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Viewing the bald eagle — in flight, on a perch or on a nest — can be a wondrous sight. This majestic bird, our national emblem, has made an amazing comeback in the state.
Dustin Stoner, Pennsylvania Game Commission’s southeast region education supervisor, said over three decades ago the population of bald eagles in the state was nearly depleted; there were only three bald eagle nests in the state. According to the Game Commission’s website, “with the help of the Canadian government, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and several other states reintroduced bald eagle chicks from Canada back to the Northeast United States. Today, Pennsylvania boasts more than 300 nests.”
Stoner said in the past, nests were monitored by the game commission more closely. Now, with 300 nests, monitoring is more streamlined. He said in early spring, the nests are checked to see if they’re active — adult birds may be present or there may be nesting activity.
“Eagles will often use nests from previous years. They may not reuse a nest if it’s been damaged or there are changes in the area that would make them uncomfortable such as construction activity,” he explained. “Sometimes they do repair damaged nests.”
Stoner said the commission monitors 10 nests in Lebanon County. Bald eagle nesting locations in the county include one at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. According to LebTown reader Pat Rhen, other locations to spot one include Marquette Lake, by the S. Pine Grove St/Route 343 bridge of the Little Swatara Creek, and behind Tulpehocken Manor.
“We want people to enjoy seeing bald eagles. It’s best to do so using binoculars,” he said. “The number one rule is to maintain a distance [at least 1,000-feet] so you’re not causing any kind of alarm to the birds; you could spook the birds off the nest and cause injury to the chicks.”
Other viewing tips include:
- If you must talk, whisper.
- Don’t approach with a car or ATV.
- If a nest is close to your property, wait until after nesting season to disturb the area.
Further information on bald eagle nest viewing etiquette is available on the game commission’s website.
Stoner said Middle Creek is a good place to view all types of wildlife.
“It’s a great place to go and meet like-minded people who enjoy wildlife,” he said. “Some birdwatchers will go there just to see species they don’t usually see.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Middle Creek’s visitors center is currently closed, but public access areas and trails including the Willow Point trail are open. The self-guided driving tour is also open. Visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s site for more information.
Stoner said there’s also a livestream feed from an eagle nest on a Lancaster County farm posted on the game commission’s website. There’s also an area on the website to report a nest so that the game commission can monitor it.
“People do get excited when they view an eagle nest. If you’re patient (and follow viewing etiquette), you’ll get good viewing opportunities and learn about bald eagles,” Stoner said.
Other possible bald eagle spotting locations
- Nest on the northwest corner of the bridge over Swatara Creek, on the road coming out of Palmyra (N. Railroad St.) “Viewing is from a farm fence,” said LebTown reader Jo Ellen.
- North Forge St., just after the railroad tracks to your right, said Palmyra reader Lawrence.
- A nest that’s been there several years near the Swatara Creek at Gravel Hill Rd. “Often perch on the electric tower,” said LebTown reader Mary.
- In and around Rt. 72 North near the bridge that crosses the Swatara Creek. “The eagles have been flying across the bridge in front of traffic,” said LebTown reader Antoinette. “I saw an eagled perched across the Little Swatara Creek south of Jonestown,” said Antoninette. “It was the first time in the 52 years that we lived at this address we saw this. What a beautiful sight!”
- “Saw one last week,” said reader Anna, who was sitting on her back porch at the time. “At first I thought it was a hawk . . . Never saw one in the wild that close.”
Do you have tips on seeing bald eagles in Lebanon County? Let us know using the form below and we’ll add them to this article.
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