Last month, we shared with you a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, as part of a multi-state, multi-agency project to estimate the population size of Golden Eagles wintering in the Appalachians.
As January came to a close, the Sky Meadows camera had caught a wide variety of animals and birds at the camera site, including: Red-tailed Hawks. But, to our great chagrin, no eagles! We were beginning to think that the study would end without one eagle photo capture here at the park.
Our fears soon proved to be unfounded. On January 30, the camera caught images of a juvenile Bald Eagle at the food cache. Although the park has resident Bald Eagles, this was the first time one had been captured on film at the cache site. The series of photos taken on the 30th included a stunning image of the Bald Eagle swooping in, talons wide, to scare a Red-tailed Hawk off the deer carcass. After seeing these pictures, our hopes were high that a Golden Eagle would soon discover the food cache and trigger the camera.
The big payoff came on February 8. In the afternoon hours, the camera collected a series of images of a juvenile Golden Eagle at the cache site! This beautiful bird can be distinguished from its cousin the Bald Eagle by the white patches at the base of the tail feathers. In immature Bald Eagles, there is a lot more white in the wing linings. Finally, the Golden Eagle has the distinctive gold head while the juvenile Bald Eagle has a dark brown head. The tell-tale white head of the Bald Eagle does not develop until their fifth year.
The Golden Eagle project officially ends on February 15, but you can bet that we’ll still be watching the skies at the park for these magnificent raptors. Sightings of these birds are a thrill, no matter when they occur.
To find out more about the programs and special events at Sky Meadows, please visit the Virginia State Parks on line. Please note that camping reservations for Sky Meadows, like for nearly all our parks, are not site-specific. Site selection is done on a first-come, first-served basis at check-in.