Flying high

To The Editor:

Great shot of the adult bald eagle on the front page of the Islander last week. My congratulations to photographer Kevin Desveau.

It wasn’t all that long ago that bald eagle sightings here on Mount Desert Island were few and far between, and a photographer would have had a very difficult time getting a shot like that. Typically, I would encounter something on the order of five to six bald eagles a week over the course of covering as many as 200-300 miles of field travel by boat in the 1980s.

In contrast, last year while running custom boat tours, I spotted 16 bald eagles of various age classes on a single four-hour boat trip in Frenchman Bay.

When I began my bald eagle field research back in 1977, there were only 31 known breeding pairs of bald eagles in Maine. Fast forward 37 years to 2014, and that number has increased to more than 600 breeding pairs within the state’s borders.

Better yet, the growing population of bald eagles is now spread fairly evenly throughout the state. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, bald eagle numbers were concentrated almost entirely along the coast, a situation that made Maine’s bald eagle population extremely vulnerable to any one of the many pressures besetting the state’s coastal regions then and now.

Today, however, a far more widespread distribution of bald eagles throughout a variety of habitat types ensures a far greater margin of safety for Maine’s recovering bald eagle population.

I would like to offer my thanks to the many hard working folks who made bald eagle recovery efforts here in Maine successful. At the head of the list, my thanks go to Charlie Todd and Alan Hutchinson at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, without whose hard work and devotion to Maine’s bald eagles, recovery efforts may well never have even begun, let alone met with so much success.

Also, a hearty thanks to Dr. Mark McCullough at the United States Fish & Wildlife Service for his seminal work with bald eagles here in Maine as well as for his courageous support of the passage of a bill to safeguard Maine’s bald eagle population from harassment in 1987. Without McCullough’s testimony at the bill hearing, things might have turned out very differently.

A belated thanks, as well, to the more than 1,300 Mount Desert Island residents who signed my petition in 1987 in support of a bill before Maine’s Legislature protecting bald eagles. I’m not sure legislators were paying much attention to my presentation at the bill hearing until I placed the petition with more than 1,300 signatures into the record. After that, well, let’s just say it got their attention.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Islander Editor Earl Brechlin, who in his previous position as editor of the Bar Harbor Times, lent his support to bald eagle recovery efforts via an extended series of articles and editorials highlighting their plight and advocating for remedial action.

Much fuss is being made over the importance of the Internet these days. Yet without our local newspaper and the many hard working folks who staff and print it, most of us would be without a voice where it most matters – in our own communities.

Capt. Winston Shaw, Director

Coastal Maine Bald Eagle Project

Bar Harbor

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