A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip on the Potomac Eagle Train to see some beautiful fall scenery and most important, the American Bald Eagle. The Bald Eagle is our national symbol and their eastern nesting grounds lie in a spectacular gorge carved by the South Branch of the Potomac River.
The trip started in Romney, West Virginia and we traveled through peaceful countryside with the mountains in the distance. There was an observation car that had open windows that you stand by to take pictures and to observe with your binoculars.
After a while, as we entered the narrow mountain valley, the train slowed, and we were allowed on the totally open observation car. Since there was no roof, we were free to look up, out and all around.
The eagles were nesting in the trees on the other side of the river and many were soaring on the air currants. Our cameras and binoculars were pointed upward. I had a good camera, but I wished I had a good birding binoculars. We saw many eagles that day. After about an hour and a half, the train reversed and we had another chance to spot the eagles.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I learned some interesting facts about the American Bald Eagle.
- The eagle is not really bald, but has white feathers on its head, neck and tail. It got the name, bald, from an old English word “balde” which means white.
- Bald eagles mate for life and they often return to the same nest year after year. They just add a few more twigs and leaves to it. One nest was discovered that weighed two tons. It is believed that the nest had been used for 34 years.
- The eagles have a wingspan of 6 to 7 1/2 feet and an adult is approximately 2 1/2 feet in length.
- A bald eagle can fly 20 to 40 miles per hour, and when it is diving, it can reach over 100 mph.
- Over 80% of bald eagles in the southeastern United States are found in Florida.
Bald eagles are scavengers. They eat dead animals, thus keeping the environment clean. They are also predators and help to keep the population of smaller animals strong. They capture and eat the weak or diseased ones.
The bald eagles were almost extinct in the 1960’s, but thanks to the Endangered Species Act, their population has been restored in most of our states.
These are magnificent birds and I hope you get a chance to see some in the wild.