “They were good parents, and it’s just you can’t fight this stupid Texas weather.”

Yellowstone is coming to Dallas

Although bald eagles are often found near large cities, it remains rare for eagles to nest and mate in busy urban areas. This is why Giblin and a group of photographers spent countless hours documenting the couple.

Giblin, who works for a merchandising company, estimates he has taken more than 20,000 photos of the eagles since they began appearing here regularly three years ago. He is so dedicated that he once waited seven hours to get one shot of the eagles flying from their nest. He compares the presence of bald eagles in Dallas to having Yellowstone National Park in the city

“In this metropolis they chose to nest here. It’s absolutely insane,” Giblin said.
“That’s why I’m here every weekend. I don’t take it for granted.”

Thomson, a high school science teacher, says the bald eagles have brought her neighborhood closer together. She often sets up a spotting scope connected to an iPad, which she calls “Eagle TV,” so kids can get up close and personal with the eagles.

“They are the coolest birds ever,” Thomson said. “I’m not really a bird person, but apparently I am. Because I sure like the bald eagle.

These Dallas eagle lovers fear that years of disappointment could convince Nick and Nora to give up their life around the neighborhood lake and build a nest somewhere else. The majestic birds do not realize that they are the main characters in a love story that their neighbors do not want to end.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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