NJMC staffer Jim Wright, who keeps this blog, also writes a column every other Thursday for The South Bergenite. His latest, about local Bald Eagles at DeKorte, features a Ron Shields photograph. Here it is:
The huge birds came from out of the blue, during a guided walk earlier this month at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus.
One of the two dozen birders on the free nature walk had been looking at an Osprey along the Hackensack River when she thought she saw two large raptors soaring near the clouds.
“Bald eagles,” she exclaimed, and soon enough, all eyes were on the cumulus clouds high above the river. Another birder found the majestic birds silhouetted against the sky, and then another, and another — until everyone had gotten at least a glimpse of these birds.
As we turned to walk down along the river, someone pointed to the left and shouted: “More raptors!”
Rest of the story follows.
The first things we all noticed was the enormous size of these two new birds, and the whiteness of their heads and tails: another pair of bald eagles. Another eagle soon joined them, and for the first time in my life I saw three airborne eagles at the same time.
They rode a mass of rising warm air until they’d gained sufficient altitude to go into a power glide, and then all three peeled off and headed south once more.
A fourth eagle appeared and jetted on south as well. We did some quick arithmetic: In the span of a few minutes, we had seen six bald eagles.
There was a time not that long ago – 1973 — when there was only one nesting pair of bald eagles in the entire state. Now there are at least 80 nesting pairs in New Jersey, including one in the Meadowlands just to the north of the official district boundary.
The Meadowlands eagles had two young this year, and we are thinking that the bald eagles we see so frequently – in Carlstadt, Secaucus, Lyndhurst, North Arlington and Kearny — are likely these local birds.
The adults are easy to distinguish from the first-year birds. The adults have those trademark white heads and white tails, and a young bird’s head and tail feathers are much darker.
Also of note: One of the eagles has a small transmitter attached to its back. It was first photographed near Overpeck Park in Leonia in spring 2010, and we tried to use the presence of the transmitter as a way to learn more about the individual bird.
As it turned out, the transmitter had stopped working, but because of the red/black band on the eagle's left leg, the Meadowlands Commission was eventually able to determine that the bird was from Northern Manhattan, and was raised in captivity in 2004. Several years later, it has moved from Manhattan to the Meadowlands – just like a lot of people we know.
So, next time a huge soaring bird catches your eye, pay attention. To paraphrase the old “Superman” slogan: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an eagle!”