The bald eagle, the national bird of the United States and a magnificent bird of prey that for decades held a sacred spot on the endangered species list (it was taken off the list in 2007), has a presence on the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation.
Or at least that’s presumed to be the case, based on documentation by scientists in the past few years and a sighting as recent as a week ago.
Kelly Roy, an environmental scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and wildlife management coordinator for the reservation, said he spotted a bald eagle near White Oak Lake last week.
Roy noted that scientists had confirmed two eagle nests in recent years on the 33,500-acre government reservation. One was discovered in 2011 at Poplar Creek to the west of the East Tennessee Technology Park and another in 2013 along Melton Hill Lake about four miles downstream of Clark Center Park. He didn’t want to be too specific for fear of public interest creating a disturbance.
Eaglets were successfully fledged from both nests, according to Roy, but he said eagles apparently did not occupy the nest near ETTP in 2015. He said also there has been no recent confirmation of eagles at the Melton Hill nest, but he said an attempt to confirm its status will likely be made this summer.
Bald eagles actually have a pretty long history at the government reservation in East Tennessee, which was originally established for the World War II Manhattan Project.
Roy said Louis A. Krumholz recorded the presence of bald eagles in the early 1950s as part of ecological studies of the White Oak Creek watershed.
However, there was a long period without any documentation in Oak Ridge, perhaps until the 1990s. The bald eagle population declined across the nation because of the use of the pesticide DDT, and it took a long time — with the help of legislative protections — to bring the numbers back up.
“We had a really long lapse in the record until about 1994,” Roy said this week. “For about 30 years, there were very, very few sightings.”
Roy said the bald eagles are believed to be year-round residents on the Oak Ridge Reservation, but added, “They can be difficult to find September through November.”
He said at least six eaglets successfully fledged from the two Oak Ridge nests between 2011 and 2014.
Meanwhile, Roy said the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has tagged golden eagles — outfitting them with transmitters — and tracked them to Cumberland, Anderson and Morgan Counties so far. “But to our knowledge they have not occurred on the (Oak Ridge Reservation),” he said.
“In conjunction with TWRA, we may establish a golden eagle bait station (on the Oak Ridge Reservation) later this year,” he said.
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