A few weeks ago, my husband told me about a bald eagle nest not too far from our house. He said that he and a few of his co-workers had spotted one of the eagles hanging around the tree line near the highway and talked about how big it was. It prompted us to google facts about bald eagles and learning that they could have wing spans of up to six feet. I didn’t quite believe him when he told me that fact and that he thought the one they had spotted could have easily been that big.
But I was pretty excited about the prospect of seeing a wild bald eagle. Even though they were delisted from the endangered species list in 2007 and sightings of eagles are more common place now, I couldn’t remember ever seeing a wild eagle that I was aware of. Since sightings of them in the wild were so rare just a couple of decades ago, they still have a certain mystic about them. And they just have an impressive presence that isn’t diminished by the fact that they are becoming more commonplace sightings.
This past Friday, when neither my husband nor I had to work and the weather was set to be nice, we decided to take a day trip to David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg, TN to hike some of the trails there. Our route to Lawrenceburg took us down the highway where my husband had seen the bald eagle and as we headed down the highway, we began to talk about the possibility of spotting the eagle again.
There is a creek that runs along the highway and several patches of trees close to the creek that borders what is mostly open farm land in that area. As we drove, we started to watch the tree lines to see if we could spot a nest or the eagle. We did spot one particularly large nest that we think may belong to the eagle. I’m not sure what else would build such a large nest. But as we drove on a little way from where we saw the nest, my husband suddenly pointed to a tree right on the creek and said he could see the eagle. Nearly, running us off the road I might add. That reminds me of this….
We pulled over since there were cars behind us and turned around so we could drive more slowly past the tree so I could see the eagle too, but I kept missing it. We turned onto what we thought was a rural road that ended up being someone’s very long driveway and drove to get even with the tree where the eagle sat and I finally got a good look at him.
I tried to take some pictures of him with my phone but I am hardly a photographer and wasn’t happy that I couldn’t really get a good shot of him. The tree where he was perched was on the opposite side of the creek from where we sat on the gravel road. I decided to get out and climb down the creek bank to get as close to the tree as I could to get a better shot. I was worried that getting out of the car and moving towards him would make the eagle take off. I am always trying to get pictures of the birds that come to the feeders at my house and they never stay still long enough to get any good pictures. But the eagle being an eagle was supremely unconcerned with anything I was doing as I scrambled down the bank and crept closer to the creek to take his picture.
The eagle sighting prompted me to do a bit more reading about bald eagles and their history. The success story of the bald eagle is a bright spot in conservation efforts of the last few decades.
In 1963, across the lower 48 states, there were 417 known nesting pairs of bald eagles. The bald eagle was officially declared an endangered species in the United States in 1967. In 1972, the chemical DDT was banned from use in the U.S after studies found it was interfering with the reproductive cycles of many birds, including the bald eagle. Nationwide re-introduction efforts began in earnest in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As of last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said there are 316,700 individuals across the 48 states. A little closer to home, here in Tennessee, there were no known successful bald eagle nests found in the state between 1961 and 1983. The TWRA began efforts to restore the population in 1980. The first successful bald eagle nest was found in the state in the spring of 1983 in Dover, TN.
These efforts have brought us to 2022 where we have the good fortune to be much more likely to spot a bald eagle in the wild. The thing is, I may very well have spotted some eagles before and just been in too big a hurry or not paying enough attention to notice. This particular eagle we saw on Friday is living in the same community I am. It’s likely we’ve run into each other before but I wasn’t paying enough attention to notice him. That’s why days like Friday are so important. We need those days to slow down and notice the things around us that actually matter.
We continued on to Lawrenceburg and visited David Crockett State Park for the first time. While there, we hiked the Shoal’s Creek trail and visited the museum on site to learn a little more about David Crockett. It is a really nice park and we are already planning to return sometime and maybe stay there for a couple of nights to be able to explore more trails and the lake. It was the perfect spring day, 70 degree weather, and we had a picnic lunch on the trail beside the creek where another little creek flowed into the Shoal. And then of course it snowed that night. Got to love Tennessee weather this time of year.