BRECKSVILLE, Ohio - There are positive signs of bald eagle nesting in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. After losing the nest last year, park officials are not taking any chances. The park closed the area around the nest to human traffic.
The year 2006 was the first time in 70 years that a breeding pair of bald eagles were seen here. In the six years since then, the Cuyahoga Valley had three nests fail, but they've had three successful nests producing four eaglets. Ranger Brady Bourquin attributes the successes to the increasing quality of the environment in the park.
"If the river can sustain life that can sustain the bald eagle, then in some way shape or form the work that we are doing to help preserve this are is working" said Bourquin.
The nesting area is in the Pinery Narrows area, just north of the Route 82 bridge. The railroad tracks and 30-foot right-of-way on either side are closed to all pedestrian traffic, from the Route 82 Bridge at Station Road Visitor Use Area north to the railroad tracks at Fitzwater Road.
The Cuyahoga River downstream of the Brecksville Dam to the Fitzwater Road Bridge is closed to all water activities (boating, fishing and wading.)
Nesting bald eagles can be viewed from the Towpath Trail. There are signs posted along the towpath to help avoid entering the closed area. The purpose of this closure is to protect nesting bald eagles from humans. Human disturbances can disrupt the constant care needed for incubating eggs by both the female and male eagles. If the eagle is disturbed and leaves the nest the incubating egg, which is sensitive to extreme cold, may not survive.
The nest in 2011 failed so Bourquin said the pair may be trying again.
"It makes a lot of sense that this would be the same pair returning from last year that had their nest blown down during the winter time" said Bourquin.
Last year, the eagles built their nest in a dead tree. Strong winter winds blew it over. The eagle may shine as our national symbol, but they're not very bright. This year, it seems they again built their nest in a skinny dead tree. It was observed rocking in the wind.
"They've got to learn to do better" said eagle watcher Peg Bobel.
Nest-building and mating are ongoing. The eggs will incubate for about 35 days hatching one to three eggs sometime in late spring with fledgling coming in mid summer. The eagles are the talk of the park.
"Of the top 10 things people want to talk about in this park the bald eagles are them" said Bourquin, "Everyone wants to know what are we doing how they are we doing, are there more, is it growing, so it's a big item for people to talk about."
The surrounding areas will stay closed until July 31.
"So fingers crossed that this year it will work and they've got plenty of time and they've gotten a good jump on things" said Bourquin.
In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the federal endangered species list, but they are still threatened in the state of Ohio. Cuyahoga Valley National Park will post updates and pictures of the eagles' progress on their web site. http://www.nps.gov/cuva/bald-eagles.htm