- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

The eagle has landed and at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Md., it will continue to land throughout the winter.
Even wildlife experts in the field are surprised by the number of eagles seen at Blackwater.
"I had somebody from the Fish and Wildlife Service down here recently, and we were driving around, and she told me at the end of the day she had seen more eagles in one day than she had seen as an employee of the Fish and Wildlife Service in her entire life," says refuge manager Glenn Carowan. "People get so excited. They run into the visitors center and say things like, 'I just saw a bald eagle.'
"We get schoolkids who come in here all the time on bus tours, and that's a big part of our discussion with them. I've been all over the country, and outside of some places in Alaska, this seems to be the best place I know to see eagles. It's just a real haven for them."
The 23,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is one of nine such refuges on the Delmarva Peninsula. Its marshes and location on the Eastern flyway make it an attractive spot for more than 250 species of migratory birds such as Canada geese, snow geese, peregrine falcons and 21 species of ducks.
And, of course, eagles. According to Mr. Carowan and Maggie Briggs, the refuge's outdoor recreation
planner, fall and winter are the best times to see all the migratory birds and eagles. Mr. Carowan says from now through January, the eagle population will increase slowly as the birds arrive to start nesting in December.
"They lay eggs and start incubating eggs, and we'll have a number of breeding pairs at that time," Mr. Carowan says. "Interestingly, in mid-January is when we peak out in terms of both the nesting population and the wintering population. We'll have probably over 200 eagles by then."
Visitors can see the eagles from several vantage points along the refuge's five-mile paved drive. In fact, Mr. Carowan says it's "very rare" that visitors don't see eagles up close if they come early enough in the morning. (The refuge opens at 8 a.m. every day.)
Visitors also can stop by the visitors center, where they can view various exhibits and a video program on the refuge and also browse through a gift shop and bookstore. The refuge is scheduling two bird walks next month, on Dec. 3 and 10, each starting at 8 a.m. The refuge also is holding an open house on Dec. 2 and 3, when several children's programs are scheduled.
Thanks to strong preservation efforts during the past 30 years, the bald eagle is no longer an endangered species the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reclassified the eagle from "endangered" to "threatened." The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering making the same change, says Glenn Therres of the Maryland DNR. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering moving the eagle off the "threatened" list as well.
Mr. Therres, a state bald eagle biologist with the DNR, says 41 nesting pairs of eagles were counted in Maryland in 1977, and 270 pairs have been counted already this year.
Next to Blackwater, Mr. Therres says, the best place to see eagles in Maryland is Conowingo Dam, off the Susquehanna River in Cecil County.
"Below the dam in the winter, there's a number of bald eagles that come to take advantage of the fish that congregate there," Mr. Therres says. "There's public access below the dam and a parking lot."
Mr. Therres says other good eagle-watching places are along Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County, Eastern Neck Island National Wildlife Refuge in the Chesapeake Bay, and Merkle Wildlife Management Area in southern Prince George's County.


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