Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Eagles Showing Well These Day
February 20, 2021
By Steve Grinley
Those who were able to attend one of the tours on this past weekend’s Eagle Festival reported that the eagles put on quite a show. They saw seeing a number of bald eagles along the river. Those who live on the Amesbury side of the river across from Maudslay State Park report seeing half a dozen eagles and watching some of them catching fish in the river. It has been a regular sight to see one or more eagles along the harbor when we have been there the past few weeks. Eagles are even regularly seen along Plum Island these days.
A week ago, we watched an eagle and 4 harriers compete for some prey on the marsh just south of Lot 1 on Plum Island. Though the harriers took turns swooping the eagle, the eagle took charge of the prey. It moved only 50 yards away with it and the harriers finally gave up.
The cold weather has brought good numbers of eagles to the Merrimack River area., with its strong currents that help keep portions open even during the most frigid times. Folks are always asking where to find eagles. Usually at this time of year, bald eagles may be seen anywhere along the Merrimack River from Newburyport Harbor to West Newbury.
Some of the best viewing is along the river from the harbor west to beyond the Whittier (Interstate 95) Bridge near Maudslay State Park. Good vantage points are from the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center, from Cashman Park along Merrimack Street in Newburyport, and from Deer Island at the Chain Bridge looking down river toward Eagle Island.
Eagles can also be viewed from Main Street in Amesbury, near Lowell’s Boat Shop, looking across the river for eagles perched in the pines and birches near the Newburyport Pumping Station and Maudslay State Park. Alliance Park on Main Street is another viewing area. Further up river you can try to find vantage points along River Road on the West Newbury side, or along Pleasant Valley Road on the Amesbury side. You may be lucky enough to see an eagle perched in a tree alongside either of these roads.
Over the next month or so will be your best opportunity to catch sight of bald eagles on the Merrimack River. A few local birds will likely nest again along the river, but the non-resident eagles that may be here will leave to return to their breeding grounds in New Hampshire, Maine and eastern Canada. Birds in the northeast generally nest from April to June.
So eagles may be seen year round in our area now. They have nested in the Salisbury area, in Amesbury along the Powwow River, in West Newbury along the Merrimac River and further upriver in Haverhill. Another pair nested along the Parker and Mill River in the Newbury/Rowley area. More may continue to find other suitable areas in Essex County.
So do look for eagles wherever you travel around. I had an adult bald eagle fly over my car in Essex this morning on my way to work. Seeing an eagle is an awesome way to brighten any day!