Monday, April 22, 2013

Mid-winter survey shows above average bald eagle population on APG

CBARR resident photographer Dave Kline snapped
photos of bald eagles on Jan. 29 near Building 3942.
Eagle Awareness Training in effect for employees working down range

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Our national bird is making a comeback! Nearly six years since being removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, the bald eagle is now flourishing across the nation—particularly at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Md. where 72,000 acres of land and water provide an ideal nesting ground for the birds.

According to the Garrison’s Department of Public Works – Environmental Division, 203 bald eagles were counted on post with an additional 25 birds counted along the Susquehanna River during the 2013 Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey, which was conducted on Jan. 6. The 228 total bird count is above average for the last six annual surveys. The population increase was not unexpected, the report stated, given the cold weather in the Northeast and mild weather in Maryland. The survey route included shoreline and tributaries of APG, as well as the shoreline of the Susquehanna River north to Peach Bottom power plant.

“As far as ECBC goes, Maxwell Point has several bald eagle nests,” said Matt Jones, environmental scientist for ECBC’s Environmental Quality Office. “The eagles, as you can tell by their population, have adapted and                  obviously thrived here, even through 10 years of war and a very busy workload. APG has done a good job of implementing policies to protect the eagles and ECBC has supported those policies.”

APG is home to the highest density of bald eagles in the northern Chesapeake Bay region and comprises 7 percent of Maryland’s breeding population. Though bald eagles are no longer endangered, they are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits the killing, wounding or trapping of eagles. Attempting to disturb the eagles is also prohibited. The Army, in cooperation with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office, developed a Bald Eagle Management Plan requiring mandatory workforce awareness training for any activities that can cause significant environment impacts, including testing and training operations that may interfere with the breeding, feeding or roosting of the birds.

CBARR resident photographer Leah Usmari snapped
photos of bald eagles on Jan. 29 near Building 3942.
According to Jones, the designated nesting season on APG is from Dec. 15 to June 15, and the 500-meter buffer zone around nests is fully enforced during this time. The mandatory Eagle Awareness Training must be completed on an annual basis for employees who work down range near the eagle nests, which typically have between one and three eggs in the nest by the end of March. Cameras monitor the nests to know when the last eaglets fledge the nest, usually in late May or early June, Jones said. Aerial surveys in helicopters are also conducted at least once a year. Employees are encouraged to adhere to the signage downrange and avoid outdoor work during the nesting season, however regular traffic on main roads through the buffer zones is accepted.

“They’re curious creatures,” said Jones, who also gives the training to visitors traveling down range and writes record of environmental considerations twice a year for M-Field activities. “Though the numbers have gone down considerably, it’s not uncommon for the eagles to fly into the power lines.”

 According to Jones, a heightened number of these incidents nearly 10 years ago resulted in protective actions by APG. Thousands of reflective flappers have been installed on electrical power lines and insulators now cover the conductors and transformers, which have significantly reduced the number of eagle mortalities on Post. In 2012, there was one mortality and two injuries that resulted in euthanasia for eagles on APG. But there was also a success story when an adult male eagle that had sustained electrocution burns from power lines at the  Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, was released on Edgewood’s campus after being rehabilitated at the Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark, Del.

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