A bald eagle reportedly made a stop at Zoe’s on the Lake at Buckhorn in Weaver for a few days last week.
Manager Joe Albright said he has spotted bald eagles around the area about two times a year for the past decade. Most recently, Albright said he and friend Robert O’Day first saw the eagle on Jan. 14.
Albright said he saw the eagle on numerous occasions perched in the trees and hunting or eating near the bank of the pond of the property. At one point, Albright said he watched the eagle catch a 23-inch bass.
“Most of the time, it’ll sit up in one of these trees here and it’ll swoop down and catch something,” Albright said. “Then after it eats, it’ll fly over and sit in that big tree that doesn’t have leaves and it’ll sit and watch this pond for a little bit.”
Former Anniston Museum of Natural History curator Pete Conroy, who authored a book on rehabilitating raptors, said bald eagles were considered endangered when he was growing up, largely due to poisoning by DDT and hunting.
“It was a pesticide that caused the shell of a bird’s egg to become thin and made it crumble before the chick hatched,” Conroy said.
Fortunately, Conroy said DDT and hunting were outlawed and bald eagles were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species several years ago.
“Despite a comeback in the bald eagle population, there is nothing more special or exciting than seeing a bald eagle flying around or sitting in a tree,” Conroy said.
Albright said he believes the eagles keep returning each year because of the “fully stocked” pond.
O’Day said he and Albright first saw the eagle while it was eating near the pond, and initially thought it was another kind of bird. O’Day said he had seen bald eagles in Panama City and Mexico Beach, but this is the first time he had seen one in Northeast Alabama.
“I thought it was a goose or a duck out there,” O’Day said. “It was amazing. I’ve seen them before, but I’ve never seen them that close, let alone on the ground.”
In the few days the eagle was in Weaver, Albright said, it affected the area’s ecosystem.
“If you’re outside, you’ll know it’s here because you’ll here the birds chirping, and all of a sudden they’ll just shut up and they’ll duck down,” Albright said.
In previous years, Albright said the eagles came in groups. This time, he said he only saw one, and said he did not know what happened to the other eagles.
“Usually, there’s a pair with a baby. That one was so small that it may be the baby and it’s finally got his full, white head and tail feathers,” Albright said.
Renee Raney, superintendent of Cheaha State Park, said the eagle spotted in Weaver is most likely a breeding migrant, meaning it most likely flew south of its nesting territory in the northern United States or Canada in search of food in unfrozen waters.
“Our migrants arrive in late fall and stay through winter,” Raney said.
She said that eagle sightings have become more frequent over the years due to the Alabama Nongame Wildlife Program, a 1984 initiative started by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to restore the state’s bald eagle population.
Raney said the population also increased through the release of five eaglets in Jackson County in 1985.
“It’s been quite successful,” she said. “Add the migratory and non-breeding eagles to those 400 nesting adults and the chances of a sighting increase, especially near larger bodies of water… and on mountains such as the Cheaha in the Talladega mountain range.”