[CT Birds] CT River Eagle trips: summary.

Boletebill boletebill at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 20 10:14:01 EDT 2007

Hi all.
     I thought I'd give a quick summary of the Winter eagle population trends on the CT River between Hamburg Cove (Lyme) and Essex/OldSatbrook. These observations are approximate and based on an average of six trips per week between Feb.3rd and March 18th. The first 4 weeks the river was frozen and impassable north of Hamburg Cove.  That means that these figures exclude traditional eagle holding sections such as Joshua Rock, Gillette's Castle and East Haddam Swing Bridge.
    Feb 3-9:        12-15 Bald Eagles. 4-5 Adults.
  Feb.10-16:       20-24 BE. 6 Adults.
  Feb 17-22::      22-25 BE. 8 Adults
  Feb.23 March 2: 30+ Bald Eagles.
  Ice break up opens up larger viewing stretch of river to Gillette's Castle.
  March 3-9:       16-18 BE.
  March 10-16     12-14 BE
  March 17 and 18 ( Last trip) 10-12 BE.
  These are very rough figures and just meant to give a little snapshot of the eagle population from my vantage point on the RiverQuest Eagle boat tours on the lower section of the CT River.  Sub-adult birds showed a good age spread with all age classes represented.  One day we had three birds that were showing all the field marks for a bird about to enter the fourth year; i.e. head beginning to turn white but still with osprey-like mask, tail mostly dull white but still a faint dark terminal band, and belly almost devoid of white feathers.
  Without giving away information that might be unwise to give on a public site I'd note that in all probably 6 of these observed eagles are year-round residents.
  Dark morph Rough-legged hawk was seen consistently from Feb 3 to March 8th at the Lord Cove section between Nott Island and Goose Island.LYME.
  No Golden Eagles seen. 
  Both Black Vulture (2) and Ravens (2) were seen consistently.
  We recently watched two two-year old eagles inter-act (mirror-flight, talon locking, diving passes) and they were promptly joining by a Raven that participated in the inter-action for 15 minutes.  The Raven continued to harass the two eagles and dove at an eagles back from above at least twice.  The day before we had seen a Raven perch on top of Joshua Rock.  This inter-action between Raven and eagles occurred in the same vicinity.  This seems like it may be an indication of territorial behavior on the part of the raven?? Comments?  Or are Ravens just downright pugnacious? 
  Black Vultures were observed twice roosting high on a dead tree on Seldon's Island near the exposed granite cliffs of the former granite Quarry site.  
  The Trumpeter Swan from Hull Island Ontario that I reported on has been joined by reports from two other Trumpeter's in Chester.  This is very interesting because when the Ontario re-introduction program responded to my email about swan #052 they told be to be on the lookout for others and that they EXPECTED that we'd see others here.  I'm impressed.
  Well, that's enough for now on CT River eagles.  I may add some behavior reports later because we saw many interesting inter-actions and eagle antics [;>].
  I just want to say it's a privilege to have the opportunity to introduce people, birders and the general public, to wintering eagles.  My feelings about turning eagles into a tourist attraction were initially sceptical but after doing this for 12 years and doing it full time for two seasons my feelings are that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.  We make every effort to impart a sense of respect for the birds and turn eagle watchers into eagle advocates and conservationists.  There's no better opportunity to grab the attention of kids and introduce them to the joy of birds and their place in Nature. 
                                                               Bill Yule

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