As we reported on the return of snowy owls to the US last week, another part of the story was unfolding. According to news reports, one of the snowies flew into the engine of an airplane and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered airport personnel to shoot any other snowy owls on sight. Two of the owls were shot on Dec. 7.
An uproar ensued, with objections lodged by NYC Audubon and Change.org. The owls will now be trapped and moved away from the airport.
Read the update in The New York Times, here
Snowy owls aren’t the only raptors gaining attention from their possible deaths this week. Last week the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced new regulations that would extend wind farm’s golden and bald eagle take permits for another 30 years. The original permits were for five years. Among the conservation groups protesting the new regulation are the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.
Clarks Hill Lake in Georgia was home to seven bald eagle nesting territories a few years ago. Today, only one nesting territory on Clarks Hill remains. The culprit is Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy, or AVM, a mysterious syndrome that has killed thousands of coots and dozens of bald eagles in the southeastern United States, says a Georgia Department of Natural Resources newsletter.
While the exact cause of the syndrome is unknown, it is connected to the cyanobacteria Stigonematales. Stigonematales likes to grow on hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant. It appears as though the coots eat the hydrilla, which has Stigonematales growing on it. And the bald eagles eat the coots.
Bald eagle and coot deaths tend to peak around November of each year.
Bald eagle numbers are up in Georgia and Massachusetts, and a Wisconsin county has seen its first bald eagle nest in over 100 years.
In Wisconsin, an article in the Kenosha News reported that Seth Fisher, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician, flew over the nest, which is on private property in the southern part of Racine County. “It’s exciting to have this be the first nest in a long time this far south” in this region of the state, the article quotes Fisher as saying.
In Georgia, bald eagle surveys in January and March found 166 occupied nesting territories, 124 successful nests and 185 young fledged, according to a Department of Natural Resources press release. That’s an increase from last year’s 163 nesting territories and 121 successful nests, the release says, while the number of eaglets fledged dropping slightly from 199.
The Quabbin Reservoir and the Connecticut River remain the strongholds of the Massachusetts bald eagle population, the Worcester News Telegram reports. There is still plenty of unoccupied bald eagle habitat on the state’s ocean coastline, the article quotes Joan Walsh, coordinator of the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas for Mass Audubon as saying.
There were 107 bald eagles in the state during the last count, in 2011 and there were 38 nests last year, the News Telegram article says. Preliminary results from the state’s first spring survey suggested the state’s bald eagle population would continue to increase.
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is changing the timing of its annual survey of eagles from mid-winter to spring, according to a division press release (which I could not find on-line). The change is to better track the state’s growing breeding eagle population, rather than its over-wintering population.
“This is a good time to shift our focus to our growing population of resident, nesting birds,” said Tom French, Assistant Director of Natural Heritage and Endangered Species in the release. “For several years, we have been aware of resident eagles in areas where no nest has ever been found. By shifting annual surveys from midwinter to early spring, we hope to have cooperators and MassWildlife staff locate active nests for all known pairs and visit other bodies of water across the state to look for additional breeding eagles.”
Massachusetts began participating in the national midwinter count in 1979 when only eight bald eagles were reported in Massachusetts, the release says. The new Breeding Eagle Count will be similar to the Midwinter Eagle Survey.
More information on the survey will be available in a future issue of the Division’s MassWildlife News.
Photo by Dave Menke, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service