Shocking News Out West!

What a thrill it has been for us to be able to watch a bald eagle cam.  We here in the Upper Midwest often do not realize how lucky we are to have bald eagles nesting fairly close to us. There are many parts of the country where bald eagles are not as common. Most of us probably know where we can go in our area to see an eagles nest, and as long as we stay back a ways so as not to disturb the eagles we do have that opportunity to do so. However, being able to watch the cam at home or work allows us to peek in safely round the clock.
Working here at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha I routinely here from visitors how glad they are to be able to see a bald eagle in the wild just outside our large picture windows.  For many people they just do not have the opportunity to see bald eagles in many parts of the country.  Therefore, I should recognize that as I hear that frequently enough, but I did not until I took a recent trip to Western Colorado and South East Utah for ten days. 

 I was in drop dead gorgeous country, some of the most beautiful in this country in my opinion, and I went from the mountains to the desert and traveled to and from there by AMTRAK, which travels along the Colorado River for more than 260 miles and on the entire trip, I saw only one bald eagle!  I am a naturalist, bird watcher and I work at the National Eagle Center so I was definitely looking for bald eagles.  This made me realize how I really need to cherish those views of bald eagles that I get every day and really listen as the visitor tells me how special it is to see an eagle.  It also made me think about a time between 1968 and 1972 when a 260-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Wabasha MN and Rock Island Illinois had just 1 nesting pair of bald eagles left, and the entire lower forty eight states had just 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles left.  Imagine how difficult it was to see an eagle then in most areas of the country.  Now that same 260-mile stretch of river that we know as the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge has over 260 nesting pairs of eagles and the lower forty-eight states now have over 10,000 nesting pairs, with over 2,300 nesting pairs in Minnesota.  So thankfully we have that chance to see eagles so commonly in our area, but there are some parts of the country where it more difficult to see eagles, so these web cams allow all of us no matter where we live to peer into their lives and learn a little at the same time.
I mentioned that I only saw one bald eagle on my trip; I should also mention that I did see several golden eagles, which for me was awesome, as golden eagles really trip my trigger.  Do not get me wrong, I still think bald eagles are cool; it is just that I think golden eagles are “slightly more cool”!  I should say that I saw more golden eagles because I was in better habitat for them, not a lot of water in the desert and the water in the mountains were moving way to fast to effectively catch fish if you are a bald eagle.

 I was very intrigued by the power poles that I saw northeast of Moab Utah.  These poles had a bracket that extended above where the pole normally would end and on top of that bracket was a plank of wood or literally a perch, a spot for raptors like a golden eagle to perch on.  Years ago many raptors, especially eagles were killed when they landed on power poles and both wings touched two different power lines and the eagles were then electrocuted.  Thankfully, many raptor groups have worked with power companies to change the spacing of the wires and to have perches like this for the raptors. Many power companies were more than willing to do so, because when that eagle was electrocuted it also many times also caused an outage for thousands of power company customers.  When I saw these perches on the poles near that prairie dog town, I had to stop and think how cool it was that these were placed out there for the raptors.  It was not that long ago in our past when any bird of prey was thought of a vermin, or a bad guy and should be shot on sight.  Yes, we still have work to do, like convincing even more people about the role of predators in the environment, but we have come a long ways.

Scott Mehus
Education Director