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Time ideal to spot bald eagles around Ohio

Photo contributed by Bruce Wunderlich Eagles are shown in mid-air in this picture by Marietta photographer Bruce Wunderlich. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently noted that this time of the year is ideal for spotting nesting bald eagles.

MARIETTA — Eagles settle in their nests in late winter and early spring, and this time of the year is ideal for spotting the birds as they begin raising young while the trees where they nest are still clear of foliage.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division said recently biologists hope there might be as many as 300 eagle nests in Ohio this year, an enormous contrast to 40 years ago, when there were only four.

Conservation efforts have paid off in helping eagle populations rebound across the country and in Ohio. Bald eagles were removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007 and from the state list in 2012.

Nearly every county in Ohio is home to at least one bald eagle nest, the department said, with a concentration of them in the western area bordering Lake Erie. The birds prefer to nest near water, where they can easily find fish.

In southeastern Ohio, the Muskingum River attracts several.

Washington County wildlife officer Ryan Donnelly said he has seen several eagles in recent years, particularly around Devola near the dam.

“It’s pretty typical to see them there, hanging around the river in that area,” he said. “I also saw a nesting pair near Blennerhassett Island.”

Donnelly said not too long ago the wildlife division would record every sighting of an eagle, but with the population rebounding that isn’t as critical as it once was.

Wildlife photographer Bruce Wunderlich, of Marietta, said he has been out during the past couple of weeks looking for eagles.

“I found one at Logan, actually right near the city, and there’s another here locally, near the Edgewater, above Oak Grove on River Road above the Falls Dam,” he said.

Another, he said, is in the Newcomerstown area not far from a main road, and he’s also seen one on an island in the Ohio River near Belpre, visible from Joe Skinner Road.

“In our lifetime, I can remember never seeing an eagle in the wild. I remember the first time I saw one, it was in a tree off State Route 7 near Belpre,” he said. “Now, you see them quite often. They like the dams, the open water where they can fish.”

Wildlife authorities remind people that it is a crime to disturb nesting eagles and advise anyone viewing the birds to remain at a distance of at least 100 yards. A disturbance or people encroaching on the nest area could cause them to abandon the nest.

Wunderlich said he uses a 600mm lens to photograph eagles.

“You can’t really use anything smaller than that, you’d have to get too close. This is isn’t something you could photograph with a cell phone,” he said.

Donnelly said eagles are occasionally struck by vehicles.

“If anyone sees a dead eagle, I’d encourage them to call and report it,” he said. “I recently picked one up in Belpre. We got a lot of calls on that one.”

To report, call 740-589-9998.

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