Berkshire Woods and Waters: Love is in the air

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Recently, MassWildlife has requested us to report local eagle sightings to Andrew Vitz, MassWildlife's State Ornithologist, and/or to DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden.

Mark Thorne of Pittsfield has been observing and documenting the Onota Lake eagle nest for 10 years now, and the female has been the same one every year.

She was banded in 2002 (#T98) from the Hudson River in New York. Now 15 years old, she may be considered middle aged as they can live up to 30 years. The males have changed over the years, three since Mark has been monitoring them, and the current one has been with her since 2014. He was banded (#WR8) as a chick in 2006 from the Connecticut River area here in Western Mass, making him 11 years.

They had been on eggs since the beginning of March, with both eagles sharing duties sitting on them. Eaglets may have hatched by now.

Supposedly, they mate for life, but if one member of a pair dies or is killed, the other will actively court another mate. However; there has been some contention over this nest from a third eagle. No locked talons that Mark has seen, "just a lot of fast flying and screaming from all parties, ending with the intruder being shown the door to another part of the county."

Sadly, Mark says, that's how her current beau came into the picture, so we'll have to see how this plays out. He believes that "mating for life" depends particularly on how long the current male can withstand the challenges of other younger males.

Breeding bald eagles were extirpated from Massachusetts during the early 1900s. However, from 1982 to 1988, 41 young Bald Eagles from Michigan and Canada were relocated to Quabbin Reservoir.

Following this restoration effort, they were confirmed to breed successfully in the state by 1989. Eagle numbers have increased slowly but steadily since that time.

During 2015, an all-time high of at least 51 pairs of Bald Eagles maintained breeding territories in Massachusetts. Around here, they were located as follows: Westfield River (2), Deerfield River (2), Housatonic River (1), Onota Lake (1) and Lake Buel (1).

Population abundance in Massachusetts is limited mainly by amount of potential breeding habitat (i.e., number of large water bodies surrounded by mature forest and having shallow waters and abundant fish).

Fishermen should be diligent in proper disposal of fishing line and equipment, as eagles are known to accidentally ingest hooks. At least one eaglet has been killed in Massachusetts after becoming tangled in fishing line.

Be careful while driving, too. Recently, a very important bird in the history of bald eagle restoration in Massachusetts died after being hit by a vehicle on Rte. 5 in Northampton. A veterinarian determined it had a broken back and spinal cord damage, and had to be euthanized. Known by #W02 on its leg band, this 28-year-old eagle was one of the three first wild-born eagles to hatch in Massachusetts in modern times. Since 1989 when #W02 hatched, at least 646 wild-born Bald Eagle chicks have fledged in the Commonwealth.

Poor bird, it died without a real name. RIP #W02.

TU Event

On Thursday, April 20, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited will have Ron Merly, Connecticut fishing guide and Author of "Flyfisher's Guide to Connecticut," as its guest speaker. He will be speaking about the Farmington and Housatonic Rivers.

An avid fisherman, Merly has been fishing the trout streams of Connecticut and on Long Island Sound for over 45 years. He has held the current Connecticut state record for sea-run trout since 2006.

A self-taught writer, he was awarded first place in the Best Magazine Article category by the New England Outdoor Writers Association in 2009 and 2010. He has served as the president of the Nutmeg Chapter of Trout Unlimited since 2010, and has been a member of its Board of Directors since 2000.

He has resided on the Connecticut coastline for his entire life, and has flyfished all over New England, as well as in Mexico and Honduras.

The event will be held at the Berkshire Hills Country Club at 500 Benedict Rd., Pittsfield. Doors open at 6 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public. Dinner is optional.

Earth Week

Earth Week runs from April 17 through April 23 this year. Numerous communities celebrate an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. The most common practice of celebration is planting new trees. Coincidentally, that is also school vacation week.

Friday, April 21, is called Earth Day and MassWildlife has planned a trout stocking event that day. It will take place at Burbank Park on Onota Lake at 1:30 p.m.

Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Supervisor, plans to liberate 400-500 rainbow trout into the lake. The public, especially the youngsters, are invited to watch them release the fish. DFW may allow some of the kids to carry pails of trout for release. They may also have some stuff to hand out to the kids.

Trout Stockings

The following local waters were scheduled for trout stocking last week: Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield, Hoosic River-South Branch in Cheshire and Adams, Hoosic River-North Branch in Clarksburg, Green River in Alford and Great Barrington, Williams River in West Stockbridge, Egremont and Great Barrington; Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield and Worthington; Hudson Brook in Clarksburg, Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington, Trout Brook in Peru, Green River in Williamstown, Greenwater Pond in Becket, and Big Pond in Otis.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818.


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