Just Created! Bald Eagle Bird Watch

by Sarah Amador


   Last Sunday, we saw the America Bald Eagle again, across the river from our house. It was morning, coffee time. My husband Philip called me over to the window, and we watched it settle on the hill. The white head of the bird stood out clearly against the new green grass. Philip ran around the house trying to find the binoculars, letting me soak up all the time staring at the eagle. At one point, I was looking at an eagle high on the hill, at a fish jumping out of the water, and at a deer standing in our yard in front of the river. Three wild animals right there, all in the same moment!
Philip handed me the binoculars just in time to focus on the eagle, watch it jump on something, then flap its wings and leap into the sky. It flew upriver.
That made the third American Bald Eagle sighting for Philip this week in our Duncans Mills neighborhood. Last week, he saw a bald eagle flying in the thermals above a kettle of turkey vultures. It swooped down past the vultures, plucked its prey from the hill, and then flew south. It moved its prey from talon to talon in order to shake grass off,  holding its prey captive all the while. On the next day, during a walk with our dogs, one flew right over him, over the tops of the redwoods.
More and more bald eagle sightings on the lower Russian River have been reported this year, so many that birders are beginning to ask questions like these: Gualala has a nesting pair—is the same pair coming down here? Are they nesting?
To answer these questions, we’ve joined with David Berman, Programs Director for Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, and created a new online discussion board at Yahoo! Group. It’s called the Bald Eagle Watch (bewrussianriver.org). Our goal is to collect and record evidence of bald eagles on the lower Russian River.
I’d like to think we have our own pair, and they are nesting, since my husband and I saw a pair back on “Canoozday” (my first 101 Travel Blog) and one of them had a large branch in its mouth. According to Jenner birders, a pair has taken up residence north of the estuary for many months out of the year, for some time now.
When I was little, no one ever saw bald eagles. Not one of my parents or relatives had ever seen one. In the 1960s, the bald eagle population had gone down to 450 breeding pair. In 1967, bald eagles were declared an endangered species. But what was the population like in our nation like before Columbus arrived? Most ornithologists believe that every lake and river had bald eagles. They estimate that the bald eagle population was at half a million.
Not many species have been strong enough to be removed from the endangered species list, but the bald eagle did so in 2007. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, our nation now has an estimation of 9,789 bald eagle breeding pairs. California has an estimation of 200 breeding pairs.
Have you witnessed the majestic flight of bald eagles lately on the lower Russian River? If you have, help us keep track of their growing population by posting on bewrussianriver.org. (You can do so by visiting https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/dir, and then browsing for our group by typing in “bewrr.” This Yahoo! Group is a public discussion group. Simply subscribe at bewrr-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and then post at bewrr@yahoogroups.com.)