- The Washington Times - Friday, June 11, 2004

Two bald eagles recently hatched three eaglets in a nest perched in a band of trees on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River, about several hundred feet from the construction work zone on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

Environmental specialists say the eaglets, who were born in April, are healthy and, in recent days, have been peering above the nest.

The nest, which is on Rosalie Island, is about 500 feet from the southern side of the bridge and about 150 feet from the bridge’s work zone, said Stephanie Spears, an environmental specialist with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project. About 200,000 cars travel the Capital Beltway each day.

“Because the breeding pair has chosen to nest so close to a major construction environment is what makes them special,” Ms. Spears said. “They are tolerant of the noise, activity, people, and they are very successful raising eaglets in a disturbed environment.”

Ms. Spears said yesterday project officials do not want to disclose the exact location of the nest to ensure the eagles’ protection.

The breeding pair has become affectionately known as George and Martha Wilson, the “first family” of eagles at the project.

“The parents are named George and Martha after George and Martha Washington and Wilson after the Wilson Bridge,” Ms. Spears said.

The same pair has successfully laid eggs and raised fledging eagles near the bridge for seven consecutive years.

The newly hatched eaglets, however, are experiencing an identity crisis: They do not have names, so the project is sponsoring a “Name the Eagles” contest for children of all ages, project officials said.

Children can go to www.wilsonbridge.com to enter the contest. The winner will be announced on June 28 and treated to a tour of the project.

On a recent boat tour to see the eagles and to view the progress of the bridge construction, spectators were in awe of the pair.

“The bald eagles are beautiful and to see them so close is a privilege,” said Mafu Solomon Rakometsi, chief director of education development and professional services in Bloemfontein, in South Africa.

The project’s environmental and construction teams are going to great lengths to protect the bald eagles and their habitat as construction on the bridge moves forward. The bald eagle became the national emblem in 1782.

Ms. Spears said the bald eagle is only found in North America and is an endangered species.

A permanent 84-acre bald eagle sanctuary was created in March 2001 on the northern side of Rosalie Island in Prince George’s County. The sanctuary is more than eight times larger than was required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, project officials said.

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