Like parents excited by their child's first steps, a knot of onlookers gathered Saturday on a bicycle trail in Hays to watch a young bald eagle try out its wings.
"That's the baby," said Jim Morrison of Economy as a bird, looking kind of big for a tyke, soared into view. "There's no white on that head," he added, referring to the coloring that gives adults their regal appearance.
Transfixed for months by the parent eagles and three eaglets who make their home on a forested hillside above East Carson Street, Pittsburghers took special delight Friday when one youngster took to the sky for the first time.
While many continued watching the drama unfold live on the "nest cam" that PixController Inc. and the Pennsylvania Game Commission developed, a steady stream of the curious visited the trail Saturday with cameras, binoculars and a desire to experience the milestone outdoors.
"This is amazing," said Joe Lee of Hampton, who brought along multiple cameras.
At least one onlooker claimed that a second eaglet had fledged, but there was no confirmation of that on the nest cam site.
With a sign alerting them to eagle-related congestion, bicyclists on the Great Allegheny Passage graciously shared the narrow trail with bird enthusiasts.
Some onlookers expressed pride that the national bird, long considered endangered or threatened, is making a comeback, and they called the parent eagles' choice of residency -- this is at least their second year in the city -- a testament to Pittsburgh's cleaner waterways.
"We have seen them bring some furry things into the nest, but it's not too often. It's mostly fish," said Nancy Klimovich of Freedom.
Eagle-watching is only one of Mr. Lee's bird-related pursuits. He recently participated in a banding project and is making a movie of a hummingbird who made a nest near his home.
"It's about 50 feet away, 30 feet up, in a black walnut tree," he said of the nest.
He wasn't nearly that close to the eagles. A street, steep hillside, towering trees and state-imposed "privacy zone" separated the eagles from their admirers.
Susan Primm of Crafton said blue herons are known to nest in out-of-the-way locations and believes "the eagles are just as smart. Humans can't get to them. They're safe, and there's food."
Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.