Bird Initiative: The Bitter Truth

Each year, around the middle of January, many, many people across the country volunteer to participate in the National Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey (Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey).  We, the volunteers, work in teams, are sent to predetermined locations for the sole purpose of counting Bald Eagles.  The sightings are then tallied, analyzed and documented.  And yes, as you can imagine, I was, once again, one of "the many."


Dressing in layers Saturday January 14th, 2017 to brave the early morning 16 degree temp, I felt much more confident that in previous years.  I guess experience does matter.)  Although I had watched my granddaughter the day before, I was well prepared.  My backpack was filled with useful items...maps of our locations and routes, a spare hat, thinsulate mittens, earbags, tissues, protein bar, camera, wallet, scarf and my trusty water bottle.  This year, I was prepared for the colder temps when near the rivers.

Planning on meeting MBK,owner and founder of Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation & Education and several other volunteers from her group, getting up at four really wasn't that bad.  I was looking forward to it for days!  Anyway, before I knew it, the dogs were fed and had settled back in their warm beds for the remainder of the morning.  The Pres, still snoring, had his covers pulled up to his ears.  And me?   I hit the road.

When I arrived at our first designated spotting area, Danny was already there.  I met Danny several years ago at my first survey and was happy to see his truck when I pulled down close to the river.  Jumping out of my car and running over to his truck, I opened the passenger door and said, "Danny, do you remember me?" before stepping on the running board.  "I don't want you to think a strange woman is just climbing into your truck while you're sitting here sipping on that hot cup of coffee!"

NOTE TO SELF:  Next year, bring Danny something to go with his coffee!

Smiling broadly, the aging, gray haired man said, "Of course I remember you JP.  It's good to see you again."  Please understand, while Danny is not one of our volunteers, he is an active member of the Fish and Game Club, our first designated spot.  He agrees to meet us there so we can use the facilities if needed.  While he and I played catch-up on the activity of "my" pair, I told him how concerned I was about the recent days/weeks and lack of activity.  

You see, although I had been seeing and hearing my pair nearly every day since before Thanksgiving, I had not seen nor heard a chirp for nine days.  When you observe a nest as I do, nine days seems like an eternity.   Then, on Friday, the 13th of all days, I spotted one  of the adults soaring high and two hours later heard the familiar high pitched chirp.  That has been the only activity observed.  It continues to be silent.

Anyway...before I knew it, the rest of the group had arrived and it was time to begin our trek along the river.  

We saw no Eagles.  None.  None roosting, none soaring, none fishing for early morning nourishment.

Muskrat swimming in the icy waters, yes.  Ducks along the shoreline, yes.  Eagles, no.

 Disappointed because of not seeing a single Bald Eagle, yet with high hopes for a sighting at our second designated area, the group climbed into their van and headed out.  Hugging Danny tightly, I promised him I would send pix of this year's chick if the nest was successful and then climbed into my car to follow the others to our second spot, the dam.

Once again, not a single Eagle.  (However, we did see a very pale Red-Tail which reminded me of the book Lisa had sent me...Red-Tails In Love, a true wildlife drama which takes place in Central Park...great book if you haven't read it!)

After another hour trek on the railroad track that runs along the river, we climbed the steep hill near the dam, climbed into our cars and headed to our third designated spot.

We had all talked about the sightings in previous years at all three locations.  In fact, our team was the one with the most sightings last year.  We had seen both adults and immatures that year!

Our third location was the same.  Although we did see a gaggle of geese, on the river itself and a small flock of bluebirds in the woods near the river's edge, we, once again, saw no Bald Eagles.  (By the way, a gaggle is equal to or greater than five geese not in flight.)

And now, it was time to meet the other volunteers from TLGV (The Last Green Valley).  Meeting at a local restaurant for breakfast, we share details with each team.

Even after talking with others, I was disappointed.  Across TLGV, there were only seven Bald Eagles seen...some mature, some immature...but only seven.

And none of us knew why.

Our sightings in previous years had been closer to twenty.  With the tally sheets collected, the data will be forwarded to the State.  Perhaps they can give us some insight. Perhaps the absence of my pair can be explained as well.

just seeing, saying, sharing...

Bird Initiative:  The Bitter Truth

with you and those at


That must have been so disappointing....but golly.....what great shots you got.
NanaDiana said…
Oh- That is just so very, very sad! I am really sorry that you didn't see any eagles. Kind of heartbreaking really. Let's hope that some other place has acquired some new residents and that they are there. xo Diana
MadSnapper said…
maybe they have flown to Florida with the other snow birds. do eagle mind the cold? I hope they are ok..
Disappointing to be sure, but still sounds like a nice day spent with like-minded folks, JP.
Rambling Woods said…
Oh that is sad...I was hoping to follow your eagle tales....Michelle
Nora said…
I wonder where all the eagles are. Some days we will see four or five eagles here and then some days they are all gone to the rivers or where there is abundant food sources. We have resident eagles that live here all the time and have their nests each spring so people get to know them quite well. Our fish rivers bring in hundreds of eagles to feast on salmon in the fall.

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