Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy July 4th and let's celebrate the Bald Eagle

Drawing of Bald Eagle flying over mountains and lake
    Here’s a success story that everyone can feel good about—the Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus.  It’s also appropriate to celebrate this amazing bird as part of July 4th Independence Day because the Bald Eagle has been the national emblem since 1782, a mere 6 years after 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was adopted. However, this beloved bird was moving toward extinction in the 1970s when it became a protected species under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.  What endangered the species is something that caused widespread loss of wildlife—the pesticide DDT.  This pesticide resulted in the weakening of eggs and death of newborn chicks.  It also threatened and weakened species that the Bald Eagles sought for dinner.

New York State took the loss of this bird very seriously and began an extremely successful reintroduction campaign in the 1970s and 1980s.  The Bald Eagle is no longer on the endangered species list.  The birds have become popular: there are bird cams in Washington DC and other parts of the U.S. where people can watch live the hatching of new life, the care of parent eagles, and the fledging of baby bald eagles.  In the Shawangunks near Mohonk Preserve, bald eagles have been sighted.  And I am proud to say that my contributions to this wonderful Preserve may have helped in their efforts to keep wildlife, both flora and fauna alive and healthy.  These mountains near New Paltz are one of the things that I will miss dearly when we leave our house and this area in the next few weeks.   

But I will always remember watching the bald eagles at the Rondout Reservoir in Grahamsville where we had a house in the early 1990s.  Watching these magnificent birds, sometimes with 7-foot wing-spans, in their aeries and especially in flight, is a sight that is truly unforgettable.  So perhaps I will find another house and another place to watch birds and nature—I sure hope so