Our New South Bergenite Column: Banded Eagle

NJMC staffer Jim Wright, who maintains this blog, writes a twice-monthly column for the South Bergenite. His latest is on that banded Bald Eagle seen on Disposal Road Last month.

Bald eagles have made an incredible comeback in this region in recent years — to the point where they are almost a common sight.

But the Meadowlands had never experienced what occurred in the mid-January:  A majestic bald eagle sat atop telephone poles and in trees near DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst for two consecutive days.

The weather was dreary, so the raptor probably wasn’t much in the mood to fly. It didn’t mind if birders and photographers got close, so long as they stayed in their vehicles.  

(Unless you are on the other side of a body of water, an eagle will typically high-tail it if you get within 100 yards.)

Equally amazing, photographer  Louis Balboa snapped a photo of the bird (above) with a lens that was long enough that he not only was able to see bands on both legs, but he could also read the number and letter on a black double band on its left leg: “9/V.”  

DSC_1905We were in business – we knew that the black double band represented what state it was from, and the letter and number provided specific information about that specific bird.

We e-mailed the data to the federal Bird Banding Lab, which replied two days later with the lowdown. The bird was banded as a nestling in May 2008 by Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection.

An e-mail to the Connecticut DEP yielded more information.  “That's great news!” replied wildlife biologist Jenny Dickson. “We always like to hear how our birds are doing once they grow up. 9/V … was banded on May 13, 2008, in Old Lyme, so it clearly likes a coastal view. He was one of two chicks that year. This nest is one of our oldest and most successful nests and is still active (hopefully that continues in 2013)!”

You may be surprised to hear that 9/V is not our most famous eagle — not even close. Our most celebrated eagle is called Alice, named for Alice Leurck, who photographed the raptor flying near Overpeck Creek in May 2010. The bird had a transmitter on its back and color bands on both legs. The left leg had a red/black band, and the right leg had a silver band.

From that information, and doing a bit of homework, I learned that the bird was from northern Manhattan and had been banded as a nestling in 2004.

Although the transmitter no longer worked, it was still useful: Alice the Eagle is fairly easy to identify.  As it turns out, Alice really likes our region, to the point where she and her mate have built a nest in Ridgefield Park and had two eaglets in 2011 and two more last year.

Alice is on the nest once again, so folks are keeping their fingers crossed.

Thanks to bird-banding, we are learning more and more about our local eagles.

NJMC Communications Officer Jim Wright maintains the Commission’s daily nature blog, meadowblog.net – featuring beautiful photography and the latest info on the region’s natural wonders. His new coffee-table book for the commission is “The Nature of the Meadowlands.”

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