Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey 1/08 - 1/13/2010

It's that time of year again! For the 32nd consecutive year, New York State participated in the national mid-winter bald eagle survey. Although the actual survey dates began in December, 2009 we were only available to participate during the last week. It was Steward Liz Wolff's first time participating on the survey, while Steward Greg Chapman was returning for a second year. Liz was pleasantly surprised at the number of bald eagles that she observed. With the estuary being completely frozen, most of our sightings were along the headwaters of the Salmon River and Salmon River Reservoir. A total of 6 bald eagles were observed during the survey route during the "target date" January 11th. It was an experience that we will always remember!

Each year is important, but 2010 was especially important for the survey! This is the final year for the 25-year (1986-2010) national and regional trend analysis. The lowest statewide count in the last seven years was in 2007. While the highest in the same time span was in 2008. More information on bald eagles and the statewide mid-winter bald eagle survey can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7068.html.

Why does the state care about the wintering population of bald eagles? Historically bald eagles thrived in New York State. By 1960, the visiting winter population had dwindled to a few dozen and nesting pairs were reduced to a single pair. Drops in year-round and wintering bald eagle populations were likely a result of shootings, habitat loss, and chemical use, which was later banned in 1972.

A program with Alaska has helped increase the number of bald eagles in New York State.
Tips for viewing bald eagles (from http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9378.html):
- Winter is the best time to view bald eagles.
- Dress appropriately (layers, boots, hat, gloves, binoculars, etc.)
- Scan tree lines for eagles perched in the tops trees.
- Look overhead for eagles that are soaring.
- Scan any ice or islands for feeding eagles.
- Eagles are most active during first and last light hours.
- Remain in, or near your vehicle.
- Avoid roosting areas.
- Do not make noise.
- Respect regulations, the environment and private property.

Please remember: Harassing, disturbing or injuring a bald eagle is a federal offense and carries a penalty of up to $20,000 and/or one year in jail.

A tree adjacent to the Route 3 (south) bridge on the Salmon River. Do you see anything in the tree?
Looking closer, it's a bald eagle! Photos: Mary Penney, Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewardship and Habitat Program.

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