News Highlightsr
bald eagle using a saguaro cacti as a nesting site
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Top Photo: photo courtesy of Kyle McCarty/AZGFD

After decades of searching, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has documented proof that bald eagles sometimes use saguaro cacti as nesting sites!

In April, AZGFD announced the discovery of a pair of bald eagles with nestlings, also known as eaglets, in a saguaro after a routine eagle survey flight. 

Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson, AZGFD’s raptor management coordinator, says the department begins aerial surveys each January and conducts them monthly throughout the breeding season. A pilot takes two biologists up in a helicopter, and they search across the state for eagles and their nests. They try to maintain a CENSUS of the bald eagle breeding population.

Jacobson says they have conducted the eagle survey flights for decades. In the 1970s, biologists found a record from 1937 that mentioned large nests in saguaros that were believed to be the homes of bald eagles. However, the biologists couldn’t confirm anything at the time. Additionally, there have been confirmed sightings in similar types of cacti in Mexico, making it seem more possible that bald eagles in Arizona could use the famous saguaro to nest.

“Biologists were really looking for bald eagles from the 1970s on, and we always had it in our minds that they were likely there,” Jacobson says. He has personally been searching for 18 years. 

“It is definitely something extremely exciting to observe for the first time,” Jacobson says. “The first time it’s ever been documented is pretty huge, at least to have it confirmed.”

After nearly 20 years of searching, why have scientists finally been successful in getting confirmation? One reason may be an increasing population of bald eagles in our state. In 2019, there were 89 breeding areas monitored, and 74 were occupied by a pair of bald eagles. The number of breeding areas they have found has increased each year for the last decade. 

“A lot of the best sites have been filled by pairs, so birds that are coming into the population are looking for other options,” Jacobson says. “Part of that is why they found the saguaro and decided to give it a try.”


Life Without School Is Kind of Boring!

If you made a word cloud about recent days, you would see: coronavirus, stay-at-home, online school, baking, walking, video games, pets and family. But most kids would add another word—BORING or BORED!

Arizona schools and many businesses closed in March. Governor Doug Ducey issued a stay-at-home order that began March 31, so kids have been cooped up at home. Some enjoy the increased family time. They use their yards or spaces around their homes to walk, bike, play with siblings and get fresh air. But many miss their teachers and friends. They hope to get back to a normal routine. They want to see friends. They want to ask their teachers questions in person. 

Parker Lott spends time doing puzzles like Metal Earth kits and says he walks every day. “I’ve been doing lots of projects,” says the sixth-grader. But he doesn’t like this new normal. “It’s been really boring,” he says, adding that online schooling is “more difficult than going to real school.” Parker says asking a teacher questions through email, navigating links and figuring out what to do first makes distance learning challenging. “It’s tricky,” he says.

Twins Gianna and Isabella Mercado Salvidio say QUARANTINE means bonding with immediate family, but not other relatives—they miss their cousins! These sixth-graders have been busy baking, playing volleyball and hopscotch together, reading and writing.  

“I used to be in soccer before coronavirus, and my cousin was on the same team,” says Gianna. “We used to go out to eat after…now that we can’t really see them…I really miss them.”

Isabella says she misses going to movies, eating out, recess and just being social. She and her sister enjoy relaxing at home and doing schoolwork at their own pace, but it’s not always easy. The sisters switch off with a laptop for schoolwork, while their mom uses another computer to work from home. Isabella says, “It can be kind of confusing to figure out programs.”

Kamiko Espinoza (fifth) says this time has “been a little weird,” but she likes having more time with her mom. She built a birdhouse and learned to sew. As for school, “It’s easier having a teacher in front of you.”

Sisters Rori (fifth), Madison and Ellie (third-grade twins) Divijak stay busy with online school, gardening, cooking, riding bikes, walking their new dog, and caring for other pets. But they miss friends and teachers. 

Rori says competing in Math League online was “more difficult” than in person, and she had been looking forward to training for a 5K with Girls on the Run. Rori admits, “I kind of want to go back to school.” 

May 2020