Bald Eagle

All posts tagged Bald Eagle

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

On October 12, I led a program called the Cape to Cape Hawk Watching Adventure for the Delaware Nature Society. This program was originally the brainstorm of Bill Stewart, but he was unable to lead the program on the scheduled date, so I stepped in for him. The idea was to visit the Cape May Hawk Watch, then take the ferry over to Lewes, and visit Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch for a full day of raptor migration.

As planned, we trekked to Cape May, leaving Ashland Nature Center at 6am, and arrived around 8am. The sky was swarming with raptors like American Kestrel, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and many others. Hundreds of Pine Siskins and thousands of Tree Swallows swarmed by as well. The highlight, however, was an act of piracy by a juvenile Bald Eagle. It chased an Osprey that had a fish until the Osprey gave up and let go of its prey. The fish flew through mid-air over our heads, and in a move that would qualify it for Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, the Bald Eagle twisted around and snatched the fish. Amazingly, Hank Davis caught the transaction on his camera, and it is included in the short video below.

Also featured are other birds we saw that Hank photographed, including a rare Clay-colored Sparrow. The ferry was followed by a parade of gulls on our trip to Lewes, but Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch proved to be slow. Where did the hundreds of raptors we saw go that we saw pass Cape May? Apparently some may fly out over the ocean, up Delaware Bay, or disperse in some other fashion into Delmarva on their way south. The day of our visit was not one where they flew straight across to Cape Henlopen, which happens on many days. Enjoy the video, and pay each of those Hawk Watches a visit some time this fall if you can.

By Jason Beale, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Manager

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland is a popular location for naturalists in the winter.
Blackwater NWR near Cambridge, Maryland is a top location for winter wildlife watching on Delmarva. Photo by Ellen Sebastiani.

As the days shorten and leaf fall continues, birdwatchers begin to focus in on the legions of returning waterfowl and wintering raptors that fill the marshes and fields of the Delmarva Peninsula.  Few destinations are as unique and productive than Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, near Cambridge, Maryland.  Along with legions of Ducks, Geese, and Swans, the refuge hosts a tremendous number of wintering Bald Eagles – more than any other site on the East Coast, north of Florida.  But wait, there’s more!  Each year a few Golden Eagles find the vast, open habitats suitable for making a living during the winter.  In and around the forest, another distinct species keeps busy – the endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel.  This large, grizzled-gray squirrel only makes it home on the peninsula in scattered patches of open forest.

Despite being well-known winter residents, experiencing the sights and sounds of thousands of Snow Geese in close proximity is exhilarating. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Once again, Delaware Nature Society is offering a trip to Blackwater on Wedneday, December 7th.  Groups will depart from both Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford and the DuPont Environmental Education Center in Wilmington.  Both groups will depart from their respective sites at 7:30am and return around 4:30pm.

Tundra Swans are one of Delmarva's largest bird species. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

We’ll stop briefly at the visitor’s center before beginning our tour.  We’ll then travel the wildlife drive auto tour, with periodic stops and short hikes in wooded areas.  After a short lunch, we’ll tour the refuge perimeter and open marshes that fringe the Chesapeake Bay area.  Time permitting, we’ll venture to the Cambridge waterfront to look for Canvasback, Redhead, and other bay ducks that winter in the area.

Golden Eagles, like this juvenile, regularly winter at Blackwater. Photo by Derek Stoner

Blackwater Wildlife Tour

Wednesday, December 7th

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center: 7:30am-4:30pm

Member/Non-Member: $22/$30

DuPont Environmental Education Center: 7:30am-4:30pm

Member/Non-Member: $22/$30

To register, contact Fiona Smith at (302) 239-2334 x. 134. Dress for the weather and bring a bag lunch.

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

For the last four days, we have seen several Bald Eagles here at the DuPont Environmental Education Center in Wilmington, including two adults and a 2-3 year old juvenile. The juvenile looks considerably different than the adults, and is primarily brown with white mottling and without the familiar white head and tail. The white on the head and tail does not begin to appear until the eagle’s 4th year of age, and by its 5th year it has developed full adult plumage.

Immature Bald Eagle by Jim White

Immature Bald Eagle. Photo by Jim White

These may be local breeding residents, as three Bald Eagle nests are found nearby, but there is no way to tell for sure.  One pair nests at Churchman’s Marsh, another near New Castle, and a third at Hoopes Reservoir. They could also be migrant winter residents, as many Bald Eagles travel southward from the northern U.S. during the winter searching for an open water source that is not frozen over. Some stop in our region.

Adult Bald Eagle by Jim White

Adult Bald Eagle. Photo by Jim White

Delaware’s nesting Bald Eagles are either close to egg laying, or they have already started incubating their eggs.  Personnel from the Delaware Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Division of Fish and Wildlife, will begin surveying for reproductively active nests next week.  From a small airplane, they fly over known nesting areas to search for incubating birds, and will keep track of the nests this way through May to see which ones end up successfully raising young.  In 2009, there were 36 successful Bald Eagle nests in Delaware.  If you think you’ve found an active Bald Eagle nest, Natural Heritage wants to hear from you.  You can call them at (302) 653-2880 to report your find.

The Bald Eagles at DEEC spend much of their time sitting in the trees growing on the dike along the south side of the marsh.When the eggs hatch and it is time to start feeding young, hopefully we’ll get to see more fishing activity around DEEC.  Pay us a visit and stand on one of the elevated balconies to search for the local Bald Eagles.

Bald eagle sitting in a tree on the edge of the marsh by John Harrod

Bald Eagle sitting in a tree on the edge of the marsh at the Dupont Environmental Education Center. Photo by John Harrod

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

Last Saturday, our Teen Naturalist group took in the sights at the Ashland Hawk Watch and watched Bald Eagles and other wildlife at Conowingo Dam, MD.  Our objective for the day was to create a video of our experience, have a lot of fun, and see a lot of wildlife.  We accomplished all three and saw over 100 Bald Eagles, Double-crested Cormorants eating fish, and fishermen catching Striped Bass and Walleye. By the way, don’t eat the paw-paws until they are ripe.  Enjoy the video that we created.

If you know a teenager, at least 13 years of age, that would like to join the Delaware Nature Society Teen Naturalists, please contact me at (302) 239-2334 ext. 115. The Teen Naturalists meet once per month, volunteer for Delaware Nature Society conservation projects ocassionally, and take a week-long adventure trip every August.