The bald eagle’s presence in Southern West Virginia seems to be firmly established, right after 56 of the majestic raptors had been spotted by 39 volunteers final Saturday in the course of the 14th annual Winter Eagle Survey of the woods and waters in the Hinton region.
The volunteer observers, recognized informally as the Eagle Brigade of Southern West Virginia, include things like members of the Bibbee Nature Club, the Hanging Rock Migration Observatory, employees from the 3 Rivers Avian Center and Pipestem State Park, and interested park guests.
They scanned the skies for six hours from 12 observation points, from the Brooks Island Overlook on W.Va. 20 numerous miles north of Hinton to the mouth of Indian Creek at the south finish of Bluestone Lake, as effectively as points along the Greenbrier River east of Hinton.
Sightings had been most concentrated at the mouth of the Bluestone River, exactly where 21 bald eagles and 1 golden eagle had been spotted in the snowy, cloud-covered skies.
The 56 sightings recorded more than six hours on Saturday tied a preceding record set in 2015 for the early January observation period. Final January and in January 2017, 50 bald eagles had been observed at observation points along Bluestone Lake and the New, Greenbrier and Bluestone rivers south and east of Hinton.
The annual winter surveys started in 2005, right after former Pipestem State Park Naturalist Jim Phillips, his wife, Judy and other birders in the region started comparing notes about recurring eagle sightings in vicinity of Bluestone Lake.
To establish a additional than anecdotal record of the eagles’ presence, Phillips organized the 1st Southern West Virginia Winter Eagle Survey in January 2005, followed by related six-hour spotting sessions on January dates in subsequent years.
Only single-digit tallies had been recorded in the course of the Winter Eagle Survey’s early years, but steadily, the numbers started to arc upward.
In an work to document suspected nest-creating activity in the area, a March nest survey was added in 2008, and the 1st confirmed bald eagle nesting internet site was recorded in 2008 on an island in the New River on National Park Service land.
No records of bald eagle nests in West Virginia had been recorded by the state agency that preceded the Division of Organic Sources early in the 20th Century. It wasn’t till 1981 that the presence of such a nest was confirmed in a remote stretch of the Potomac River’s headwaters north of Petersburg. Now, 100 or additional nests are estimated to host breeding pairs of bald eagles across West Virginia.
Only 487 pairs of nesting bald eagles had been confirmed in the United States, excluding Alaska, in 1963. The bring about of the birds’ decline has been attributed to widespread application of the insecticide DDT, which entered the meals chain and brought on reproduction complications for eagles and other raptors. The use of DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, and its disuse has been credited in component with a national resurgence in bald eagle populations.
Volunteers, regardless of birding skills, are welcome to join in the Spring Eagle Nesting Survey, scheduled for March two and organized by Pipestem State Park.