Fewer eagles spotted this year

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Each year, toward the end of January, Roaring River State Park employees take time to tour the park and count the number of eagles and other birds living around the trout stream.

Although park employees usually count around a dozen eagles, many believe there are probably dozen others living in or around Roaring River during the winter months.

This year, park employees counted seven Bald Eagles in Roaring River, which is four less than staff members counted in 2007.

"Probably more than anything the count was down due to the time of year,"?said Tim Smith, park naturalist. "We saw less birds this year than last year overall.

"I think it had a lot to do with the weather conditions," said Smith. "It was partly sunny and windy with a low temperature below freezing and a high in the 40s."

Although few of the nation's eagles are counted in the park each year, the staff members take the job of counting bird species very seriously. Employees start at one end of the park and count birds an several stops throughout the park.

"We count around the amphitheater, near the hatchery, behind the hatchery, along the river, in campground #1, at Camp Smokey, around the nature center, at the stables, in the lower campgrounds and along the glades,"?said Smith. "It takes between four and five hours to complete the count depending on how many species we see."

This year, in addition to the seven Bald Eagles that were counted in the park, staff members counted 247 birds that made up 28 different species.

As March 1 approaches, the majestic birds will leave Roaring River for quieter grounds but eagle watchers know that the these feathered friends will be drawn back to the trout park next winter.

Those who long to see the eagles in their natural habitat will have an opportunity to do so next November when Roaring River begins hosting eagle viewing programs again. Programs are usually scheduled in November, December and January of each year.

"I think people really enjoy the ability to see the eagles," said Smith. "They learn some information about eagles during the program, but I think seeing them is what they like. Most people never get to see an eagle as close as they are able to here."

Individuals attending the eagle viewing programs normally see around a third of the eagles counted in the park each year.

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