Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve

Providing interpretive education on wetlands and wildlife, panoramic views, water quality, weather, natural resource management, trails, bird watching, recreation, exhibits, displays and an eagles nest, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is a treasure of the Hillsboro community.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle’s Nest

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve
Photo by Michael Thompson

The first authentic bald eagles’ nest recovered from the wild is currently on display in Washington County at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. This unique project has an intriguing story made possible due to the dedication and cooperation of many community partners. Where was the nest built? How was it salvaged? Where are the eagles now? Read on to find out.

Background

A bald eagle pair built the nest at Fernhill Wetlands in 2001 in a cottonwood tree with three trunks joined at the base. They nested and raised young there annually until 2005. After the young fledged that year, the eagles left the area for their annual two month hiatus. A week later, one of the three trunks broke and fell to the ground.  About two weeks later, a second trunk of the tree fell, taking a large portion of the roots and a portion of the remaining trunk with it.

Knowing that the remaining trunk was destined to fall, Dave Nutt, a water resources coordinator for Clean Water Services, wondered if there might be a way to salvage the nest before it crashed to the ground. In partnership with Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, Clean Water Services, which owns the land where the tree was, Dave contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to arrange for special permits to salvage the eagle’s nest. On September 22, 2005, Clean Water Services and Portland General Electric took down the 12-foot section of tree holding the nest, a feat that had never been done before.

The pair of eagles who built the nest is closely watched by naturalists and neighbors. They have built three nests in the Fernhill Wetlands area: a nest they started building in the mid-nineties, a second nest that was destroyed in a storm, and the one that was salvaged.  When the eagles returned to the area in October, they sat for a week on the snag where the salvaged nest had been. Within a brief period of time, they rediscovered the first nest they had started in the mid-nineties, which they used for that year’s breeding season. They successfully fledged two young eagles in June of 2006 and used the same nest again in 2007.

Frequently Asked Questions

What rules apply to the bald eagle’s nest?

The federal Eagle Protection Act makes it “illegal to take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer for sale, transport, export, or import a Bald or Golden eagle, alive or dead, (including products made from them) or any part, nests, or eggs thereof without a valid permit to do so.” There are legal requirements concerning the scientific and exhibition purposes of this nest.  Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve was issued a permit from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “public wildlife conservation education and scientific research.”

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve

How was the nest removed?

The nest was about 95-feet up in the tree, situated in the crotch of three large limbs. The nest is an enormous, complicated structure of thousands of large sticks, eight feet deep by six feet wide. It took tall and powerful equipment and highly skilled operators to bring the nest and its section of the tree safely to the ground. Fortunately, PGE was willing to send a crew and one of its tallest boom trucks to do the job.

The PGE linemen started by trimming back the tree with chainsaws, gradually paring it down to the section holding the nest. Then they rigged a network of straps and cables to hold together the 12-foot section of tree that holds the nest. Finally, one sawyer made the last cut and the boom operator gently lowered the 1500-pound tree and nest to the ground below.

Who owns the nest?

The Federal Government owns the nest, and it is on loan to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve for “public wildlife conservation education and scientific research.”

Who has been involved in this project?

Clean Water Services, Portland General Electric, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, Grant McOmie of KATU-TV, City of Forest Grove, and numerous contractors, engineers, and community partners.