Monday, March 19, 2012


After a recent butterflying trip we stopped by the Burlington County Fair grounds (aka the Columbus Sod Farms) as one of our party had spotted an eagle nest there on her work day commute.

It is rather small for an eagles nest, befitting its newness. It was not there last year, as a friend and I did a grassland bird survey there last spring, following up on a report of a vesper sparrow (we were asked as we both live relatively nearby). We were unsuccessful in that search. We did however find nine dickcissel, seven signing males and two females (a life bird for me). And the first male we found was signing from this tree. We'd be poor surveyors had we not seen an eagles nest!

Fortunately for our reputations we were not the only ones at the (closed) park gate, watching the nest. Two couples, locals who had been watching the birds build the nest and who just enjoyed seeing these magnificent creatures in their backyard, where there as we drove up. We were all at some distance and it was not clear if there was a bird on the nest (I think there is, but behind the branch). But there was at least one eagle in the neighborhood.

We all got great looks at this bird, who no doubt got great looks at us. He or she was also getting good looks at a trio of northern harriers who were hunting over the fields. Although it may not be obvious form this image (as always click any image to bigafy).

This harrier apparently flew a bit too close to the nest, and the eagle was having none of it ...

.. and was off, chasing the harrier away. But none of the harriers seemed at all concerned with their larger raptor neighbors, continuing to hunt the fields of the fairgrounds.


It is not clear if this property, part of the Burlington County parks system, is yet open to the general public. When we did our survey last year we needed a special permit to be on site. But the 2011 County Farm fair was held here as the park grand opening. The county website mentions that the plan is to open it to the public via a network of trails, future tense. But regardless, and as with any eagle nest, it is best to observe from a distance. This is even more true for a first time nest like this. And great views can be had from the perimeter of the site with binoculars (and scopes).

The continuing revival of bald eagles in New Jersey is a major success story of the Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act. 1973, the year the act passed, there was but one nesting pair in all New Jersey. Last year there were over 100 nesting pairs. Sadly, todays political climate has has little use for the lessons of the last century and seems hell bent on repeating past mistakes. The natural world has no value in their eyes. Very sad. Very sad indeed.

1 comment:

Chesney said...

You are so lucky to have access to this is really hard to get near the eagles in our area, let alone get a descent shot!