First winter Bald Eagle, with Nigel Shaw
Simcoe County Banding Groups’ chairman and Master bird bander, Nigel Shaw, is pictured here with one of Lake Simcoe’s biggest raptor, a young Bald eagle.
Shaw says it was born in the spring of 2011. This is evident from the plumage of the bird. It has retained its feathers from the summer, and they are quite sun-bleached, and worn. He speculates that it quite possibly be from one of the nests on Lake Simcoe.
Over the past few years, Bald eagle numbers have been on the rise. The pair that nests in Cook Bay has been there for at least the past four years. They have been successful in raising young most of those years.
Bald eagles were a regular bird for the Barrie Christmas Bird Count. The birds were foraging the ice edges and shorelines for washed up fish or other edible debris. They have also been sighted feeding on the geese and ducks that were wounded during the hunting season, and couldn’t leave with the big flocks.
As the lake completely freezes, they disperse into surrounding areas, feeding on any dead things they find. A road-kill deer can sustain a few eagles, coyotes, crows and ravens through the hardest part of winter. As more and more sighting occurred during other seasons, it became evident the eagles were nesting on Lake Simcoe.
The numbers of eagles in Ontario are steadily on the rise, enough that a few years ago they were removed from the Endangered List.
The Simcoe County Banding Group will continue to monitor these, and other Lake Simcoe birds. Most species that nest on or around Lake Simcoe are doing well. All species have population fluctuations — it is part of the natural cycle — but with constant monitoring, the peaks and lows can be recorded over a few year period.
Shaw has been running workshops demonstrating the bird banding and research in the Simcoe County region.