Jul 04 2009
The Fourth of July is the one day every year when you’re certain to see a lot of bald eagles — on Tshirts, on banners, as statues on flagpoles, and as images superimposed on waving U.S. flags.
The patriotic illustrations are just an idea of bald eagles. Fortunately it’s getting easy to see the real thing in western Pennsylvania nowadays.
Back in November 2007, I blogged about our bald eagle comeback after DDT caused a severe population decline. In the 1980s the PA Game Commission conducted a reintroduction program. Twenty years later the eagle population is growing throughout the state as you can see by the sightings posted in that blog’s comments.
The eagle pictured here is from Armstrong County. I learned about him from Steve Gosser who made several visits to Crooked Creek Lake last winter to photograph birds. Steve always found bald eagles there so when he heard they were nesting nearby he lugged his camera more than half a mile (uphill!) to try to get a picture of the nest. After a half-mile walk the nest was still not close, but one of the adult bald eagles flew near him. Nice picture!
Steve returned from time to time as winter turned to spring, hoping for another glimpse of the eagle family. By June the young eagles were ready to fledge, walking all over the nest tree and flapping their wings. Though the nest was far away, Steve took a picture and digitally zoomed it so you can see the young eagles. Click on the photo to see for yourself. The picture is grainy because it’s zoomed. Notice that juvenile eagles are all brown!
If you hanker to see bald eagles this weekend there are many western PA counties where you can. The best place by far is Pymatuning State Park in Crawford County. In 2002 there were 14 bald eagle nests that fledged 20 young in Crawford County for a total of 48 eagles. There are even more eagles today. Back then there were only 67 eagle nests statewide. This year there are 170 nests in Pennsylvania!
When you go to Pymantuning, stop by the PA Game Commission Wildlife Learning Center just past the spillway (where the ducks walk on the fishes’ backs). Even if the Learning Center is closed on the day you visit, their patio has a great view of the lake where the eagles hang out.
And take your binoculars. I’m sure you’ll see a bald eagle.
(photo by Steve Gosser)