Eagles On The Comeback
Inside the Outdoors, July 30, 2010

Recently, my wife and I have traveled down to Aspinwall near Pittsburgh to aid in our son’s moving to a townhouse he purchased. Along our travels, twice in the same proximity, she drew my attention to an enormous bird gliding overhead while she motored off the turnpike toward the Allegheny Valley tollbooth.

Now, most of us in our neck of the woods are familiar by now with two birds of prey that are gliders in every sense of the word – the regular and red-tailed hawks. A matter of fact, the latter is a more recent newcomer of the two. To my way of thinking, it has taken out a lot of the wildlife many of us have come to love to watch when we “take time to smell the roses,” the squirrels in Legion Keener Park, and the rabbits throughout the city. A matter of fact, people have approached me and asked the very question, “Why aren’t there any rabbits in Latrobe anymore? There used to be lots of them.”

I know there are some babies, but in all honesty, I fear for their lives. Once these critters are removed, there will be none to reproduce. We older folks have more time to enjoy nature, if we care to do so, and we like to see little animals running about.

Anyway, getting back to my wife’s viewing, she told me the birds she sighted were so much bigger than a red-tailed hawk. That reminded me of a story the Pennsylvania Game Commission put out. Titled, “Bald Eagles are Soaring in the state once again,” I think writer Joe Kosack, wildlife conservation education specialist, hit it right on the head, as the story goes, when he described what we believe my wife was seeing.

He pointed out that if one is a resident of the northeastern counties; it is a common sighting to see these birds overhead. She has seen it three times during three trips. That makes it common to the Allegheny Valley as well.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, bald eagles are now nesting in 56 counties. Back in 1983, only three nests remained in the whole state, and they were located in Crawford County. So, it is obvious. They are on the comeback.

Breaking down what the PGC has so far tallied, there are two active nests in Wyoming County, one in Luzerne County, two in both Columbia/Montour Counties, and one in Carbon County. The remaining five counties have a greater amount: Crawford, 22: Lancaster and Pike, 16 each: and Mercer and York, 11 each.

The PGC has documented 192 bald eagle nests.

According to Doug Gross, a Game Commission endangered birds biologist, “It seems likely that Pennsylvania has eclipsed 200 bald eagle nests, but until they’re found or confirmed, we’ll stick with what we know from our official count. Each year, this nesting snapshot becomes more complicated to develop. And this year was no exception, given the increasing numbers of eagles and areas they now occupy, and the cold, blustery conditions Pennsylvania endured this past spring,” he said.

It seems that eagles are hanging out a lot along the Leigh and Susquehanna Rivers, according to sightings.

For the PGC to get an accurate count on where particularly the nests may be found is depended, to a great deal, on local birding enthusiasts to monitor actively at area sights.

In 2009, “the June nest count was at least 170; that amount increased by four by the year’s end.” If someone is out and about and wishes to scout for eagle nests, according to the PGC, “they are among the largest nests of all birds. If one should happen to find such a nest, he is requested to contact the PGC using the Internet by logging onto pgccomments@state.pa.us. Use the words “Eagle Nest Information.”

There are number of counties whereby eagles have not been accounted for. Maybe you want to help out the Commission by scouting the following counties to see if any big nests can be found. They are Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Cameron, Fulton, Franklin, Greene, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Susquehanna, Union, and Washington.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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