Many Princetonians do not realize that we are privileged to host a mated pair of American bald eagles. Our waters and lands are appealing enough that this pair yearly produces, raises and successfully fledges healthy young.
Most locals are aware (thanks initially to Rachel Carson) of DDT-genic decades which saw the decline and fall of American eagles, osprey and peregrine falcons.
Some realize that New Jersey was down to one nest, --in Bear Swamp near the Delaware Bay. They remember that eggs of that female annually broke, due to chemically induced fragility.
Naturalists and preservationists vigorously turned around this tragedy. Now one can drive Salem and Cumberland Countiy back roads in January, February and March, treated to fishing, courting, nesting, egg-laying, egg-sitting eagles virtually at every turn.
But so few know that Princeton has its own. I first encountered the romantic pair during a January dusk. She was seated serenely on a bare low branch over Lake Carnegie, slightly south of the dock near which sculling teams end competitions. He came calmly soaring close to the Lake, around the point upon which his true love serenely waited.
[o.k., it's anthropomorphic. I'm a poet -- what do you expect?]
What I didn't realize, --because I hadn't heard this miracle in Salem and Cumberland Counties--, is that eagles sing love songs. He floated up onto a higher nearby tree, and she turned like a monarch to face him. Fragile music then floated out over the lake -- the unlikely soft voices of eagles.
A few moments ago, I treated myself to a drive to the current nest of 'our' American bald pair. Their first nest had been in a sentinel tree, surprisingly near a housing development, off Sayre Drive. The second had been in one of a string of evergreens, even more amazingly, at the Sarnoff property, US 1 and Harrison Street. I'm keeping the site of this one secret, but 'our' eagles still do fish near Mapleton Bridge - where I've been thrilled to watch these consummate fishers while stroking below in my kayak.
The new nest, --although I am by no means a connoisseur--, looks too small for two parents, let alone Mama, Papa and the two young of last year. The structure has an unlikely cup shape, like a hummingbird's nest on steroids. I do know that naturalst/banders chose not to band last year, lest they increase the seeming vulnerability of this new site.
No one's home today - January 20 about noon. They could be out fishing, of course, especially with a snowstorm due.
They could be selecting nest materials - which tend to be hefty, even unwieldy. (See Brenda Jones' scene of Carnegie eagle with branch.)
If the eagles were actively courting, just now, I think they'd be visible near their nest. Friends report recently seeing both march around its rim, inspecting and seemingly discussing home improvements.
What I remember best, --from my first Princeton eagle experience--, is that ever after, driving near the Lake, even in the dark, our whole region was richer than any time in my entire life -- because it contains eagles.
What all of us must keep in mind is that Princeton would not be American bald eagle (or ospery or egret or heron or beaver or fox) habitat without continuing, fervent programs of land preservation. D&R Greenway Land Trust was launched to save land and waters of the Delaware & Raritan Canal and Towpath... Support it!