The Eagle has Landed, in Fact Many of Them!
Eagles have Repopulated the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Range
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good [things; so that] thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:5)
God satisfies our real needs, from time to time, from season to season, just as He sustains the ongoing needs of the eagle. Recovering strength is good for an individual–and also for a population, including eagle populations.
Recovering from a “ghost town” shutdown is worth the effort. Ask a Bald Eagle.
Whitney Pipkin recently reported, in the Chesapeake Bay Journal , that Bald Eagles have made a comeback along Virginia’s James River.(1),(2)
This avian population illustrates how a pessimistic situation can, if the right actions are taken, be reversed—eventually producing a happier result.
First, the bad news:
In the late 1970s, the treetops of the James River looked like a ghost town. Despite plenty of suitable habitat where bald eagles could have been nesting and had before, the waterway was the only major tributary in the Chesapeake Bay whose nesting population of the iconic American predator had plummeted to zero.(1)
Now, the good news:
Imagine biologists’ surprise when, four decades later, that same river became the staging ground for the eagles’ astonishing comeback. Aerial surveys tallied more than 300 breeding pairs of [bald] eagles along the James River for the first time in 2019—a number that had been the species’ recovery goal for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.(1)
When it comes to the Chesapeake Bay, the majestic bald eagle has come back from the dead. Driven from historic nesting strongholds like the James River by pesticides in the 1970s, the national bird has become a success story.(2)
Furthermore, the big-picture news is even better:
Biologists estimate there are now close to 3,000 nesting pairs Baywide [i.e., in the Chesapeake Bay watershed], but surveys of the entire region no longer occur annually. Maryland stopped surveying bald eagles in 2004 when they hit nearly 400 breeding pairs statewide, surpassing population goals.(1)
Moreover, it’s not just eagles that are flourishing in the Chesapeake Bay area:
“We are just in an amazing time right now,” said Bryan Watts, co-founder and director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary. … Not just bald eagles, but fish-eaters like osprey and blue heron also once died out on the James.
Today, [these riparian fish-eating birds—like eagles, ospreys, and herons—have ] swelled to numbers Watts believes are well above what even Capt. John Smith encountered on the cusp of the 17th century. “In terms of eagles,” said Watts, “we are protecting them. We’re not shooting them like we did in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We don’t consider them competitors for muskrats or for fish, and so we’re not killing them.”(2)
For conservationists, birdwatchers, and other wildlife enthusiasts, these large-scale recoveries are very good news. After all, eagles are America’s official bird.
Beyond that, eagles are amazing creatures that display God’s genius in bioengineering.(3)
One example of highness being compared to the nesting habits of eagles is found in the Bible, in the Book of Obadiah 1:3-4, where the eagle is described as a creature that lives in high places, much closer to the stars than do most other animals (or people). Another Old Testament book in the Bible, the Book of Job, refers (at 39:13) to the eagle as mounting up into the air by God’s command (because God programs eagles to fly up into the air the way that they do), and as nesting in high places (because God programs eagles to do this also).
Eagles are good parents, training their sons and daughters to live like eagles (see Deuteronomy 32:11). Eagles can fly, like dive-bombing airplanes, at great speeds (see 2nd Samuel 1:23 and Lamentations 4:19). Their strength is renewed from time to time, as their feather-cover adjusts to their growing bodies (see Isaiah 40:31 and Psalms 103:5). Eagles are known for their gracefulness and dignity (see Proverbs 30:19). In fact, eagles fly very high in the air as a matter of habit – above most other birds (see Proverbs 23:5).(4)
Meanwhile, the Bald Eagles’ recovery—in the Chesapeake Bay area–illustrates how a bad situation can be overcome, with the prioritized concern and problem-solving management practices, plus patience.
But this is not the first time that an endangered or threatened wild bird (or other wildlife category) has been rescued from the brink of population failure. Consider the amazing recovery of the Trumpeter Swan, which nearly sang its own swan song.(5)
Likewise, Tri-colored Herons (also called “Louisiana Herons”) have recently reclaimed (and repopulated) ranges that previously they had lost.(6)
It’s not just the birds. American bison have made a comeback.(7) The list goes on, but the list could be longer than what it is.
Wildlife populations often face critical perils, sometimes facing population failure, range contraction, or habitat loss. Sometimes they recover.(1),(2),(5),(6)
The same is true for humans. For example, it is well worth praying for America to recover from its many political (socialism-pushing) problems in the wake of pandemic perils and propaganda.(8)
Problematic situations, including disasters, don’t fix themselves—real solutions (to real problems) don’t accidentally “evolve”. There is much good work needed, to recover lost ground in America. Human responsibility is the key to much of what is needed; yet God’s providential blessings are needed even more, much more.(8)
So we need to pray fervently for God’s blessings, daily—not just on the National Day of Prayer.(8)
- Pipkin, W. 2020. Bald Eagles’ Recovery Along James River Soars to New Heights: Area’s 300 Breeding Pairs Surpass Goal for Entire Chesapeake Watershed. Chesapeake Bay Journal. 30(3):17-18.
- Dietrich, T. 2019. Bald Eagles Enter ‘Golden Age’ in Chesapeake Bay. Daily Press. Posted (July 9, 2019) on DailyPress.com at http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-nws-bald-eagles-recovery-20190709-story.html (accessed May 9, 2020).
- Eggleton, M. 2016. The American Bald Eagle: On Eagle’s Wings. 38(2):34-37, posted at https://creation.com/on-eagles-wings . See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2018. Hawks and Eagles Launching Skyward. Acts & Facts, 47(4):21, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/hawks-eagles-launching-skyward .
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2008. Alaska’s Coastal Rainforests and Two of its Rangers, the Bald Eagle and the Alaska Moose. Dallas: NWD Press/RCCL’s Radiance of the Seas (July 2008), pages 10-11.
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Post-Coronavirus Comeback or Swan’s Song? Creation Science Update. Posted (April 23, 2020) at https://www.icr.org/article/post-coronavirus-comeback-or-swans-song .
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2019. Does Global Warming Threaten Bird Habitats? Acts & Facts. 48(6):21, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/does-global-warming-threaten-bird-habitats .
- Whitaker Jr., J. O. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, revised edition. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 850-854, Plates # 329-333.
- James 5:16; 1 Timothy 2:1-3. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Prayers for America and our Divine Editor. ICR News. Posted (May 7, 2020) at https://www.icr.org/article/prayers-for-america-and-our-divine-editor .
Having lived half of my latter years around the Chesapeake Bay’s Maryland Eastern Shore, I can attest to the tremendous population growth with the Bald Eagle and Osprey. During the winter months, you can easily see dozens of Eagles at Blackwater NWR, many that migrated to the refuge from the north; the summer, it’s the Osprey. They are two of my top favorite birds to watch and photograph. :-) Oh, I wanted to pass on too, The Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership at http://www.marylandbirds.org keeps track of the Eagle nests throughout Maryland, supported by volunteers on sighting and monitoring. It’s an easy way to find and go view an Eagle’s nest, as long as you follow the rules and guidelines set forth. (Website top right 3-bar drop down to “Monitoring” then “Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring”). Back to your post, very nice message!
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Eagles have had a bad deal from humans in the past, especially our largest eagle the Wedge-tailed which had a bounty on it for many years because graziers accused it of stealing lambs. Thankfully they are recovering now they are protected, but many farmers still shoot them regardless.
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Wow! Makes the few nesting ones around here seem very small compared to those. Makes me wish I could see them. A lot closer than going all the way to Alaska, and more concentrated. It also should make us realize what protecting our wildlife can do. [I shoot photos, not birds.]
Great article, Dr. Jim.
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This is an excellent article. I enjoyed reading it. I am so in favor of keeping up our environment so that all our birds and animals can survive and thrive..just as we are working now to stomp out this pandemic. I don’t see two many eagles where I live, but I do see a lot of ospreys, herons, a few Trumpeter swans, and many ducks and geese. I also have been seeing many turtles and muskrats in local lakes.
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