A bald eagle is arguably one of the most majestic sights at the Lake of the Ozarks. Now, local volunteers are keeping an even closer eye on the Lake's bald eagle population.
Missouri Master Naturalist volunteers of the Lake of the Ozarks chapter have long given their time and provided financial support for the Lake’s annual Eagle Days in January. This spring, several members joined Missouri Eagle Watch, a Missouri Department of Conservation eagle nest monitoring program committed to the continued recovery of the bald eagle.
Volunteers were assigned the counties of Benton, Camden, Henry, Miller and Morgan. Nest locations on the Eagle Watch inventory were mapped and searched, and the absence of old nests was reported. Nests not yet on the inventory were reported, and each active nest was observed a minimum of three times from March through June. A nest was considered active if it had a female who was incubating eggs or if eaglets were observed in the nest.
Many of the previously inventoried nests were initially located by aerial survey and some locations were physically inaccessible by land, or land ownership could not be readily determined. Most of Missouri is private land, so volunteers had to locate the landowners and obtain permission to access the land. Ted Windels, whose assignment was Miller County, said landowners there were very supportive, allowing access, telling him the history of their nests, calling him with updates on fledglings and even giving him ATV rides to nest locations.
Volunteers traveled by boat, auto, ATV and on foot to locations ranging from lakeside subdivisions to a remote island. Each observation required a report with the goals of establishing the nest location, including GPS coordinates, describing the nest conditions and recording the number of eaglets that survived to fledge and leave the nest. Reports were sent to Eagle Watch for compilation.
Nationwide, our national symbol has made a dramatic comeback from the time it was listed as endangered, but it is still considered a Species of Concern in Missouri. Over half of all bald eagle chicks will not survive their first year.
During the observation period, in the Lake area there was a report of a fledgling electrocuted, an adult so injured by fishing tackle entanglement that it was euthanized, and two fledglings killed when their nest was destroyed by a storm. Ed Whitmore reported that Benton and Henry counties produced a total of 13 fledglings from 12 active nests. Miller County had 10 fledglings from five active nests. Data are not yet available from Camden and Morgan counties.
The Missouri Master Naturalist™ program is a community-based natural resource education and volunteer service program for adults, sponsored by
Missouri Department of Conservation and University of Missouri Extension.