SHREWSBURY (CBS) – “It’s like a destination point right now on the lake,” said Peter Collins, who heads up the Lake Quinsigamond Commission. He was sitting on a boat with a view of a huge eagle’s nest atop a 70-foot tall tree. “We’re all attracted to rare things.”
Members of his group first noticed bald eagles circling over Drake Island last year. It’s an impressive sight, a rare view of our nation’s majestic emblem. It was so precious, officials posted “no trespassing” signs on the island to keep humans away, especially critical during the nesting period.
From a distance, lake shore residents watched their new neighbors nest, hatch, and feed their young.
The first human contact came Tuesday. “Why this bird picked that spot is a very interesting question,” said Mike Morelly, a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. He went to the island to tag two 7-week-old eaglets with bands, so they can be tracked, studied, and ultimately protected.
“I always have the best seat in the house,” said Kurt Palmateer, who had the job of climbing the tree, and gently coaxing the animals into sacks to bring to the ground. “Some of the birds when we come up, they like to back off obviously…You can kind of ease them and talk them down a little bit,” he said.
Once on the ground, Morelly tagged them with orange bands to show they were born in Massachusetts. That was unheard of decades ago when the pesticide DDT caused egg thinning, bringing eagle reproduction to a halt. “In this state they were gone. The population was zero,” said Morelly.
Today, efforts like the one on Lake Quinsigamond have made a difference.
In Massachusetts, eagles are still listed as “threatened”, but the state now has 60 eagle nests. “When people do put their minds together and try to help wildlife, success stories like this, where we have plenty of nesting pairs in the state and hopefully someday completely de-listed and on their own,” said Morelly.
Why not Massachusetts? The birthplace of the revolution is now the birthplace of an iconic symbol of strength and freedom.