Eagle Watching

Bald EaglesBald eagles are more numerous in Pennsylvania than anytime within the last fifty years. That means there are more opportunities to see eagles for wildlife watchers. That watching comes with a price. Get too close to an eagle nest and the disturbance can be enough for the eagle pair to abandon the nest. With bald eagles into their nesting season now be careful of human intrusion near the nest site. We can enjoy eagles, but it is better to do so through good optics. The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers the following etiquette as guidelines for eagle watching to minimize their disturbance:

• Stay back! Keep at least 1,000 feet from an active nest, roost, or feeding area. Use optics like binoculars or a telescope to view the eagles at a distance.
• Quiet please! If you must talk, whisper.
• Cover up! Use your vehicle or boat as a blind; eagles often are more alarmed by pedestrians.
• Be cool! Avoid sudden movements — and movements directly toward the eagles or the nest — while on foot or in a vehicle or boat.
• No flushing! Don’t make the birds fly. Flushing an eagle off a nest may expose the eggs or young eaglets to cold or wet weather or a nest predator. It also wastes precious energy and may cause them to leave a valuable meal behind or abandon a nest that they are constructing.
• Pay attention! Watch how the eagle reacts to your presence — if it acts agitated, vocalizes repeatedly, or starts moving away, you are too close!
• Stay out! Respect restricted zones. They protect eagle nesting areas. And you’re breaking state and federal laws if you enter them.
• Privacy please! Respect the privacy of the landowner. Don’t tell everyone about a new eagle nest. It will attract people to nesting areas who will not use proper etiquette and other unnecessary attention to a nest. If you unexpectedly stumble onto an eagle nest, or hear an eagle vocalizing overhead, leave immediately and quietly.

If you find a new nest, report it to the PGC endangered bird biologist, Patti Barber, including details about location. Her mail is: patbarber@pa.gov. To learn more about bald eagles and eagle-watching in Pennsylvania take advantage of the wealth of information on the PA Game Commission’s web site. See: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=978032&mode=2

Few sights are more thrilling than a bald eagle at its nest or in action along a shoreline. Enjoy eagles but make certain your presence and behavior do not have a detrimental effect on the eagles or their future use of the area. Keep your distance from eagle nests and roosts and eagles feeding on the ground. Respect their space.

Calling all bird lovers

Osprey and chick at the PPL Lake Wallenpaupack Preserve.

Osprey and chick at the PPL Lake Wallenpaupack Preserve.

Did you know that PPL’s environmental preserves have been directly involved in efforts to raise awareness of birds and their habitat, and to restore peregrine falcons, bald eagles, ospreys and other bird species to Pennsylvania? Through a “Bird Town” alliance with the Audubon Society, PPL works to raise awareness of birds and their habitats through education, awareness and training activities.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Here is a chance for all bird lovers to become engaged.  The National Audubon Society is seeking participants for The Great Backyard Bird Count,   an annual four-day event from Feb. 15-18 that engages bird watchers in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.

Anyone interested in volunteering to take part in this event can grab their binoculars and sign up here: http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html.  Volunteers provide important information on the status and trends of our bird populations.

To learn more about PPL’s commitment to birds of prey throughout Pennsylvania, we invite you to read and follow our blog.

PPL Eagle Viewing Trips

Bald eagle overlooking the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Bald eagle overlooking the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Our PPL eagle viewing bus trips are today and we saw lots of activity on the morning ride along the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers. We started our day inside with a short presentation by Katie Lester on bald eagles and what PPL does to help protect and conserve them and their habitat.

Once on the bus it wasn’t long before we spotted our first eagle perched over open, unfrozen water. Large numbers of eagles migrate to this area each year for a number of reasons, one being the release of warmer water from PPL’s Lake Wallenpaupack hydroelectric plant. As the water exits the power plant, it flows into the nearby Lackawaxen River. We were a little worried at first as we traveled along the frozen Lackawaxen just outside of Hawley, but as soon as we passed the power plant the water was freely flowing and we saw our first eagle soon thereafter.

The morning group viewing an eagle from the bus.

The morning group viewing an eagle from the bus.

We made our way along the Lackawaxen until it meets the Delaware River where we stopped at the boat launch to get a closer look at an eagle perched in a popular tree overlooking where the rivers meet. Another reason that there has been a resurgence of eagle populations in the Upper Delaware River region is due to the conservation efforts of the “perfect partnership” between the Eagle Institute and the Delaware Highlands Conservancy. Each week from Jan. to March, volunteers monitor eagles at this particular boat launch in Lackawaxen, PA, as well as other locations in the region. Our group got a closer look through the viewing scopes that the volunteers had set up for visitors. It was a beautiful sight!

Bald eagle perched along the Delaware River. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Bald eagle perched along the Delaware River. Photo by Sarah Hall.

In all, we saw 19 confirmed eagles this morning, 11 adult and 8 immature. We saw an additional 13 on the way back, but we can only count these as extra “sightings” because they could be the same eagles we saw on the way there.  Our afternoon trip is out now, and I can’t wait to hear how many they saw!

Are you seeing any eagles out there? Share your photos and experiences with us on our new PPL Preserves facebook page!

-Sarah Hall, Lake Wallenpaupack Preserve

Christmas Bird Count at Lake Wally

There couldn’t have been a more beautiful day to conduct the Christmas Bird Count this year. I think we were up before the birds on the morning of December 15 because as we set out for a long day of birding by hiking the Wallenpaupack Creek Trail early, we didn’t hear or see a thing. It had us a little worried at first, but it was a frigid morning so we knew that as soon as the sun came out over the trees there would be more movement. We were right; as we made our way back to the end of the trail to head to our next location the birds were waking and warming up in the sun. It really fueled us to get moving and count as many birds as we could until sundown.

Canada geese on Lake Wallenpaupack

Canada geese on Lake Wallenpaupack

In partnership with Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society, our primary focus at the public Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center count was to ‘bird’ the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack. Other birders, some volunteers but most members of NEPAS, would focus on filling in the rest of the 15 mile radius around White Mills, PA that would encompass the larger count area.

Our first exciting find was a juvenile Bald Eagle perching in its usual spot right at the end of the Tafton Dike, overlook the lake. If you look at this tree in the early morning or evening, you are likely to see one here as it is a favorite spot for wintering eagles. From there we bounced from place to place but essentially covered several coves from Spinnler Point all the way around the dam on the north side of the lake, following the shoreline to Cove Haven. The highlights of our count were the bald eagle, 44 buffleheads, 4 common goldeneye, 3 hooded merganser, 3 common loons, and one loan horned grebe.

Bob, Joan, and Gary, our CBC participants

Bob, Joan, and Gary, our CBC participants

Participants of the larger count, including us, sighted 2,693 birds throughout the day. In addition to our interesting sightings around the lake, the group also spotted several red shouldered, red tailed, and rough legged hawks, 1 barred owl, 4 green winged teal and two irruptive species that were particularly great finds. Periodic bird irruptions are exciting in that we get to see some species that don’t normally winter in this area. A lack of food or drought in their normal wintering areas can make them ‘irrupt’ to areas where food is more plentiful. In this case, 32 common redpoll and 8 white-winged crossbill were seen.

Overall it was a great day to participate in citizen science and a wonderful opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air before it got really cold and snow began to cover the ground. Keep your eyes out for bald eagles wintering around the lake, and if you have feeders at home you might even see some of those irruptive species!

-Sarah Hall, PPL Lake Wallenpaupack

Special Visitor

 

Juvenile Bald Eagle on Osprey perch. Photo by Sarah Hall.

We had a special visitor here at the dam today! There has been a lot of chatter around here about a juvenile bald eagle hanging out on and around the dam lately, and I finally caught it on camera! Last week we had visitors come into the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center to ask if there was an eagle nest around because they had spotted it on the osprey perch near Route 590. At that time, we had only seen the juvenile eagle once on the morning of the first dam tour during Wally Lake Fest on Aug 25, but this week we have seen it perching on the gear house of the dam, and today it was on the Osprey nest closest to the learning center on the Route 6 side of the dam.

Juvenile Bald Eagle. Photo by Sarah Hall.

 

It’s much too large to be a first year juvenile. Its brown wings and body are mottled with white in varying amounts. When it flew away from the perch, I could see its white tail feathers were becoming more prominent than its white head. It takes 5 years for a juvenile to attain adult plumage. Its talons and beak are bright yellow, just like an adult. It’s a mystery where this particular eagle has come from. It could be a returning juvenile from several of the nests in the area, including the Kipp Island nest site, or it could be a migrant from the North hanging around Lake Wallenpaupack for a good meal. It was a beautiful sight to see and I’m glad it stuck around long enough for me to snap a few pictures!

 -Sarah Hall, PPL Wallenpaupack

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