[Bristol-Birds] Making a case for ealge nest hunting in the Upper Holston rivers.

  • From: "Wallace Coffey" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bristol-birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2012 23:27:22 -0500


"January 20, 2011 - As you can see, there is a lot of distance between me and 
beautiful birds. What amazes me, no matter how far away you may be from them, 
are large in size and easy to find.". --  Jason Shupe, photographer.

A pair of Bald Eagles perch in a winter tree just days  before egg 
laying time near the Middle Fork Holston River west  of Chilhowie, 
VA.  Jason Shupe, a naturalist and eagle photographer, captured 
this photo in the Mill Creek Community of Washington County, VA
last year. Arguably, the slightly larger bird in the left back is not
fully adorned with white head and tail.  But females can mate 
without all the prime feathers.  The male needs to have the full
feathering of adulthood.  If this is a photo of a male and female,
then the larger bird would be the female.

One year ago (Feb 23), Martha Beth Graham, a kindergarten
teacher at Chilhowie Elementary School, saw a Bald Eagle 
along the Middle Fork Holston behind the school and took her
students out on the school field to see the bird. Note that our
South Fork Holston nest and the Avens Bridge pair at this
date, this year (Feb. 25), have been on eggs nearly a month.

Graham wrote the following to Richard Kretz:

Richard,   Thanks for the info about Bristol Bird Club tracking 
eagles!  Here is the information from the siting at Chilhowie 
Elementary. . . . seen in the  back yard and parent drop off 
loop along the Middle Fork of the Holston River   Feb. 23, 2011
The eagle was seen by several students and parents as they 
came to school between 8:00 and 8:30.  The eagle was in a 
tree near the river and then it dove into the river and 
came out with a fish in its talons....it put on quite a show!. . . . 
around 8:30-8:45  I saw the eagle in the back yard of the school 
roosting in a tree by the river.  I took a class of Kindergarten 
students out to stalk the bird ...we were able to get fairly close 
until the train went by and he flew down the river...."

Shupe says he saw a Bald Eagle along the Middle Fork Holston
in January 2012.

Bald Eagles began to make a show in the Chilhowie-Glade Spring
area in the winter of 2009-2010.  The Glade Spring Christmas
Bird County had been conducted decades without anyone reporting
a Bald Eagle until Dec. 29, 2009 when Jo Ann Detta and Marty
Huber saw one south of Lodi and Glade Spring in an area away
from water in Washington County but fairly close to the Middle
Fork Holston River.  That same winter, Jason saw a Bald Eagle
along the Middle Fork at Chilhowie.

Just a month before the bird caught the fish at the
Chilhowie Elementary School, Jason gets this photo 
(above) of a bird downstream in Washington County.

 On March 26, 2011, at a date when Bald 
 Eagles in this area would have nestlings,
 Richard Kretz captures this photo of an adult
 perched at the Buller Fish Hatchery (Smyth 
 County) near Sugar Grove on the South Fork
 Holston River.  This is no evidence of a nesting 
 pair but the date should make us pay close attention.

 As the nation's Bald Eagle population increases, so do birds
 flying past our hawk migration lookout at Mendota Fire Tower
 in Washington Co. and at other lookouts.  The wintering 
 population is increasing on area lakes.  The numbers on
 Christmas Bird Counts are increasing and two counts hit
 record highs this year.  Nests in the region are increasing.

 We have watched the migration of the Bald Eagles increase
 steadily at the Mendota FT lookout each fall from 5-7 birds per 
 season 2002 to 2006 up to 40 and 49 eagles per season
 for the past two falls.

 The Bristol Christmas Bird Count surged to a region record of
 6 Bald Eagles this past Christmas from an average of about
 1 bird per year for decades with a previous high of 3.  The
 Elizabethton CBC reached a record high 5.  

 The species has recovered so well that it has been delisted
 from the endangered species status.

 Bald Eagles are recorded every month of the year at Musick's
 Campground on South Holston Lake where we are keeping
 good records of birds seen. We have had multiple eagles there
 at one time several days this late summer into winter.  On 
 October 27, 2011 there were 5 eagles recorded on South Holston 
 Lake with 2 at Musick's, 2 on an island at the dam and a single
 bird at the TWRA ramp near Musick's.

 It would be easy to sleep right thru these cold, dark, winter
 nights into January and throughout February while a Mountain
 Empire population of Bald Eagles is busy nesting along many
 of our waterways and impoundments.  Of course, we would not
 miss a bird building right under our nose but they are not all
 that obvious. 

 Wallace Coffey
 Bristol, TN

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  • » [Bristol-Birds] Making a case for ealge nest hunting in the Upper Holston rivers. - Wallace Coffey