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Thread subject: Eagle Watch 2012
Name Date Message
Kelly 02/06/12 01:25 pm Yesterday I took in the 20th Annual Eagle Watch event at Sheffield Mills, in the Annappolis Valley, N.S. It was an awesome day!!!

I traveled down on Saturday and stayed at a friendâs cottage at Scottâs Bay (about 1.5 hoursâ drive). Sunday started out quite slow. Arrived at the official feeding site at 7:45am and there were only a handful of eagles. At 8:10 a fresh supply of chickens was put out but the eagles still chose to remain perched in the surrounding trees. Feeling discouraged, we set off at about 8:30 to take a tour of the surrounding area where other farmers are known to also feed the eagles, but came up empty ⦠there was the odd eagle now and then but certainly not the great masses as in previous years. One theory is that because itâs been an unseasonably mild Winter, lakes and rivers have not completely iced over so the eagles still have access to fresh fish.

After grabbing an early lunch, we set off again to the feeding site, arriving at approximately 11:50am. And there they were!!! Several were feeding on the ground and dozens more soaring around or perched in the trees. Iâd say there was close to 100 eagles in total (not a record count but still impressive).

It was extremely cold with a few snow flurries. My poor exposed fingers were frozen ⦠as you can appreciate, itâs somewhat challenging operating a camera with gloves on ⦠so off they came! :)

I took well over 200 pictures and a few videos. Some images are heavily cropped so clarity is not the best. And with the videos, especially the second one, I suffered from shaky-camera syndrome due to lack of circulation in my hands (thatâs my excuse and Iâm sticking to it! LOL) ⦠but it was so worth it! :)))

Spent a few hours when I got home last evening editing and sorting through the pics ⦠weeding them down to only 131 to share! LOL Hope you enjoy :)

Slideshow

Video @ 12:12PM

Video @ 12:22PM
Nancy L 02/06/12 02:07 pm That was fun, huh? It seems contrived, putting out the chickens for the eagles, but I know of similar situations with other wildlife. And...you get to see the eagles up close & walking, which normally you wouldn't see. Glad you had a good time, & for me, nice to see some snow.
FOB Webmaster 02/06/12 04:44 pm Boy, tons of eagles. Always neat to see so many in the trees -- like they're sparrows or something. :-)
Peter 02/06/12 05:51 pm eeyew?

Sorry to be cynical, but am I the only one who finds this a little off-putting?

Dead chicken carcasses attract eagles, which attract humans, who spend money for trinkets in the shop, etc.?

Sorry if I am speaking out of turn, as a newbie here, but this does not pass the smell test in my opinion.

Does the farm have to get a permit for this, even though Bald Eagles are not still on the Endangered Species List?

What would Mr. Puleston have said?
Kelly 02/06/12 06:13 pm Not sure, Peter, of the history of the event. But the Annapolis Valley is chicken farm territory and the farmers have been discarding carcasses for years. Which came first: the chicken or the eagle? LOL The eagles recognized a sure food source, so I guess the community realized the huge appeal this would have to the general public and decided to organize an event. It did not cost me a dime to go see them in a farmer's field. But with most - if not all - wildlife events and tours, there is a certain amount of revenue to be made ... that's business.
Pam 02/07/12 06:46 am Thanks for the wonderful slideshow Kelly. It looks so cold there - what you need is a pair of fingerless gloves and a couple of handwarmers tucked inside. I can just imagine the noise from all the clicking shutters as you lined up to take the pictures. Interesting to see that the mature birds had first go and then the younger ones were allowed to feed. Some lovely landing and flight shots there.
martyc35 02/07/12 02:19 pm Wow. Thanks for the hard work!
marty
terryo 02/07/12 02:45 pm Peter I can relate to a certain extent with you. It's sort of like when I go to Elizabeth Morton NWR to snap pixs of various birds, the trail is usually blocked with 6 or 7 cameramen/women sittting on their stools with their tripods set up using lenses anywhere in length from 8" to 16" for those close up "staged" shots. They put styrofoam cups full of sunflower seeds and guess who scarfs up the seeds, blue jays, cardinals, bc chickadees, tit mouse; w.c. sparrows etc. Where's the challenge in that? I'd love to be able to capture a pix of an eagle snagging a running rabbit, a live action shot, no "set-up staged" shots for this amateur. I realize at this point in their non-life, the chickens could probably care less - lol.
Tim P 02/08/12 10:10 am Thats just way too many eagles for anyone to observe at one time. ; )
Nancy L 02/08/12 12:23 pm My,husband, Jim will NEVER forget the day he & his fishing buddy were floating down the Delaware river when he heard a 'whomp, whomp' sound, which was the wings of an eagle who flew near-by & grabbed a trout from the river --- as if to say, 'This is how it's done, boys!' That photo is in his mind forever.
LeeG 02/09/12 07:49 am The eagle in Richmond had laid it's first egg. Happened yesterday. Can't figure, however, why they are not roosting on it as it's in the 30's here.
Kelly 02/09/12 10:22 am Perhaps some context is needed for anyone who requires a better understanding of wintering eagles, especially in Nova Scotia.

The following information is extracted from âBald Eagles in the Maritimesâ, 1994:

âAlmost 40% of newly fledged birds will not survive the first year. This emphasizes the value of feeding stations to young eagles, especially in winter.â

âIn autumn, young birds begin the drift southward, following river valleys and coastlines, and gathering wherever food is available. Food scarcity is the prime stimulus for winter movements.â . . . âIn Nova Scotia, resident eagles are occasionally joined in winter by young birds from Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland (the population is augmented by birds from Maine). In mid winter, with deepening cold and freezing of sheltered bays and inlets, these birds drift further southward or fly inland in search of food. Several hundred eagles may be seen when birds from various (coastal and river) sites congregate in one locality, such as an area of farms or fish plants where discarded poultry and fish remains are readily available.â

âIn recent years winter-foraging eagles have been helped by farmers and fishermen. In the 1960âs Cyril Coldwell [1917-1994] established a carrion pile in the Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia, to attract ravens for a banding study. The first two eagles appeared there in 1964. In the 1970âs the number of birds at Coldwellâs feeding site started to increase and by the 1980âs up to 50 eagles could be seen there at one time. This increase in eagle numbers coincided with the expansion of the poultry industry in the Annapolis Valley and the increased availability of chicken carcasses in pits and barn litter.â It is worthy to note that Mr. Coldwell maintained a winter feeding site for eagles and a raptor rehabilitation centre at his farm.

âToday [1994], there are a number of farms throughout the Maritimes, particularly hog and poultry farms, as well as fish-processing and aquacultural industries, that maintain winter feeding sites. While eagles of all ages visit these sites, they are especially helpful to young birds that are inexperienced in the techniques of foraging during the difficult winter period. These winter feeding sites are a primary reason for the increased number of eagles in the Maritimes.â

âStudies in Maine show that only 63% of eaglets survive the first year, and that this is increased to 73% where winter feeding sites are provided.â

So, the long-standing tradition of putting out chicken carcasses serves as an invaluable means of promoting the health of our eagle population and efforts toward eagle conservation. It is not based on entertainment value or the almighty dollar; though the general public has been given a unique opportunity in recent years to witness and appreciate eagles in great masses. âThe recent history of Maritime eagles is a story of successful conservation practices strengthened by public interest and involvement.â

I believe Mr. Puleston would give it 2 thumbs up! :)
Peter 02/09/12 10:45 am Feeding any wild animal an abundance of food may NOT promote the overall long-range health of the species, however. If the birds that live because they received handouts would have died without the handouts, then what are we really doing when we feed them? We are weakening their gene pool, aren't we?

Survival of the Fittest is a very long-range process of keeping the gene pool healthy with only the strongest individuals surviving (over centuries).

Is it tough on the human observers to watch the weak birds die off? YES! But it may be tougher to watch (over the next few centuries) the glorious bald eagle suffer because its gene pool was weakened by misguided human beings. It would not be the first time we have screwed up!

It is easy to be myopic about this.

Just one person's opinion.
Melanie 02/09/12 10:54 am Initially it had a definite "eeewwww" factor for me but, but put in that light it makes a lot of sense. Same idea as putting out a feeder in the winter, just with carion instead. Just be glad eagles don't like birdfeeders - could you just imagine the size of that feeder not to mention the cleanup? ;-P

And don't ever underestimate the eco-tourism dollars that birding can bring into an area.

Reminds me of the Eagle Lady in Homer Alaska who would put out fish remains from the local processing plants. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-300 eagles of all ages would show up. She took a lot of criticism for "turning our national bird into dumpster divers." And given the choice between eating something dead and expending the energy on live prey, they will go for road pizza. After she died, Homer passed a local ordinance banning the feeding of "predatory birds".
Celeste 02/09/12 11:45 am Kelly, wonderful job! All so very interesting, the photos, and the videos, including the "cold hands" video!

Reading all the comments, also so very interesting! On one hand, "we" humans are making it very hard for much of our wildlife to survive, on the other, I do understand "survival of the fittest". It's a hard call and I think Melanie's "both sides" gives one pause for thought!
Peter 02/09/12 11:46 am Thanks Melanie,

In my opinion backyard bird feeders fit theoretically into the same misguided vein, but of course the SCALE of one or two in one's backyard is minor compared to an entire industry putting all the hog and chicken offal out. I will try to find some statistics on how many TONS (I am guessing) of carcasses are tossed out in the open annually. I am guessing that the scale of this artificial food source would blow one's mind, not to mention upset the very long-term equilibrium of the bald eagles' gene pool.

Oh, and the almighty dollar signs being held up as justification for what to me is a terribly short-sighted practice, only raises another red flag in front of these eyes. If we charged admission to witness electrocutions, to offset the costs of running jails, would that justify them? An exaggeration, yes, but it illustrates the point with a bit of shock value.

The eco-dollars spawned by REAL birding is fine, but more is definitely less in this case. IMO.

An OFFAL situation, if you will!

I anticipate that some will find this discussion "off-topic" and I must disagree in advance. For bird-lovers to be enthralled with this event, mainly because so many eagles showed up, is as on-topic as any could be here. Sorry Kelly that this seems to be raining on your parade, but IMO bird watchers everywhere have some waking up to do.
Peter 02/09/12 12:27 pm After Googling the various terms here in the short time available, this PDF from the neighboring Province of Prince Edward Island has a rather blanket statement about feeding carcasses to wildlife. I imagine that Nova Scotia has similar guidelines.

PEI disposal of carcasses PDF

On page 41 of 42, to the right of the photograph under the heading Options for Disposal:

"Feeding carcasses
to wildlife is not an
acceptable disposal method
and should not be used."

I won't belabour the point (to use the Canadian spelling?), but this really is an offal situation which requires further introspection, especially by bird lovers everywhere.

'Nuff said.
Peter 02/09/12 07:04 pm What say ye, Mr. Puleston?

Dennis Puleston

What a heritage you left us!

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