The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to drastically change their daily routines, but for nature, it is “business as usual” on Fort Gordon, as one recent discovery indicates.
“About a month ago, I was out scouting some endangered species we have on Fort Gordon – the red-cockaded woodpecker – looking for some trees to put some inserts in after they do a harvest there … I looked up, and there’s a big nest,” said Zach Blunk, a wildlife biologist with Fort Gordon Natural Resources Branch, Directorate of Public Works.
Eager to know more about the nest, Blunk spotted an American bald eagle in it a couple of days later – making the discovery both an exciting one and somewhat of a headache – but mostly exciting, he insisted.
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife removed the bald eagle from the federal endangered species list, but they remain protected under several federal laws and regulations and are listed as “threatened” under the state of Georgia, Blunk explained.
With plenty of well-stocked bodies of water for bald eagles to feed from, bald eagle sightings are not uncommon on Fort Gordon or along the CSRA.
“We have over 450 acres of managed ponds and lakes around here for fishing, and that’s mostly where we see them – along those chain lakes that we have and we manage,” Blunk said.
“Most of the populations here in Georgia are on the coastal counties, next to the ocean and the rivers, and I think that’s why we’re developing more populations around here with the Savannah River being so close.”
Finding a bald eagle’s nest, on the other hand, is not so common.
Now that the nest type has been identified, Fort Gordon’s Natural Resources Branch is working closely with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to ensure everything is being done to help preserve it.
“We’ve contacted the state biologist in charge of managing bald eagles, who has provided us useful information and guidelines for protecting the nest,” Blunk said.
Fort Gordon has ordered signs and will post them notifying the public of its presence, and access to the lake nearby will be restricted during eagle nesting season, which runs from October 15 through June 1.
Due to current restrictions on aerial camera, drones, etc., Blunk is only able to get low vantage views of the nest, but hopes that will eventually change.
“We’re hoping to get some access to be able to bring on [aerial cameras] for special circumstances just to see if they fledge or not, because it’s around that time that the nestlings should have fledged.”
Until then, he will continue monitoring it as closely as possible.
Reflecting on recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth Day (April 22) and the eagle’s nest significance, Blunk said now is a great time to “sit back and appreciate” nature.
“We’re seeing things rebound and persist … it’s nice to see that things are starting to come back with the work that we do with restoring the habitat and ecosystem process,” Blunk said. It’s an indicator that we’re doing good with our habitat restoration and ecosystem restoration that we’re doing for these endangered species, and also for the health of the forests out here.”