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Published: 5/23/2006

State finds evidence of eagle resurgence

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ohio DNR official Bob Ford holds an eaglet for Elijah Bernhardt, 7, to pet. Wildlife officials are banding eaglets in two nests near the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station this year and four others elsewhere in the state. Leisje Meates of the Ohio DNR, above, carries an eaglet to be banded. The bird, and its sibling, were dubbed P59 and P65. Leisje Meates and Mark Shieldcastle band the legs and measure the talons of the two eaglets that temporarily were removed from their nest. Ohio DNR official Bob Ford holds an eaglet for Elijah Bernhardt, 7, to pet. Wildlife officials are banding eaglets in two nests near the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station this year and four others elsewhere in the state. Leisje Meates of the Ohio DNR, above, carries an eaglet to be banded. The bird, and its sibling, were dubbed P59 and P65. Leisje Meates and Mark Shieldcastle band the legs and measure the talons of the two eaglets that temporarily were removed from their nest.
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Leisje Meates and Mark Shieldcastle band the legs and measure the talons of the two eaglets that temporarily were removed from their nest. Leisje Meates and Mark Shieldcastle band the legs and measure the talons of the two eaglets that temporarily were removed from their nest.
Enlarge
Leisje Meates of the Ohio DNR, above, carries an eaglet to be banded. The bird, and its sibling, were dubbed P59
and P65. Leisje Meates of the Ohio DNR, above, carries an eaglet to be banded. The bird, and its sibling, were dubbed P59 and P65.
Enlarge

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Two plump eaglets were hauled from their nests and given new identities yesterday.

Eaglets P59 and P65, their official names, are representative of the growth in the eagle population in Ohio.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is banding eagles in six nests this year, two of which are in the Lake Erie marshes, including near the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station off State Rt. 2.

In 1995, when the state banded eagles at a nest on the opposite side of Davis-Besse, Ohio had identified only four nests. That nest remains active.

Mark Shieldcastle, project leader at the division's Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station in Ottawa County, says the two nests so close together is a sign of change in eagles' behavior. They are also dwelling closer to human activity.

"They're nesting in places where we never thought we'd see them nest," he said.

During yesterday's banding, a wildlife agent climbed 50 feet to the nest in a dead cottonwood, grabbed the birds, and lowered them in a bag to an agent waiting below. It will be four more weeks before the seven-week-old chicks begin to fly.

The sharp talons of each chick were wrapped in cloth to prevent them from clawing out or injuring the agents.

High above the nest, their parents showed displeasure with the activity below.

The mother eagle, which lacked the distinctive white tail feathers of the male, soared over the observers - a group of volunteer eagle watchers and their families gathered on a gravel road.

Once the male arrived, the pair began its majestic aerial ballet, diving and gliding in circles while keeping an eye on their chicks.

The male eagle's screeches pierced the air, sounding like basketball sneakers scuffing a gym floor.

Down below, the young birds were taken to the side of the road on a white cloth so their beaks and talons could be measured and recorded.

"Are those real?" asked a young boy watching the activity.

The first bird to be banded took it in stride, watching docilely as his talons were untied and pulled apart for measurement, then rewrapped for the trip back to the nest.

"Birds of prey have a locking tendency, and you have to pull apart the talons," Mr. Shieldcastle said, stretching the yellow feet that the eagle will use with deadly results to tightly grasp its prey once it begins flying and hunting.

Because of their age, the sex of the two birds was hard to determine, Mr. Shieldcastle said. He estimated their weight at 9 pounds.

The second eaglet was not as cooperative, struggling as bands were clamped to his legs.

Each eagle received a red band, one P59 and the other P65, on its right leg, signifying it was a Lake Erie bird. A silver-colored band, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was affixed to the left leg.

Bald eagles were observed in 63 of the state's 88 counties in a statewide midwinter eagle survey. Western Lake Erie and the Sandusky Bay shoreline has traditionally been the state's eagle haven because of its abundant water and marshland for food, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The survey also reported that 554 bald eagles, including 329 mature birds with white heads and tails, were counted. The numbers surpassed the record 366 birds, including 247 mature raptors, seen a year ago.

Leisje Meates, the wildlife division's eagle volunteer coordinator at Crane Creek, said 185 eagle chicks have been identified this year, and some nests have three eggs.

In recent years, with the growth of the state's eagle population, the wildlife division bands fewer eagles, and no longer draws blood on a regular basis to test for toxins as it did a decade ago, Ms. Meates said.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078



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