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Rock face along Route 28 is a training ground for Harmar bald eagles

| Monday, July 10, 2017, 1:51 p.m.
Annette Devinney
One of the Harmar eaglets stands along the top ledge of the rock face along Route 28 in Harmar.
Annette Devinney
The Harmar eaglets hatched in a nest on a hillside above Route 28 in Harmar take flight.
Annette Devinney
one of the Harmar eaglets hatched in a nest on a hillside above Route 28 in Harmar take flight.
Annette Devinney
One of the Harmar eaglets stands along the top ledge of the rock face along Route 28 in Harmar.

The mammoth, weather-chiseled rock face lining Route 28 in O'Hara and Harmar is proving irresistible to young bald eagles learning to fly.

The young eagles with brown and tan plumage hatched in the Harmar nest in early April. One of them was spotted Sunday perching and walking along the top of the highway's rock face.

Patricia Barber, an endangered-species biologist with the state Game Commission, said the top of the rock face is an "easy place for inexperienced birds to land on and take off from."

Two eaglets hatched in the Harmar nest last year frequented the same rock face, said Annette Devinney, a Penn Hills amateur photographer who captured images of the newest birds Sunday.

This is the fourth year of nesting for the Harmar eagles in an aerie on a bluff close to the Allegheny River.

Known as the Pittsburgh area's "other pair" of bald eagles, the Harmar birds are one of two pairs of urban bald eagles thriving amid bustling highways and active railroad lines.

"This has been another successful year for this pair in Harmar," said Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

"The birds have been consistent, avoiding all the challenges of the other pair nesting the city," Bonner said.

A pair in Pittsburgh's Hays neighborhood lost their nest tree and first egg in a windstorm early this spring but rallied with a new nest within a week. They successfully raised their own eaglet that fledged from the nest last month.

"Everybody appreciates the low drama at Harmar," Bonner said.

Although Bonner said some people initially questioned whether the two nesting sites would last, Bonner predicted the Pittsburgh area will continue to host the formerly endangered raptors for years to come.

To ensure future protection of the Harmar birds, Audubon bought the small tract of land where the nest is located. The goings-on at the Harmar and Hays nests have been documented by a live webcam installed by PixController of Murrysville.

Devinney and her husband have been photographing the Hays and Harmar birds since they started nesting in the last five years. The couple has visited 47 bald eagle nests in the tri-state area during the past several years.

Devinney snapped photographs of the Harmar eaglet on the rock face Sunday evening during her second visit of the day to view the young birds.

The two youngsters were sitting on a branch together while one of the parent birds perched on a limb above them when Devinney arrived in Harmar on Sunday morning.

"A red-tailed hawk flew overhead and the adult eagle started to chase it," she said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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