By Derek Stoner, Family Programs Coordinator
Running late on Wednesday to meet up with William Ryan, director of Bucktoe Creek Preserve, I turned onto Sharp Road and witnessed a stunning sight overhead: an immature Golden Eagle flying at treetop level, circling tightly in beautiful sunlight. I pulled the car over, grabbed the camera, and snapped off some photos as the eagle drifted to the southwest.
Getting back to the car, I found my cell phone ringing. William was watching the eagle from the top of the hill, where he’d witnessed the majestic bird glide across the hayfield in front of him, just six feet off the ground!
Golden Eagles are uncommon migrants along the East Coast, travelling through primarily in the months of November and March. We have seen 12 Golden Eagles fly over the Ashland Hawk Watch so far this fall.
On rare occasions, a Golden will winter in the mid-Atlantic, usually in marsh or grassland habitat that offers plenty of small mammal prey. The Golden Eagle’s smaller head, longer tail, and different flight style distinguishes this bird from the more-common Bald Eagle. A Golden’s wingspan is an impressive 7 1/2 feet!
This Golden Eagle was a new bird for the long-running survey at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, and became species #190 for the list. What an exciting sighting!