Over the weekend, I finally got out and rode around Cass County a bit with Dean R. It was Saturday and quite nice considering the below-normal temperatures we’ve been experiencing since, what, November? This day was sunny with a slight southeast breeze, which may have contributed to our success.
By success I mean the final tally of bald eagle sightings, 126 in all.
Supposedly this is a state record. I would only say that with the burgeoning population of bald eagles all over the continent, this is a record soon to be broken. The cool part? The famous Hawk Ridge in Duluth, MN only counted 44 bald eagles that day. All things being equal, it might be one of the only times we ever beat Hawk Ridge in any raptor count, spring or fall.
When I happened to mention the count on the state’s bird listserve that evening, I received a comment from a research statistician at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research. He wrote, “Wow–remember when bald eagles were endangered!?” Indeed I do. I had to drive over into Minnesota (Tamarac NWR to be specific) to see my first one. That was decades ago. Today the bird is hardly noteworthy as it pertains to important sightings.
The eagles this day were largely roosting in shelterbelt trees early (see photo), then many were flying north. Later in the afternoon most of our sightings consisted of roosting birds once again. We checked three of the four known bald eagle nests in Cass County; all three held birds which were very likely incubating eggs.
At one stop we counted 11 birds, some roosting, others flying about nearby. Despite the every-day nature of seeing bald eagles any more around here, it was still satisfying to watch these birds move through. Even more rewarding was just plain getting out of town after a long dismal winter.