, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 25, 2014

Bald eagle bonanza

High number of sightings keeps birders busy

NEWBURYPORT — Participants in today’s 11th annual Superbowl of Birding will have no problem checking the bald eagle off their lists.

Both adult and immature birds have been spotted all along the lower Merrimack River in the past two weeks, said Bill Gette, sanctuary director at the Joppa Flats Education Center. The mature males and females are unmistakable with their white heads and tails, while the young ones are primarily brown.

“There has certainly been no difficulty finding them,” Gette said yesterday. “It’s certainly nice to see so many of them.”

Sue McGrath, the founder and program designer of the Newburyport Birders, said she saw 13 bald eagles last Friday, from the Gillis Bridge in Newburyport up to the Haverhill side of the Rocks Village Bridge.

“The sightings seem to be very regular and in the usual places,” said McGrath, who will be leading outdoor classes on bald eagles in February. “We’re certainly seeing them where we usually see them, and we’re seeing them in pretty big numbers.”

“They’re doing very well,” said Tom French, an assistant director with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “The winter numbers are pretty high in the state.”

French said that the state’s spring survey showed 35 nesting pairs, with four of them along the Merrimack River. The nests are located in Amesbury, Haverhill, Methuen and Tyngsborough.

“They’re the same traditional four they’ve had for a while,” he said, noting that the Haverhill pair usually nests in West Newbury and that the Amesbury pair has previously nested in Salisbury and Newburyport.

“The Merrimack River in winter really sucks in eagles,” he said. “I would predict that this is a big year for them on the Merrimack, and the reason for that is the polar vortex. You get all that really cold weather, and it freezes everything up north.”

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