By Brianne Wilson
During rowing practice, I don't expect to have my attention to the water and the stroke of my oar challenged by wildlife, but soon I find that this is a drastic misconception. In the corner of my eye I get distracted by something, soaring as if it is in slow motion high over the water with its large and graceful down-swooping wings. I completely abandon paying attention to my stroke and rhythm of the boat, to the frustration of my team, and begin to appreciate the natural beauty of this massive bird. Suddenly with a sharp "cut through" the wind, and a tilt of its wings, the bird dives upon its prey, a silver carp, and snatches it from the water quickly flying away as if it was carrying nothing at all (Quest for Flight).
Once I get over the shock of such a large bird sweeping in and easily taking its breakfast from the water, I begin to wonder just what type of bird that was.
I soon discover that this was a sighting of the American Bald Eagle, and is one that was not possible only 21 years ago. According to Lee Sterrenburg, member of Goose Pond Board of Directors, it is also one that since the 1991 reintroduction programs had not been seen since the complete extinction of Bald Eagles from Indiana in 1897 (Sterrenburg, 2012). The reason for the loss of eagles from many states within the nation was due to the use of pesticides containing the chemical DDT, which interfered with the bird's ability to produce strong shells. The result of the weakened shells was the Eagles and other bird species to have failed hatches and plummeting populations (Bald Eagle, 2011).
The Indiana Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program began a program to restore the population of Bald Eagle to Indiana in 1985 – the Bald Eagle Reintroduction Project. Eaglets, young eagles, from Wisconsin and Alaska were brought to the state and placed into 25-foot towers at Lake Monroe, in Southern Indiana, in an isolated bay. When the birds were 11 to 12 weeks old they were ready to fly and be released.
This delicate process, called "hacking," achieved first success in 1991 (Bald Eagle Facts, 2004). Over the course of five years, 73 of these young chicks were released in Monroe County and once they reached adulthood at age four or five they returned to the surrounding area of where they were hacked. The outlook for the eagle population is a promising one, with a state record 120 pairs spread throughout the state and a 2011 population count that approached 150. Most of these nests are concentrated in southern or west-central Indiana along rivers or bodies of water (2011 Wildlife Diversity Report).
There is now an Eagle's nest and sightings in the wetland area of the Goose Pond in Greene County. This would not have been possible 20 years ago. The eagle population wasn't here yet, and the Goose Pond was still farmland.
Maps generated from the atlas project can be viewed here.
Wilson is a senior at Purdue University studying Ag Communications.