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Bald eagles nesting along Carmans River could be first

An undated aerial shot of Wertheim National Wildlife

An undated aerial shot of Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley. (Credit: Handout)

If you stop by Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley you just might spot a pair of bald eagles nesting along Little Neck Run, a small tributary of the Carmans River.

Little Neck Run has been closed to the public since May 1 to reduce possible disturbing of the nest, but will open back up next week. This might be the first pair of bald eagles in the history of the refuge to nest, coastal wetlands biologist Curt Kessler said.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t seen eagle nests here before,” he said. “It helps that pesticide DDT was banned in the 1970s and the eagle population has since increased.”

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Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007, but are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Kessler also mentioned that first-year breeding eagles can be skittish and easily frightened and may not produce young right away. But once eagles select a nesting territory they tend to use it for the rest of their lives.

“The pair of bald eagles tried last year, too,” Kessler said of their attempt to breed.

Eagles build nests between December and January in tall trees in undisturbed areas along the shorelines of rivers, marshes and lakes. Egg laying and incubation lasts just over a month, starting in February. Hatching and rearing happens between March and May, and eaglets make their first unsteady flights at 10-12 weeks of age, between June and August.

The refuge has monitored the nest to determine if eaglets were present, but found none.

To view the eagles, walk along the Black Tupelo trail at Indian Landing, which overlooks the Carmans River, and use a spotting scope or binoculars to view the nest.

For further information, contact the refuge at 631-286-0485. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“They usually come back to the same nest to keep trying as they keep building on the nest over time,” he said. “They do seem to be sticking around the area, so I think we’ll see them trying again next year.”

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