A famous sea eagle rediscovered

I was out photographing on the river in early August 2019 and managed to capture this image of a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle. Little did I know the backstory of this majestic creature at the time.

She had hatched under the watchful gaze of the Sydney EagleCAM Project, which live streams pairs of sea eagles, as they raise chicks in Newington, near Sydney Olympic Park. The live feed and Facebook page attracts thousands of followers from all over the world, who make note of every chirp and flutter. The young sea eagle above, known as SE21, was weakened by an often fatal condition, and shortly after fledging she got into serious trouble when her wing got wedged in the fork of a tree near her nest. The incident had caused terrible damage as she was trying to free herself, but she was too weak to do so.

Arborists and other rescue volunteers mounted a daring mission under the cover of darkness and extracted her from her predicament. She was badly hurt and ended up with Peggy McDonald at Higher Ground Raptors*** at Fitzroy Falls. Peggy worked very hard and brought SE21 back to good health. Released at the end of March 2019, many thought that she may not make it – and so after many months, when I posted this image, I was flooded with messages from people who had instantly recognised her from the damage to her wing.

It looks like she is doing well, despite her traumatic start. She’s looking healthy (if her beach dancing is any indication!) and she is in good shape. It’s so lovely to know that one little photo of this not-so-little bird, could make so many people so very happy. Her fans are thrilled to have this update of their special girl.

She was christened Essie by some of her followers and they were rapt to find out, that even in 2020, she was still seen on the river north of the Sydney basin, where I rediscovered her by sheer accident on this fateful August day in 2019. What a stunning raptor she became, perfectly capable of hunting and surviving on her own in the big, wide world. Netra and I were really overjoyed to have been able to bring so much happiness to complete strangers just by me having shared my images on my then Facebook photography page.

*** Note: Higher Ground Raptors ceased to operate sometime in late 2021 and the recovery centre was taken over by Raptor Recovery Australia.

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