Bald eagles have been spotted in the trees on Mary's...

Bald eagles have been spotted in the trees on Mary's Island in Massapequa. Credit: P. Rossetti Photography

Murray Liss travels on the Wantagh Parkway every day to take care of his elderly aunt in Long Beach. A bird watcher at heart, the Lindenhurst resident tends to keep his eyes up on the trees and telephone poles. On a recent drive, Liss was so shocked at what he saw, it caused him to pull over.

“I couldn't believe it. I’ve never seen a bald eagle in this area and I’ve lived here my entire life,” says Liss, 68. “I stared at him for a half-hour, totally in awe.”

The national bird of the United States of America can be found in various hidden sites throughout Nassau and Suffolk, if you know where to look.

“They choose a location based on available food source and safety. Plus, they make sure they are not in another bald eagle’s territory as every nest has a 5-mile radius,” says Robert Schwartz, founder and the administrator of the Bald Eagles of Centerport organization, who has monitored a bald eagle’s nest 24/7 in Centerport for seven years with a livestream camera on YouTube. “Long Island has all these natural resources and inlets that offer a tremendous amount of easy, secure fishing. It’s not like they have to go in the middle of the ocean to catch a fish. For them it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

Long Islanders are heading out for walks to search for bald eagles spotted in Massapequa. Credit: P. Rossetti Photography

A current Facebook group that’s gaining popularity is BEAM — Bald Eagles at Massapequa. Here more than 4,300 members are focusing on a pair of eagles nesting on Mary’s Island in the center of Massapequa Lake off Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue in Massapequa.

“You’d think you would have to go out west into the mountains or down south to see bald eagles. But they are right here in Massapequa,” says photographer Steve Pires, 67, of Wantagh. “Here I am 5 miles away from my house taking shots of an animal I’d never thought I’d get the opportunity to photograph. It’s very gratifying.”

SOUTH SHORE NESTING

Two years ago, Dan Fliller, 69, of Bethpage, was in his waders fishing for largemouth bass in Massapequa Lake when he spotted a bald eagle flying overhead with a 6-foot wingspan.

“He was carrying a stick to help build a nest. We watched the construction go on for weeks,” says Fliller. “Nobody can get to the nest as no boats are allowed in the lake. They picked a nice spot.”

The nest runs over 6 feet wide and several feet deep atop a tree 100 feet in the air where a male and female bald eagle reside.

“If the eagles are sitting out on a branch you can see them or else you need binoculars. Whoever lifts their head up from the nest, you can catch a glimpse for a quick second,” says Steven Kelly, 60, of Farmingdale, who walks to the area daily with his boxer, Brutus. “The female sits in the nest, then the male will take his turn. One is always guarding the nest while the other will disappear for hours returning with food.”

FINDING FOOD

Eagles are scavengers who will eat everything from squirrels and rabbits to ducks and fish.

“They are lazy and go for whatever is easiest,” says Schwartz, whose group of more than 35,000 members has raised over $100,000 for wildlife rescue. “Eagles would rather find something dead than use energy to kill it. But that’s never stopped them from grabbing a fish.” They are not a threat to small pets, Schwartz adds.

A bald eagle feeds on fish in Massapequa.

A bald eagle feeds on fish in Massapequa. Credit: Johnny Langton

Watching the bald eagles fish is one of the most desired actions to witness or capture with a camera.

“They circle around in the air watching the water, waiting until the fish is near the surface. Then they rapidly dive in to grab it with their talons. It’s really amazing to watch,” says photographer Patricia Rossetti, 50, of Farmingdale. “I got a shot of an eagle flying out of the water with the fish. But there’s a lot of waiting time and they move so quickly.”

CLICK AWAY

Residents have been monitoring their actions by taking photos and videos from along the shoreline and posting them in the BEAM Facebook group daily.

“Their activity is completely random. Sometimes you can be there for hours and not get a single picture,” says photographer Johnny Langton, 24, of Massapequa, who goes to the location twice a week, bringing his Canon camera with a long telephoto lens. “That’s the thing with wildlife, you never know what they are going to do, which is what I love about it. Every day is different.”

Recently, the BEAM Facebook site has been buzzing as some eaglets hatched from their eggs.

Nancy Viscardi-Ricigliano, of Massapequa, grabbed some snaps of the mother tending to the two fuzzy-headed eaglets.

“This little guy is very active,” she says in a recent post singling out the aggressive one. “We know who the trouble maker is going to be.”

Using a telephoto lens, local resident Donald Nedbalsky was able to capture two eaglets in the nest sparking all kinds of comments on the site from Long Islanders.

Schwartz, who has photographed and witnessed the process 13 times in Centerport, says, “The male takes over the parenting role. He teaches them how to scavenge and fish as well as protect themselves so they can start their life. They stick around the nest for the first few months, then the parents see them off and they find other eagles to congregate with.”

The eaglets sport different aesthetics from the parents. They don’t have the traditional white head or white tail yet. Plus, their beaks are black not yellow.

Fliller once had a close encounter with a baby eagle that was a mere 20 feet away.

“One of the babies left the nest and crash-landed into a tree right next to me. He sat there for 40 minutes then got up and flew away,” says Fliller. “They are resilient, awesome creatures.”

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