Bald eagle nest spotted near Lake Carnegie

Amid continued reports of sightings, state DEP reports it has found a nest.

By: David Campbell , Staff Writer
Princeton Packet 02/10/2004

The eagle has nested. Repeat: the eagle has nested.

Around this time a year ago, sightings of an American bald eagle in the vicinity of Lake Carnegie and the Kingston lock stirred some feathers in the Princeton area.

Opponents of the Millstone Bypass promoted the bird, which they insisted could be nesting, to highlight the area as a wildlife refuge that should be protected — but state wildlife experts held that the birds were probably just passing through on their migratory route.

Last week, however, the state Department of Environmental Protection said an eagle's nest has indeed been found in the Princeton area. According to DEP spokesman Peter Boger, who confirmed the find, specifics about the location could not be disclosed in order to protect the site from human interference.

Ridgeview Road resident Lincoln Hollister, a geology professor at Princeton University who a year ago was among the voices crying in the wilderness over the sightings, said Monday he and fellow conservationists feel their earlier warnings have now been proven correct.

"All of us working for preservation of the Millstone are feeling very vindicated," said Mr. Hollister. "The eagles are the wake-up call that we need to focus on preserving some real treasures we have in this area."

The university professor said he recently spotted two eagles soaring above Sayre Drive — this time he has the pictures to prove it — but now, he continued, the question is whether the eagles will be like a canary in a coal mine.

"That is, are the waters in the area too polluted for eggs and babies to survive?" he said. "We have something to watch."

When it comes to watching the skies, Mr. Hollister is not alone.

Sandra Shapiro of Wycombe Way in West Windsor Township said she and her husband were walking on the Delaware & Raritan Canal towpath about a mile north of Harrison Street last month when they spotted an eagle do several flybys overhead — apparently, it was busy nesting.

"When we saw the eagle, it was carrying a very long stick, about as long as its wingspan," Ms. Shapiro said. "Ten minutes later it flew back across Lake Carnegie, landed on a tree, then went to another tree, then flew back in the direction from which it came. It was just incredible when we saw it."

Ms. Shapiro said she filed a report with the DEP, and later was told about the nest by one of the agency's wildlife data specialists.

Robert von Zumbusch of Princeton-Kingston Road said he has spotted at least one eagle — and on many occasions two — every day for about a month from the windows of his residence at the old Kingston mill, which is just downstream of the Lake Carnegie dam.

"They're coming here frequently because there's open water for fishing, but they may actually be building their nests somewhere else," Mr. von Zumbusch said.

Rosemary Blair of Princeton-Kingston Road said she and her husband, former Princeton Township Committeeman David Blair, have seen the eagles in the environs of their house, which is across the road from Mr. von Zumbusch's house, for several weeks.

"We're very excited they may be calling it home for nesting," Ms. Blair said. "I can see them from my upstairs bedroom window. They're quite distinctive because of the white heads. We're very excited.

"It makes a big difference on issues like the Millstone Bypass and I-92," she continued. "These are endangered creatures and at risk."

According to the state Division of Fish and Wildlife's 2003 eagle report, the last year witnessed a record high of 40 bald eagle pairs sighted during the nesting season.

As a result of past use of the pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1972, the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state had declined to only one by 1970 and remained at that level until the early 1980s, the report said.