Photographers have been gathering around a bald eagle’s nest in Madison Township in southern Columbiana County over the past couple of months, capturing moments of the bald eagle’s nesting cycle.
The nest sits at U.S. Route 30 near State Route 11 North in a public area where photographers can take photos without disturbing the eagles. The nest has been around for the past three years.
Two of these photographers — Rebecca Jablonski, of Toronto, and Melissa McGuire, of Hanoverton — have become great friends. The two women see each other almost daily.
Jablonski, who has been taking bald eagle photos for 10 years, gave an interesting reason as to why she takes photos of them. She takes photos of bald eagles seven hours a day at least four days a week and has taken photos in several different states.
“I’m crazy. I have a fascination with eagles. To me, they’re so majestic. Once you see one, you’re hooked. I come every day,” Jablonski said.
Jablonski has had multiple medical procedures over the past several years, so she views this activity as a form of therapy. It helps keep her spirits up.
She said she and fellow photographers track the progress of the eaglets as they are being raised. She said that it’s rare to see bald eagles that close.
“It’s our bird’s eye view right here. It’s very seldom that you get to see a nest almost at eye level. So, it’s pretty fascinating,” Jablonski said.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), nest building can occur anytime between October and early December. The female typically lays one to three eggs in the winter months. According to ODNR, the male and female eagles share incubating and feeding responsibilities. The young are dependent on their parents, and they usually leave the nest after 10-13 weeks.
McGuire said she loves to take pictures of bald eagles because it helps her overcome anxiety. She first noticed the bald eagles and took photos of them when she was taking photos next to the cousin of her late sister-in-law. The activity helps calm her mind.
“Once you start taking pictures, you don’t even hear traffic. It’s very relaxing. It makes you forget about the world for a minute,” McGuire said.
Environmentalists have worked for generations to restore the bald eagle population so that it could grow into what it has become — a remarkable recovery.
The bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782, and the bird has appeared on the reverse side of many U.S. coins.
However, for a long period of time, the bird was facing a threat of extinction. This was due to a pesticide chemical called DDT. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was developed as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides used to protect crops from pesticides.
Although the chemical did protect crops, it did get into waterways thus hindering the bald eagle population.
ODNR Wildlife Communications Specialist Jamey Emmert said the population of bald eagles was damaged indirectly, meaning that the pesticide caused them to struggle to produce healthy eggs. The DDT impacted the fish in the waterways and streams, causing the eagles to struggle with producing calcium.
“The bald eagle population started declining rapidly when this pesticide was affecting their ability to produce calcium for the eggs. So bald eagles weren’t dying directly; but when… the female would lay eggs, both males and females incubate those eggs, so the eggs would crush beneath their weight,” Emmert said.
The population declined rapidly, as thousands of bald eagles in the population dwindled to merely hundreds due to DDT and hunting. In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which later became the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This act officially outlawed killing, selling or possessing the species.
In 1972, Congress learned of DDT’s adverse effects and banned the substance. Bald eagles became endangered in the majority of U.S. states in 1978.
As decades passed, the bald eagle population grew due to the absence of DDT. Emmert said there was also effort from organizations like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Wildlife and Cleveland Museum of National History to maintain population growth. The agencies tried to collect all of the fragile individual eggs going back to the 1970s that would have been crushed.
“Those eggs were protected, and those young were reared in captivity and returned to their nests, and that helped give a really significant boost to the population,” Emmert said.
At one point, Ohio had only four nesting bald eagles in the state. Today, there are estimated to be over 800 nesting bald eagles in Ohio.
In 2007, our nation’s symbol was removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.
Emmert encouraged the community to continue to support environmental preservation organizations so that habitats can be protected.
“All those things need to be protected, and the only way to truly protect those special places is for organizations to be able to afford to do so. So please support organizations that believe in protecting wildlife, protecting bald eagles, protecting wildlife habitat and consistently improving water quality,” Emmert said.
Jablonski is thankful that the bald eagle population has grown for the better.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the comeback of them. I’m glad that they’re no longer endangered. It’s just a blessing,” Jablonski said.
Emmert said the majority of bald eagle nests are on private property but that there are public spaces that include Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Those who are interested in viewing bald eagles in those areas should contact the parks for more information.
McGuire hopes that this local site will continue to be a great spot for photographers.
“We enjoy it and it’s relaxing. We want this to continue for as long as possible.”