Volunteers tracking the fall migration of bald eagles at Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory have counted a record number of the majestic birds.
Since early August, 195 bald eagles have been seen by volunteers who perch atop Peters Mountain in Monroe County. They use a former U.S. Forest Service fire tower at the crest of the 3,812-foot peak in the Jefferson National Forest.
The previous record for bald eagles seen from Hanging Rock was 137, observed in 2010. The Charleston Gazette reports.
Hanging Rock has been the site of annual raptor migration counts by West Virginia birders since 1952.
Expected to continue for two more weeks, this year’s census also could produce a record number of golden eagle sightings. To date, 46 golden eagles have been seen. The record is 54, also recorded in 2010.
Single-day records for bald and golden eagles were also set this year.
On Sept. 30, 33 bald eagles were counted, more than doubling the previous one-day record of 16 set in 1996 and tied in 2010.
On Nov. 10, 11 golden eagles were spotted, topping the previous record of nine, established in 2009.
“It’s been a really good season, despite a lack of good wind conditions in October,” said Rodney Davis of Sweet Springs, a veteran Hanging Rock volunteer. He posts daily counts on the observatory’s website, www.hangingrocktower.org.
“I think the eagle population is increasing a little every year,” Davis said. “We’ve seen over 100 bald eagles a year for the past four years.”
From 1974 through 1994, bald eagle sightings at Hanging Rock never reached double-digit totals. Some fall migration seasons passed without a single eagle observed.
Biologists say the rebound of the eagle throughout the U.S. is primarily because of a ban on the use of the insecticide DDT. Eagles that ate fish, mice and other small animals with DDT accumulations in their bodies caused female eagles to lay eggs with abnormally thin shells. When nesting parents sat on the eggs, they often cracked the shells, killing the chicks.
While many of the bald eagles seen at Hanging Rock continue southward to wintering spots along the Atlantic coast or the Gulf of Mexico, others remain in the region.