New Neighbors?

March 9, 2009 at 1:35 am 3 comments

Bald Eagles are a common sight here in Red Wing.  The city features “Eagle Spot” weekends in February and March when hundreds of visitors flock to Colvill Park to to watch vista of scores of the birds feed in the Mississippi near the nuclear power plant.  Eagles are drawn to the Red Wing area by a lack of ice and abundant food supplies, most notably the gizzard shad.  These large gatherings of bald eagles are an especially valuable opportunity for young birds who get a chance to improve their skills by watching experienced birds fish.

Bald Eagles typically prefer to live near lakes, seacoasts, rivers, and other large bodies of open water where they can fish. Studies  They require stands of old-growth or mature trees to roost and nest in. Locally, over 2,800 acres of forest marshes, bottomland and floodplain along the Mississippi, Vermillion and Cannon rivers provide excellent habitat and populations are steadily increasing. The most recent information I could find said that there are currently 872 bald eagle nests in Minnesota, including two dozen nests along the Mississippi River from the Twin Cities to Lake Pepin.

Nesting eagle typically begin incubating their eggs in early March.  So, nesting season has started and the birds are now migrating north or spreading out into their own territories.  Except in winter, when supplies are scarce, Eagles are territorial, they don’t like to share.

We’ve seen Bald Eagles flying over our place on a regular basis for the last week.  Several times a day I look up (if I’m outside) or out the window (if I’m inside) to see an unmistakable visitor. 

jan09eagle2

Eagle photographed while standing at my kitchen sink

According to information I found at ConservationMinnesota:

 Cannon Valley trail manager Scott Roepke that eagles are back in the nest about 1 mile upstream of highway 61.  During the last decade, nests, reported by an army of volunteer wildlife watchers, have appeared along the Mississippi to within a couple of miles of downtown St. Paul. Eagles have spread up the Minnesota River, where years ago they were never seen.  

We’re about four miles away from this nest as the crow flies eagle soars.  We’re also about four to five miles from the nearest marshes and small lakes along the Mississippi north of us – so I wonder if there’s a nest somewhere nearby.

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Space Issues Great Expectations?

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Audie's Gramma  |  March 9, 2009 at 4:05 am

    Just twenty years ago the sight of just one bald eagle (the first I’d ever seen in the wild) was enough to nearly send me driving over a cliff.

    Now — well, not commonplace, but here they are. They’re baaaack…

    It’s good to remember, while so much seems to be going to shit, that some things are getting better.

    Eagles. Peregrines. Wolves in Yellowstone, and bison friggin’ everywhere. Lake Erie. Things we thought would be extinct in our lifetimes for a thousand, Alex…

  • 2. bluntobject  |  March 9, 2009 at 7:34 am

    (Can’t comment on the “Great Expectations?” dopamine post — pity; I can’t wait to read the next one. Good stuff!)

    I don’t get to see many raptors in Vancouver, but Edmonton had half a dozen or so Peregrines nesting in its downtown for as long as I can remember. Anything that eats pigeons and seagulls is just fine by me, especially something beautiful like a bird of prey.

  • 3. Dorene  |  March 9, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Hey, Heather —

    Anyone out your way tell you how the bald eagle got re-introduced to Western PA? When I was in high school in Kittanning (late 70s), one of the Army Corps of Engineers guys was hanging out at the dam at Crooked Creek State Park and saw a juvenile raptor flying down the water to catch fish. He didn’t have a clue as to what it was, so he had a local Audubon member come out and take photos.

    Total pandemonium broke loose when the photo was IDed as a bald eagle as PA has laws on the books that if a formally native endangered species shows up, it has to be given habitat and a mate to be given every chance to reproduce and repopulate PA.

    The Commonwealth hadn’t planned to start bald eagle re-introduction for another 10 years, but all of a sudden, they had one and they had to come up plans/protections to protect it immediately, plus find out what sex it was so it could get proper mate.

    Since it turned out we had a boy, the suspecion was that he’d been captured in the West illegally and was being transported to the East (NY) to be sold to collectors in Saudia Arabia — and since the raptor trade was highly illegal, they figured no one was going to claim him, so he was officially “wild.”

    Folks were encouraged to come to Crooked Creek and watch them fish — it really was quite the sight — but the site of the nest was super-secret as there are many in those hills who know how to shoot and weren’t so thrilled that the raptors were coming back.

    The nest was quite successful, so most of the current Western PA bald eagles are probably related to this guy who had the smarts to see an escape opportunity, grabbed it and as a result, probably did more for his species than anyone else in PA could or would have done for decades afterwards.

    Sometimes, opportunity knocks — and other times, it really does just fly out of the sky.

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