The first Friday in November turned out to be a sunny and mild day, and I took the opportunity during the afternoon to go to the Zane Gray boat launch. Though resident eagles were likely to be …
The first Friday in November turned out to be a sunny and mild day, and I took the opportunity during the afternoon to go to the Zane Gray boat launch. Though resident eagles were likely to be around, I was mainly looking for various waterfowl; there is a variety of different species of waterfowl here, depending on the time of year.
I hadn’t been there five minutes when a pair of eagles flew close over my head and disappeared downriver. I finished setting up my camera equipment, hoping that they would come back.
Less than a minute later, I heard an eagle vocalize behind me and it was close. It turned out to be the pair that flew close; they had landed downstream on the river bank, but hidden by sloping ground.
Just then, I spotted another pair of adult bald eagles coming towards me, and they landed in a nearby tree. One of the pair on the bank had flown to a big white pine near the Zane Gray Museum and started to vocalize at the pair in the other tree near me.
I looked at the pair nearest me and it appeared that the smaller of the two, probably the male, was on the left of the female, who appeared to be larger. A look through my telephoto lens showed that the male had leg bands on both legs.
Leg bands are used by various wildlife agencies to identify individual eagles, and other species of birds, at different times. Unfortunately, the male was pretty relaxed on its perch; the bands were mostly obscured by feathers.
After a few minutes, the lone adult in the white pine tree flew down to the river bank to join its mate, and the male on the nearby tree flew off to circle above the second pair by the river. As it did, I got a couple of good photos of the bands. The right leg had a blue color band with “R 21” plainly visible.
Around 2006, I was helping the NYSDEC and the NPS with a bald eagle status assessment project for the Upper Delaware; I had kept all my notes. Eagle R21 was banded during a nest survey and fledged from that nest about 10 miles upstream during 2006. During 2009, it was seen in the Mongaup area several times as an immature eagle, along with a lot of other eagles in the region that winter.
During the winter of 2013, R21 appeared with a female at a known nest in the Lackawaxen area; it apparently took the place of another banded male for that nest. The male had not been seen since October of that year.
There are more eagle nests around now, and at least three within the Lackawaxen area; it is possible that R21 and his mate could have come from any of these nests.
There are other banded eagles around, but a lot fewer, because the NYSDEC stopped banding on a large scale when eagles recovered enough to be taken off the endangered species list.
R21 is around 17 years old now and produced two young this spring along with his female mate.
Seeing a band on an eagle or other bird is known as a re-sight, and you can help researchers by reporting them to the USGS Banding Laboratory at www.usgs.gov/labs/bird-banding-laboratory.
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