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The start of a new year usually means it’s time to move on from the past year’s local government activities and early January re-organizational meetings. Also, there’s been drama to keep up with over the partial federal government shutdown and the uncertain State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. However, I am not writing this column about the State of the Union, or any other happenings in that part of the country. What follows is information about the Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey and the state of the eagles.
This Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey has been going on in some form since 1979. In 1984, National Wildlife Federation officials asked participants in each state to count eagles along standard routes and use the same number of counters and same methodology to provide data on count trends. The time is the same each year: January 2 to 16, with a target dates of January 11 to 12. When the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) was overseeing the project in New York, I would try to do my route on the day they performed their aerial survey.
At the time of this writing and with count data still being submitted, there has been no data released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the agency that now oversees the project. Count data has been trending upwards for the winter count in almost all regions. A past route count by the NYSDEC, taken in 2006, for the Main Stem of the Delaware River between port Jervis and Hancock, NY, generated a count of 96 eagles.
So, what is the state of the eagles? The bald eagle has been de-listed as an endangered species in both New York and Pennsylvania, due to efforts of many agencies, groups and individuals. On the portion of the Main Stem of the river mentioned above, there are more than 20 nests. These eagles are year-round residents. The eagles in the region enjoy a favorable, pristine habitat with plentiful food sources.
Although the comeback of bald eagles is a success story in most regions, they still face some threats. The most prominent threat is the loss of habitat due to human activity such as construction, timber harvesting and other disturbances. Another problem now being seen is lead poisoning. Eagles forage on carrion contaminated by lead bullet fragments or lead shot and slowly succumb to the lead. See the River Talk column from October 25, 2017 (http://bit.ly/BaldEaglesTRR).