In Virginia, golden isn’t typically the first type of eagle to come to mind. But it is right now at Grayson Highlands State Park.
An immature golden eagle
Much less commonly seen than its cousin, the bald eagle, golden eagles only visit Virginia for a short time in the winter before returning to their breeding grounds in Canada.
For the past two winters, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to maintain a trap site that they hoped would attract golden eagles. Game cams were set up at the site and have photographed many different animals visiting the bait including bobcat, coyote, skunk, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, black vultures and an endless supply of ravens. While a few eagles visited sporadically last year, 2012 has been very productive, with daily visits from at least one of three individual birds seen on the game cam. Early in the morning on February 16, the first golden eagle was finally in hand.
Grayson Highlands first eagle of the project! A close up of the talons
The birds are being trapped as part of multiple studies by members of the Grayson Highlands was trapped under a net while on the bait. He was then weighed, measured head-to-toe, or rather, head-to-talon and wing to wing. A few feathers and a vial of blood were taken for testing for heavy metals and a genetics study. Finally, a transmitter was placed on the bird's back that will allow scientists to track his movements for the next two to three years. After about two hours, the eagle was released back out into the park where he flew off into the fog. For all the staff members involved in the project, it was definitely a day that will not be forgotten.
Taking measurements and placing the transmitter
Testing to see if the transmitter is positioned correctly
You can learn more about Grayson Highlands State Park here.