2012 Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Annual Mid-winter Eagle Survey
Staff and volunteers at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) successfully completed the Refuge’s 33rd annual mid-winter eagle survey on January 4, 2012. This effort involved 9 refuge staff and 29 volunteers. Survey participants were located throughout the refuge at fixed observation sites for the two-part (roost and non-roost) survey. The non-roost (morning) count produced a total of 168 eagles, of which 100 were adult bald eagles, 29 were immature bald eagles, and 39 were unidentified eagles. The roost (evening) count produced 154 eagles, of which 82 were adult bald eagles, 55 were immature bald eagles, and 17 were unidentified eagles. The eagle population at Blackwater NWR has been steadily increasing, with slight fluctuations, since 1980. The highest mid-winter survey numbers were those in 2011, with 189 eagles for the non-roost count and 178 eagles for the roost count. This year’s numbers were down more than 12% from the numbers in 2011 (for both portions), but high in comparison with earlier years. On the day of this year’s count temperatures were average for a normal year, around 27°F, but the winter overall has been mild. The slight decrease in eagle numbers this winter may have been caused by northern birds not migrating this far south.