We visited the nest at about 8:00 AM and found several people who had been watching the nest from about 7:00 AM. The female (Jewel) was sitting or standing in the nest at first, and the male (Pride) was roosting on the right supporting branch. After about 15 minutes the female settled deeper into the nest, becoming almost invisible. Other watchers have also noted her sitting deep over the last few days and suspect she may have laid the first egg. Our experience with the former mate (Joy) was that she became broody for a few days, during which time she would sit very deep but also leave the nest for varying intervals. We gauged the laying of the first egg as the day when she settled deep and continued with few or no observed flights away from the nest during the next 2-3 days. After that the mates exchange incubation duties, further confirmation that eggs were present.
We returned to the nest at about 10:15 AM and Jewel was standing rather high in the nest. Pride had moved down the limb to be very close to the nest.
Suddenly they started calling mutually and Pride flew to the nest and they copulated, maintaining cloacal apposition for about 7 seconds, as captured by my photo times.
The male flew up to roost above the nest:
The happy couple:
This is the first time I have seen any eagles copulate on the nest when eggs were assumed to be present. The previous pair were seen copulating on the nest while building/restoring the nest, but generally copulated on tree limbs or the Melaleuca snags. No one has yet reported copulation this season, which is rather unusual, as the week leading up to laying the first egg is said to be when they mate most frequently. Of course we also see them copulating after the chicks hatch but do not remember any reports during the 5 week incubation period. Perhaps readers who have closely monitored the eagle nest cams can add their observations on this point.
Further, during our 45 minute period of observation Jewel remained rather high in the nest, unlike the sustained deep position we have seen previously during incubation. The behavior leads to question whether the first egg has yet been laid. Please keep an eye on the nest and try watching for an extended period to confirm that the female is continuously deep (except for turing the eggs and changing postion in the nest) and rarely flies off briefly unless the mate is covering the eggs.