Bald eagle spotted in area
By: Matthew Kirdahy , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 05/27/2004
Chance sighting at Sondek Park
South Brunswick resident Mark Halmo called his meeting with America's
symbolic bird "chance."
That because when he returned to Sondek Park, the American bald eagle
was nowhere to be found.
Mr. Halmo had been walking the family
dog with his son, on April 27, when at about 5:45 p.m., he saw what he
described as a "very large bird" flying toward them. It was a bald
eagle, a bird that the state had no idea nested in Middlesex County.
Mr. Halmo told his story to the crowd
at the Route 92 public hearing May 20 at the Radisson on Route 1. He,
like many other residents, voiced their concerns about the
environmental impacts of the proposed highway.
"With a white head, white tail and leggings and a wingspan 5 to 6 feet
across, this was an adult to be sure," Mr. Halmo said. "To further add
to this remarkable sight, in its talons it clutched a rabbit. I am
doubtless as to the identity of this magnificent creature, as I have
had several other experiences with eagles in flight, namely at Merrill
Creek Reservoir and Preserve in Sussex County."
Mr. Halmo's bald eagle sighting wasn't
the only one made in recent weeks. Kendall Park resident Linda Bezek
said she spotted one on the patio of her Wheeler Road home on May 15.
She said she and her husband were in their backyard when a large bird
flew over head with a squirrel in its beak.
"It sat in the tree for 30 to 45 minutes," Ms. Bezek said. "We kept
thinking it was a vulture, but said a vulture is not that pretty."
She described the bird as large with brown feathers and a white head
and tail. Her daughter video taped the bird before it dropped the
squirrel and flew away.
Mr. Halmo of Julia Way in Dayton
mentioned the bird spotting during the Route 92 hearing because he is
concerned about the impact construction of the highway would have on
the environment, most notably on a bird that was considered endangered
not long ago.
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, New
Jersey Fish and Wildlife Division, in 1970 only one eagle nest remained
in the state. The bald eagle was listed as endangered under New
Jersey's Endangered Species Act in 1974 and listed as federally
endangered throughout the lower 48 states in 1978.
Prior to 1982, the number of bald eagles fell statewide with fewer than
10 bald eagles observed in the first annual survey in 1978. The DEP
said mid-1900s pesticide use decimated the population. Fish and
Wildlife tried to breed a new population of bald eagles by acquiring 60
bald eagles from Canada.
In April, the DEP announced that bald eagle numbers in the state are
increasing due to the efforts of volunteers who monitor bald eagle
nests and report critical data concerning incubation, hatching and
fledging dates, when the birds develop necessary feathers flying,
according to DEP wildlife biologists.
There are 49 nesting areas throughout the state, mostly south near
Delaware and Pennsylvania. There are even nests in Monmouth County, but
none reported in Middlesex County.
Since the sighting, Mr. Halmo, who considers himself to be an avid
birder and outdoorsman, said he has had no luck finding the bird, which
flew southwest after the initial sighting. He said that because of the
rabbit the eagle carried, it was likely headed back to its nest to feed
its young. He could not find the nest.
The DEP says there are usually two adults and two fledglings, or young
eagles, per nest. The eagles reach adult size by the time they can fly.
With age, their colors change and their size can increase to a wingspan
of 7 to 8 feet in males. During their fourth year, bald eagles begin to
appear as we know them on our national symbol. This is when they are
transitioning from juvenile to adult and appear for the first time with
white head and tail.
According to the DEP, bald eagle habitats consist of forests associated
with bodies of water.
Historically in this state, the birds have lived in forests near the
Delaware River and Bay as well as rivers that empty into the Atlantic
Ocean and Delaware Bay.
These large birds require a nesting
location that is safe from human disturbance, the DEP says. The
eagles build their nests among the taller trees in a wooded area,
enabling them to move in and out of the nest with ease. In the northern
part of the state, eagles can nest in trees that are on a slope because
of the hilly and mountainous terrain.
DEP spokesperson Karen Hershey said that anyone who wants to report a bald eagle
sighting or nesting area can visit the NJ Fish & Wildlife Web site www.nj.gov/dep/fgw . Click
on the wildlife tab on the left side of the page, which brings up a
menu. On the menu, click endangered and nongame species. On the
endangered and nongame species page, click on report a sighting of an
endangered or threatened species in New Jersey, under the resources