Bald eagles—never before seen in southern West Virginia—have become inhabitants over the last decade, and naturalists at Pipestem Resort State Park are inviting the public to help survey these beautiful birds them during its twelfth annual spring survey March 1-3.
Part of the park's epic Winter Birding Weekend, activities will include a bird-watching instruction program for beginners at 7 p.m. Friday, at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. field survey for bald and golden eagles on Saturday, followed at 7 p.m. by a program featuring live birds of prey.
Park naturalist Julie McQuade said the weekend offers guests a chance to observe eagles in the wild, observe rescued birds-of-prey up close, and help naturalists monitor the local population of eagles.
“The January survey recorded 58 eagle sightings during the four-hour survey period,” said Julie McQuade, naturalist at Pipestem Resort State Park.
“The March survey could also result in a high number with volunteers scattered throughout the area monitoring eagle sightings and nests.”
At home fishing on larger bodies of water, bald eagles did not penetrate the mountains of southern West Virginia until large lakes were established their and pollution decreased.
The eagle survey begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and runs until 2 p.m. Participants will gather at 9:15 a.m., and the four-hour survey will pair professional birders with novice or beginning bird watchers and assign them to survey observation sites. When the survey concludes, at 2 p.m., the teams will meet to compare and compile notes.
“This has become a special event in the Pipestem area, and over the years we have recognized an increase in golden and bald eagle nests and sightings," McQuade said.
"We watch the skies snow, rain or shine.”
Registration is requested before Feb. 28, and participant will be contacted in advance with instructions and survey locations.
Saturday evening’s program is “Wings of Wonder – Birds of Prey” with Three Rivers Avian Center at 7 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. Staff will talk about the habitat, diet, and behavior of each bird presented and discusses the most common causes of injury to each species."
Special guests from the Bibbee Nature Club and from Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory Tower will be on hand during the birds-of-prey program to answer questions about migratory birds, birds of southern West Virginia, and the nature club hikes and activities.
McQuade will also host a winter bird walk at 8:15 a.m. Sunday.