Volunteers needed for 2015 eagle count

Staff Report

APPLE RIVER, Illinois — The Eagle Nature Foundation (ENF) is seeking volunteers to help with its 55th Annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Count to be conducted Jan. 24-25, 2015.

This annual mid-winter bald eagle count is being conducted throughout the Midwest from northern Minnesota to Louisiana.

The count is a one-day, basically a two-hour count on Saturday, with Sunday being used only if weather or health does not allow a person or organization to count the bald eagles in their own locality on the official count day.

At least 90 percent of the eagles will be counted before 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 24. Each year, some counters start the day by counting the bald eagles that can be seen leaving their nighttime roosts, while it is still so dark that the birds are only silhouettes flying overhead. Some conservation organizations use teams to count the bald eagles as a project for their club. Counters have used cars, boats and airplanes to count the bald eagles during past years.

This annual count was started and coordinated for the first 20 years by the late Elton Fawks from Moline, Illinois. Terrence Ingram, president of ENF, from Apple River, has been the coordinator of the count for the past 35 years.

This count has been the most important bald eagle count in the nation for many, many years,” Ingram said. “It was the first results of this count in the early 1960s that truly documented the decline of the bald eagle in the nation. Now, this count is the only factual account of how our eagles are reproducing in the Midwest. Since the USFW removed the bald eagle from the Endangered Species List, there has been no funding for agencies to remain involved in the monitoring of the bald eagle’s reproduction. Most all of the reproduction records are just estimates, or extrapolations, of how many young have been raised.”

The last few years have documented that a low percentage of immatures were being seen during the count. This is almost the same low percentage that the count had recorded in the mid to late 1960s. The cause for this low percentage of documented immatures on this count is unknown, and any possibilities have been purely speculation. It could be that the immatures have been raised and are living somewhere else, or something could actually be affecting their survival, such as starvation, poisoning by chemicals, such as Roundup or neonicitinoids, or a disease, such as West Nile virus, or they may be killed by vehicles or wind turbines after they leave the nest.

Organizations and volunteers for this count are needed all across the Midwest. ENF would like to document the bald eagles that may be found all along the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Louisiana, as well as the Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Rock, Pecatonica, Iowa, Maquoketa and Wisconsin rivers, plus many of the historic inland wintering areas the bald eagle has used in the past.

Anyone interested in helping with this research to document our changing bald eagle population by counting the bald eagles in their own area on Jan. 24 should contact Ingram at ENF, 300 E. Hickory St., Apple River, IL 61001, or phone (815) 594-2306 to get the necessary count forms and to receive their area.

From the Dec. 17-23, 2014, issue

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