ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — To protect and monitor the installation’s thriving bald eagle population, the APG Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division – Natural Resources conducts an annual mid-winter eagle count.
On Jan. 10, a total of 201 bald eagles were counted along APG shorelines. Areas surveyed included Aberdeen peninsula, Spesutie Island, Edgewood peninsula, Graces Quarters, Carroll Island and Pooles Island.
The count was conducted by Environmental Protection Specialist Jessica Baylor, team leader for Natural Resources. The U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center provided a helicopter, pilots and a crew chief. Baylor has participated in the eagle count for more than 10 years.
Environmental Protection Specialist Lynda Hartzell, with Natural Resources, said APG is an optimal habitat for bald eagles because the installation’s shorelines are primarily undeveloped and forested with restricted human access. For more than 30 years, APG personnel have monitored, tracked and protected the installation’s bald eagles. At one time, she said, the bald eagle was endangered. It has since been delisted from the Endangered Species Act, so it is no longer considered endangered or threatened, but it remains federally protected.
“We are also surrounded on three sides by open water with an abundant supply of fish, the eagle’s main food staple,” Hartzell explained. “Any location close to open water is a good place to spot eagles.”
The top areas for spotting eagles, she said, are Shore Park and Top of the Bay on APG North (Aberdeen) and CAPA Field, Gunpowder Neck Marina and the Gunpowder boat ramp on APG South (Edgewood). APG’s diverse habitats support more than 200 bird species, including waterfowl, hawks, owls and many species of songbirds, she said.
Studying population trends and habitats
According to Hartzell, the count this year is slightly higher than the five-year average of 184. The mid-winter count is submitted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and ultimately feeds into a national database of mid-winter eagle counts for the lower 48 states, she said. The purpose of the mid-winter count is to gather information on long-term population trends and habitat usage. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service utilizes this information in permitting and other decision-making documents.
“This year’s count is slightly higher than the past five-year average but still within the expected range,” she explained. “Generally, we can see higher numbers when open waters to the north are frozen, forcing many of the eagles to move south into our region where the bay typically remains unfrozen. Eagles will move south to find open water for foraging.
“Windy wet weather will drive many eagles to hunker down in protected inland areas that are not surveyed,” she said. “Likewise, clear calm weather will bring the eagles out closer to open water and their foraging shorelines. It was cold but sunny and calm for this year’s count.”
The Environmental Division-Natural Resources has implemented other protection measures. These include:
- Installing protective devices on power lines to keep eagles from hitting the lines or contacting energized components. These devices include reflective line markers that glow after dark. They also buried power lines in areas that were hot spots for eagle line strikes.
- Conducting nest surveys during the breeding season to track nest occupancy and productivity and potential impacts from mission activities.
- Implementing 200-meter buffers around nests and restricting activity within these buffers. Road barricades and signs are posted in some areas to mark the boundary of the buffers.
- Providing eagle awareness training to our employees and tenants.
- Conduct real-time monitoring of mission activities to document any impacts, or lack of impacts, to the nesting eagles.
Important to military missions
Hartzell said the eagle count continues to be a critical component of our eagle management program, for documenting the installation’s compliance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act as the military missions continually grow and evolve to serve the warfighter.
APG’s eagle permit, issued to the installation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, requires the eagle count, Hartzell said. The Environmental Division – Natural Resources also surveys the nests for occupancy and productivity. They are currently tracking 110 nests and expect 70-80 to produce chicks.
“Our permit allows us to continue our mission operations while abiding by federal regulations in place to protect the bald eagles,” she said.
Reporting an injured bald eagle
If you spot an injured eagle, do not approach it or pick it up, observe it from a distance. Note the location of the eagle and call the APG police dispatch immediately, 410-306-0550.