NEWBURY PARK, Calif. – Katy Delaney has a real eye for birds. She rattles off their names while walking along the Satwiwa Loop Trail.
“I love birds. I really do," Delaney said. "I, like, have a total thing for them.”
So you can imagine how excited she was when she heard there might be a family of golden eagles nesting in the Santa Monica Mountains. Delaney is a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service. She says golden eagles used to nest in Boney Mountain, but that was a long time ago. The last known nest was in the early 1980s.
A consultant was surprised to see what seemed to be a pair of parents going to and from a nest, so Delaney's team went to get a better look.
“We saw two chicks and at that point they were little white bobbly headed things," Delaney said. "They were kind of moving around and we were like ‘Oh my god, they’re there! There’s actually chicks there!!!’”
The exact location of the nest is top secret.
“We’re not telling anybody," Delaney said. "But that’s for their own protection.”
The only clue she will give is that it is in a remote area of the Western Santa Monica Mountains and getting there is an adventure.
“We had to crawl basically through chaparral so we were all cut up and yeah, it was long," Delaney said. "Definitely worth it.”
Seeing the chicks up close, Delaney was amazed by the size of their talons. She said their talons were similar to size of her hand.
As for the size of the chicks, that was surprising too.
“When I was holding it I was really like, 'Wow, this is heavy like my cat," Delaney said.
Delaney was also surprised by the location. Golden eagles don’t like people and generally won’t nest near urban areas. This pair of parents chose a spot that is remote, but still has a view of the 101 freeway.
There is a lot about the eagle family they still don’t know, but Delaney says their appearance highlights the importance of the Santa Monica Mountains.
“These open spaces are really, really important to keep for these animals, things like golden eagles or mountain lions,” said Delaney.
Like the mountain lions, the golden eagles face a number of dangers; from people, to power lines, and rat poison, but Delaney is optimistic. The chicks will fly away, but she hopes the parents will call the Santa Monica Mountains home.
“It would be really cool if in ten years I was talking about, 'Yeah, the pair came back or a new pair came,'" she said. "Just like that we were able to follow them through the years. That would be really cool.”
New neighbors she hopes to keep an eye on or years to come.