A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing this article.
I was asked to write an article about the pair of bald eagles that has been nesting continuously at Cowan Lake State Park since 2013. This was the first pair of bald eagles ever documented to nest anywhere in Clinton County since record-keeping began pre-1900!
I have watched this nest every year, so I was in the process of looking though my records in preparation for writing a mostly statistical and historic article.
Then, I got a phone call from a friend who said someone told them a new pair of bald eagles was nesting near the Wilmington Air Park.
To say I was excited was an understatement; I drove out there to try and locate it a few hours later.
Over the years, several bald eagle nests have been “reported” — but they have always turned out to be either osprey or red-tailed hawk nests. We have been waiting years to get a second Clinton County bald eagle nest.
Now, I’m happy to tell you — we have our second nest!
The recovery of the American bald eagles, since the banning of DDT in 1972, has been remarkable. In the early 1970s there were only four known nesting pairs left anywhere in Ohio, and they were all up near Lake Erie.
At that time, each nest was so precious, the Ohio Division of Wildlife dedicated personnel to observing them 24/7 during the nesting season to make sure they weren’t disturbed. Then, when eaglets were successfully hatched, Wildlife personnel climbed every nest tree and banded all the young eagles.
This commitment went on for decades as the bald eagle population in Ohio slowly eased its way back from the brink of extirpation.
Today, it’s estimated we may have as many as 300 active bald eagle nests in our state. This year, the Division of Wildlife is conducting a comprehensive, statewide survey of bald eagle nest sites with the assistance of the public. Wildlife personnel will verify all reported new nests, and a few months from now, we should know if the bald eagle recovery in Ohio is still going strong.
I feel the need to throw in just a couple of statistics about the remarkable pair at Cowan Lake. The year 2020 will be the eighth in a row they have nested there.
On average, it takes bald eagles five years before they get their iconic white head and tail feathers and are old enough to begin reproducing. Assuming they were each 5 years old in 2013, that means they are at least 13 years old now.
During the previous seven years, this pair successfully fledged a total of 10 young eagles, and they have eaglets in their nest again this year. In the wild, bald eagles often live 20-25 years; a few even longer.
So, Cowan Lake should continue to be one of the best spots in this part of Ohio to see these magnificent raptors.
Young bald eagles wander widely during their first four years of life. But a significant number do return to the same geographic area where they were raised, when it’s time to take a mate and settle down.
I can’t help but romanticize a little when I look up at this new nesting pair and wonder if one of them was once a small, gray, fuzzy eaglet I watched grow up in that nest at Cowan Lake.
I hope so.
Bill Schieman is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who volunteers at many state and local parks in the area. If you would like to contact Bill, email him at cowanlakestatepark.com or at littlemiamiwatershednetwork.com .
Both organizations are 100 percent volunteer staffed and are 501(c)(3). New members are always welcome!