Monday, June 28, 2010

Bald Eagles In The Sunday Creek Watershed

 By Joe Brehm
Rural Action
Environmental Learning Program Coordinator

Driving to Glouster from Athens last week en route to the Sunday Creek office, my gaze fell upon a large, brown bird in the middle of a small hayfield at the corner of state routet 682 and route 13. My initial reaction was to slow down and take a closer look. Upon doing so, I noticed the bird was ripping strips of flesh from a small animal carcass. I turned the car around and parked on the side of the road and watched this immature bald eagle devour its quarry. I was spellbound by its size, power, and intensity of its eyes on me—at about 50 yards, it could probably see me clearly enough to count the hairs on my head.

It takes eagles 3-5 years to molt into adult plumage that is characterized by a white head and tail, and deep brown body and wings. The juveniles have varying degrees of white on them depending on age, but are generally a mottled brown and white. This youngster was no exception, and I almost dismissed it as a turkey vulture.

Bald eagles are native to all of Rural Action’s watersheds, and have recovered well across much of Ohio after facing near extinction due to human use of pesticides and pollutants. Over 300 pairs of bald eagles now breed in Ohio, and some are colonizing areas where eagles have not been seen in decades. If we continue to value the stewardship of waterways such as Sunday and Monday Creek and improve their water quality, perhaps one of Rural Action’s watersheds will soon harbor a family of these mythical birds.