The goldfish was an unexpected sight. It's fitting, a sign of two worlds colliding in nature.
A pair of bald eagles has nested in Palos Township next to Tampier Slough, a section of the Cook County Forest Preserves near Palos Park. In the last few weeks, eaglets have hatched, making this the first confirmed nesting site in Cook County in more than a century.
"It's very exciting for us," said Chris Merenowicz, the director of resource management for the Forest Preserve.
Merenowicz says the eagles seek out an area where they feel protected and secure with access to a body of water where they will do their hunting.
"If these lands weren't protected, great birds like bald eagles, and a number of more common ones, would not have a habitat," he said.
The nest itself is about 6 feet wide, leading officials to believe the pair began to build last year.
Bald eagles stand about three feet tall and have a wingspan of six to eight feet. They were once a fairly common sight in the area, but over decades became increasingly scarce and were placed on the U.S. endangered species list in 1967.
In recent years, bald eagles have been growing in numbers and have become more common in parts of the continental United States. They were removed from the endangered and threatened species list in 2007.
The nesting site in Palos is particularly meaningful. Located just minutes from Orland Park's bustling shopping district, the location is indicative of the unique characteristics of the area.
It was Bill Allaway, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, in Palos Park who first alerted forest preserve district staff about the nest.
"The Palos area has a great community of bird watchers," said Denise Allaway. "We just have so many trees and forest preserves that it is the perfect spot."
Allaway added that it is exciting for the community to be able to see such a rare species relatively up close.
The eaglets are not expected to venture outside the nest for several weeks and will rely on their parents' fishing. The eagles will generally cover an area of one to two miles in their hunting expeditions.
On this particular morning, the meal of choice was a large goldfish caught from a nearby body of water. What started as a few dumped pet fish has grown into a fairly large population.
The eagles will most likely stay in the area until the end of summer. If they are satisfied with the nesting site they could return year after year.
A more permanent viewing area is planned for future years, Merenowicz said.
The Cook County Forest Preserve District maintains a bald eagle page on its site that will be updated with news on the Palos area's newest residents.
The only spot the public can view the nest from is about 500 yards away along the side of 131st Street between Wolf and Will-Cook roads. Binoculars will be required. The location will be monitored by police and interfering with nesting could result in a $100,000 fine and jail time.