WYSO Curious is our series where listeners ask questions and WYSO producers find the answers. Today’s question comes from listener Heather Atkinson who says "I am so very curious about Willa and Orv, the bald eagle pair who have been nesting in Carillon.”
Orv and Willa, the Bald Eagles have come back to their nest for a second year at Carillon Park, and Jim Weller, Dayton’s ambassador for the eagles, is keeping his eye on them. On any given day you can find Weller standing in front of the vintage Sunoco station the Carillon Park village. The spot offers the best viewing of the eagles nest located in the tree line.
Weller says they started building that nest up there on January 31st, 2018, just a little over a year ago. He and other volunteers watched them as they flew back and forth along the Miami River trying to decide between Island Park, north of Dayton and here at Carillon park.
Weller remembers, “for the whole month of January last year, and finally they started carrying sticks in here. Actually she started carrying sticks in here and he finally caught on that, ok she’s made up her mind and that’s where she wants to build the nest”.
For Weller, being the Ambassador for Dayton’s Bald Eagles is a dream come true.
“As a child I would lay on the hillside and want to see a bald eagle fly over, and there just weren’t any around,” Weller reminices, “That was back in the day when Bald Eagles were very rare. In fact in the Dayton area we had no bald eagles for 70 years - from 1938 to 2008. I feel blessed, I’m able to see them everyday now.”
When the eagles came back in 2008, Weller realized that there was a need for someone to be a spokesperson for the eagles. At that point he started a group called the Eastwood Eagle Watchers, named after where the first eagle was spotted returning to the Dayton area.
Weller explains that the group was formed “With the purpose of educating people about the eagles. And also to protect them from being intruded upon by curious people who just don’t realize that if you get close to an eagles nest it can have very fatal results for either an egg that’s being incubated or for a baby who can’t yet thermoregulate itself or protect itself from predators, because once mom and dad are off the nest the baby is vulnerable.”
As a park volunteer and the resident eagle expert, Weller gets a huge kick out of park visitors.
“ I was out here one time with a little boy. All of a sudden, here comes Willa. Now you’ve got to understand that Willa, our female, has about a seven foot wingspan. When she flies, it’s pretty impressive. She came out of nowhere from behind us, over the top of us, flew up into the nest. I looked over and the little boy was jumping up and down, ‘grandpa, grandpa, grandpa there’s an eagle, there’s an eagle, there’s an eagle!’ I look over and grandpa is jumping up and down too. He’d never seen one and he was probably 75 years old. It just melts your heart.”
Leo DeLuca, the Media Coordinator at Carillon Park, finds their choice of nesting spots in the park to be a bit serendipitous, “You know, we really feel like it was a great benediction that the Bald Eagles choose to build their nest here.”
Orv and Willa’s nest is perched right above the Wright Brothers National Museum in the park. “So you have this National Symbol of flight building their nest above a national symbol of flight,” explains DeLuca.
After the tragic death of Flyer, Orv and Willa’s baby from last year who was hit by a moving van while flying across a bridge, Weller was thrilled to find out that this pair of eagles are parents again.
“You know these things happen,” Weller says, “ In my blog that I put on the Eastwood Eagle Watchers Website that I’ve had for ten years, I always put on there that life in the wild is wild. Because people start coming out and watching these wild creatures, and you get your heart wrapped up in the story and then something tragic happens. And I always try to make sure that people aware that bad things can happen.....but good things can happen too. So you’ve got to be prepared for the bad, but you have to expect the good. It’s just amazing to watch them thrive out here”
This spring, three new eaglets have been spotted in the nest above Wright Hall.