Mary Lou and I arrived at the nest site at 8:30 AM and stayed until 10:00. Only one eaglet was in the nest. It has few white feathers on its breast, and they coalesce in a spot on its chest. It definitely has less white than the older eaglet, so it is "P Piney 8." The older chick disappeared some time between the afternoon of Wednesday, March 23, after we photographed both on the nest, and Friday, March 25, when Georgia noticed that one was missing. The older eaglet was between 67 and 69 days of age, just short of 10 weeks.
The missing eaglet "P Piney 7" presumably hatched on January 15th, and was first seen seen branching on March 16th, at 60 days of age. In the previous two seasons, "helicoptering" (briefly hovering in the air a few inches to a foot above the nest) preceded first flights by about 15 and 8 days respectively. No one observed any helicoptering this season.
The first observed branching preceded first flight by 8 days in 2009 and by only 2 days last season. However, this season, there were many days where no eaglet behavior was reported. As Georgia noted, fledging may occur any time after about 10 and before 12 weeks of age, and the chick appeared healthy, so it is very likely that she will be enticed by the adults to return to the nest when hungry enough, unless she was injured on her first flight.
No adults were observed roosting anywhere within sight, until about 9:30 AM, when the male adult flew in low from the west, behind the nest, and dropped unidentified prey. He departed after only about 5 seconds and flew directly to roost in the usual spot on the Australian Pine along the road just east of the nest tree. He cleaned his beak and remained ther until we departed.
At no time did we hear any vocalizing by the eaglets. In the previous seasons we did hear sounds from a grounded eaglet on a few occasions, especially when an adult brought food to the nest. Neither did we observe any signs of concern on the part of the adult. In the past we have seen them roost in adjacent trees and look down at an eaglet that had left the nest. We should be alert for any such behaviors during the next few days.
Eagles can go several days without food, and downed eaglets usually are able to climb up on branches and eventually "ladder" up to the nest. I believe that FWC should be contacted if the eaglet is still unaccounted for by tomorrow, when it will have been missing 72 hours or more, FWC could conduct a search or authorize someone to check the area in the vicinity of the nest to see if the eaglet is alive and whether it may be in need of rehabilitation.