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I was at Black Pond a couple of weeks ago sitting in my car and just looking the place over when a huge bird came gliding down off the mountain and over the water.
My first thought was that it was a turkey buzzard but a closer look at the outline of the gliding bird was such that I knew I was looking at an immature bald eagle. I say immature because it did not have the pure white head and tail of an adult bald eagle. But just imagine, right here in the greater Meriden and surrounding areas, while not an everyday occurrence, you just might see a bald eagle!
My very first encounter with any bald eagle came many years ago on a trip to northern Maine on Spencer Lake. I had come across the lake on a Spring Safari with the New England Outdoor Writers Association (NEOWA).
I was just riding the one of the many unpaved logging roads that are found in Maine when I saw a sign that said Hardscrabble Lodge and it was pointing down yet another dirt road so I took it. It ended at Spencer Lake and featured a lodge and a small cluster of log cabins.
The place was so serene and beautiful that I promised myself I would take my darlin’ Edna to the lodge. This promise was kept the next year and we arrived at the lake just before dusk. We got out of my pickup truck and were simply in awe at the view of the placid lake with trout dimpling the surface in what looked like a feeding frenzy.
Suddenly, a bald eagle came swooping down and grabbed one of the trout off of the surface of Spencer Lake and flew off with the unlucky trout in its talons. It was sight that neither Edna nor I will ever forget.
During our week-long stay at Hardscrabble Lodge we would get to see an eagle or two just about every day we were on the water. To say that we were thrilled at such a sight as a real live bald eagle would be an understatement, after all we were from Connecticut and at that time eagle sightings here were a rarity.
I then became aware of eagle sighting here in Connecticut at a generating plant (Shepaug) on the Housatonic River. It even had an observatory and because Edna then worked for Northeast Utilities I was allowed close access to the eagles who were feeding on pieces of fish that came from the generating plant.
My next sightings came while we had a place in New York State. In fact, I would see four different eagles in the Chenango County in our travels. Two of them even landed in a field across from our home in New York and were feeding on some dead critter in the hay field.
It seems hard to believe that this symbol of our great nation was once hunted almost to extinction. They were considered scavengers and shot on sight by many commercial fishermen in the northern regions of North America. Their nesting trees were also cut down and this also added to the decline of the bald eagle population in the United States. This was done under the guise of saving poultry and livestock.
According to an article in Connecticut Wildlife Magazine, a publication put out by the CT DEEP the 19940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act protected birds and their nests from further destruction, but next it was the pesticide DDT that would become their nemesis. This dastardly pesticide interfered with the thickness and function of eagles and many other predatory birds including ospreys.
By 1963, due in part to a very low reproductive process only 417 nesting territories remained in the lower 48 states. Thanks to the many protective measures taken in their behalf the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles has grown immensely from the 417 count in 1963 to 9,789 in 2007 and YES this includes Connecticut, and I do know of a couple of nests in our area and am not at liberty to reveal them although there are folks that know where they are in our area.
Case in point, one day Edna and I were walking our dogs around the neighborhood and I happened to glance skyward and saw a mature eagle gliding overhead and the white head and tail were very visible.
And then we got a call from Tom Schafrick who said he saw an eagle in a tree by the Quinnipiac River watershed Association (QRWA) and this was before it was the QRWA Headquarters. I really didn’t believe him but I took a ride by there on River Road and surer than heck the eagle was still there!
Then as if to prove their comeback we had one land in a tree across from our home on Dogwood Lane and then fly around the neighborhood as if looking for dinner.
But the grandest appearance by a bald eagle happened at the QRWA headquarters when Joe Zajac was giving a seminar on the Q-Gorge Trail. Joe’s back was to Hanover Pond and while he was talking a mature bald eagle swooped down to the water in back of him and took a fish. It was then that I knew the eagle comeback in our area was for real.
In my travels around the area, I have also run into a gentleman who is very knowledgeable about our local eagles. His name is Steve Sola and he drives with a bald eagle on the tire cover on the back of the Jeep.
Sola has a website www.flickr.com/photos/sola-photo/ or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Sola has some really great photos of our Hanover Pond eagles and can tell you about them if you run into him. I have found talks with Steve Sola to be very interesting.
Some of this information also came from a great magazine put out by the CT DEEP Wildlife Division called Connecticut Wildlife and can be subscribed to by sending a check for $8-1 year, $15 2-year or 3 years for $20. Send your check to Connecticut Wildlife, P.O. Box 1550 Burlington, CT, 06013 or order on line with a credit card through the DEEP Store at: www.ct.gov/deep/WildlifeMagazine.
To everyone involved in their comeback I say thank you for bringing back the bald eagle.
MERIDEN H.S. CLASS OF 1954 65th REUNION October 19, 2019! No Way! Impossible?
So many folks don’t even know there once was a High School named Meriden High School located on Pleasant Street right above City Hall. It was 65 years ago that our class graduated and now the reunions get smaller and smaller.
Class member John “Duke” Young is the spirit of that graduating class and he has informed me that we will have a Class of ’54 reunion October 19, 2019 from 12 to 4 p.m. at Violi’s Restaurant. Class members are asked to get in touch with John “Duke” Young at (860) 613-1589 for more info. Remember the Red and Blue! To those classmates that are still with us, we hope to see you there.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving our great country.