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Great Blue Herons
The great American bald eagle, according to recent data, is not as scarce as it was a decade ago, especially in Northeast Ohio. Since the bird was taken off of the Endangered Species list in 2007, there’s been a stark rise in the number of reported nests and eagle sightings, making local birdwatchers giddier than ever.
Though eagle counts statewide are only an estimate, local sightings confirm state park numbers. As of today, Summit Metro Parks cites four nests; Portage Lakes, one. Ever since an eagle couple made Pinery Narrows their home in 2006 — the first to do so in over 70 years — they’ve gone on to hatch more than nine chicks in seven years.
A recent “flight survey” by the Ohio Division of Wildlife estimates that the total number of nests statewide is more than 200. The reason? More wetlands, less harmful pesticides and a federal law (The Bald Eagle Protection Act) — all of which has allowed the birds to rightfully flourish.
This doesn’t mean naturalists have no reason to fret. “We always have our ‘eyes’ on the species,” says Laura Graber, of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Unless “if for some reason we would see a decline in the population.” Which, she says, shouldn’t be anytime soon.
Ever since the big-billed bird’s flight home after the winter, the sycamore trees in Northeast Ohio have had their residents back for the season. Yet this time around, in a slightly different spot.
Andrea Irland, heron-guardian at the heronry on Bath Road, says that the roughly 176 birds she’s counted are starting to shift to a more inconvenient location — four miles up the Cuyahoga River. Though the population, she says, has been increasing in the past few years (there are around 95 nests in this “new” area), she and her fellow “Heron Chick” coworkers are worried that the species will be harder to track. And, for onlookers, to watch.
The Bath Road spot “is so accessible, and so easy to count,” Irland says. “And that’s definitely not the case with every reservation.”
Irland’s flock, who’ve called the Bath Road spot home since 1993, has seen their own share of misfortune: sycamores fall and destroy nests; others are bombarded by snakes or raccoons; Eagles, to Irland’s chagrin, take over pre-existing nests. Minding an improving water quality and abundance of food, Irland, after nearly two decades in the business, is baffled by the herons’ change of address.
“ Just when we think we’ve got them all figured out,” she says, “they do something new, something we don’t understand. Nature just keeps you curious.”
They have a six-foot wingspan, a superior sense of smell, and they solely eat dead animals. They’re also friends of the city’s roadkill removal team.
Turkey vultures, nature’s “clean-up crew,” are a common sight in the Valley, with their iconic red heads and V-shaped wings. But what makes these birds truly unique, is their uncanny ability to pick up the scent of carrion from long distances.
“ They’re more helpful than anything,” says Rob Curtis, chief of natural resources at Summit Metro Parks. “They’re not going to create a problem. If anything, the birds are going to capitalize on a problem.”
The only other species of vulture native to Ohio is the black vulture, which inhabits the central region and south of the State. Yet, as of recently, biologists at the Summit Metro Parks noted small signs that the black vulture may want to migrate to Akron. “There is a fear that they will move north,” says Curtis. “There will be some competition. But we haven’t had to deal with that at all, yet.”
If the black vultures do make an appearance, there could be some beak-clashing over shared food.
Still, they’ll be joining a good cause for roadkill removal.