Welcome to another edition of Marsh Musings. It seems as though every media source in the United States is inundated with the upcoming election. All we hear is mud slinging, personal convictions, and often depressing news about our economy. We often lose sight of what America stands for: freedom, hard work, perseverance and never giving up just to name a few. Right now, we have a critter visiting the Bottoms that embodies all of these things: the bald eagle.
I can remember my parents bundling me up, binoculars in hand, and driving me to the local dam along the Mississippi River to hopefully catch a glimpse of the nearly extinct animal. Standing up to 40 inches tall, weighing in at up to 15 lbs, and having a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet definitely left a lasting impression on me. Even at a young age, the eagles instantly earned my respect.
I often wonder what drew me to the birds. Did I respect them because of their clean white heads, their razor sharp talons, their sheer size, their speed, the fact that their nests can support the weight of five grown adults, or the general demeanor in which they carried themselves? Or was it the fact they were so endangered 20 years ago that most kids only saw them in a zoo? Whatever the draw, I still stand in awe when I see one even to this day.
We often get so caught up in the world around us that we forget just how great America is. This bird is truly a symbol of success. Bald eagle populations dropped dramatically during the mid-20th century due to a variety of factors, but mostly because of an insecticide called DDT. DDT affected calcium levels in the birds and made many sterile or unable to produce viable eggs. Eggs that were produced merely crumbled under the weight of the adults. These factors together led to the decline of population numbers from an estimated 500,000 eagles in the 18th century to as few as 412 nesting pairs by the 50s. The reason these birds are a success story though is due to us.
Despite this tragedy, the power of humanity intervened. DDT was banned and regulations were put in place to help save the eagle from the brink of extinction. The bald eagle was officially removed from the Endangered Species List in 1995 and de-listed as a threatened species in 2007. This bird is not only a symbol of our great nation, but also what we can do collectively as a people. Bald eagles were going extinct do to our actions, but are now back in full force because of our efforts as well. This bird is a true testament to the power of humanity and what we can accomplish when we set our minds and efforts to something we believe in.
Twenty years ago my parents drove me to the river because they believed I might never get another chance to see an eagle. Today you can celebrate humanity’s accomplishment in that your children and grandchildren will get to experience bald eagles. So grab your camera and head out to the Bottoms to experience the magic of these birds up close. Until next time!