Riverkeeper report: Baby eagles take flight

Published 2:23 pm Thursday, June 11, 2015

A juvenile eagle at the Pretlow site on the Blackwater River. The eagle was perched on a tree across the river from its nest. -- SUBMITTED | JEFF TURNER

A juvenile eagle at the Pretlow site on the Blackwater River. The eagle was perched on a tree across the river from its nest. — SUBMITTED | JEFF TURNER

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 8th through the 9th on the Blackwater below Franklin.

The water was normal and 75 degrees. Air temps ranged from 60 to 85. Trash on this trip was very light, but the fishing was poor.

I caught one catfish that one night and that was it. Heck, I even had a difficult time catching bream for bait. The bass action was slow also. I finally caught four that first afternoon in a period from 7:30 that evening until dark. All were caught on topwater on a Tiny Torpedo.

I come across some folks fishing for turtles while I was out there. In the Nottoway I met a guy that was setting traps for snapping turtles. Everything looked legal and he seemed knowledgeable about the laws. He told me he catches the snappers and they are sold to people in Maryland.

Then oddly, I saw some people the next day in the Blackwater from New Jersey setting a bunch of turtle traps. I did not talk to these people and I did not see the required tags showing ownership on any of the net traps. I took pictures and sent that info on to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It’s strange to me that people from WAY outside the area are coming here to our two little rivers to catch snapping turtles.

I just would not think we have that many to support commercial harvesting of these critters. I do not have a problem with it, either, as long as all the laws that regulate the commercial fishing of the turtles are being followed.

I was happy to see that we have a new juvy bald eagle on the river at the Pretlow nest. It is flying a little as I found it perched in a tree across the river from its nest. There might even be another juvy, as I heard another eagle calling to the one I saw. But I could not tell for sure. It might have been an adult. The seriously ugly juvy was quite vocal that day as Moonpie and I floated underneath it trying to get a decent picture, a feat, which most always for some reason seems to be nearly impossible.

Sadly, I did not see any new eagles at the Cherry Grove nesting site. This is the second trip I have made there in the past month and did not see any babies or adults. I have been tracking that nesting pair of eagles since 1999. Sixteen years is a right long time, and I have seen that pair go through some interesting stuff. The nest was ‘bout destroyed by Isabelle, but they rebuilt it. Also in 2004 they successfully raised three babies, which is very unusual. So I’m pretty bummed out that something must have happened to this couple.

If anybody reading this saw the eagles at this nest site this year please let me know. It could be I just missed them in between trips. That’s the way it is though in nature, the old make way for the new.

We are fortunate to have the new breeding couple now at the Pretlow nesting site that is producing the next generation of bald eagles that we can look and marvel at. Such is the cycle of life and death on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.