Here's a post for the technophiles among us:
"It's just a map," you say. Of course it's a map, that's how people learn things!
...and now you're accusing me of posting the blurry rump of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). That accusation stands true as well. What doesn't show up in that photo is a little pack that is attached to the bird - and transmits information about the bird's geographic movement to a researcher named Brian.
Brian Mealey is the Executive Director, and thus primary researcher, when it comes to radio-collared Bald Eagles in the Everglades. There's even a page on the site that gives you a sample pair of eagle "tracks" from previous years.
We found Brian via the Tropical Audubon Society bird board, when I posted this query:
Ok, I know we bugged out of SE FL a while ago, but we were reviewing
pictures and one of the Bald Eagles in a fallow field along 997 (I
think that's the road north from Everglades NP to Hwy 41 and 75?) had
a transmitter on its back.
USGS doesn't have a category for reporting collared eagles, perhaps
y'all know of a local project?
In no time at all, "tricia" had responded to my post with:
It is probably one of Brian Mealey's birds.
follow this link and you can email him.
So much for my own sleuthing! At least we had enough information from our sighting to e-mail Brian and sound more intelligent than "we saw an eagle and it had an antenna on it" - I'm sure researchers get that a lot.
Matt pointing to the Bald Eagle in a fallow field - there were also White Ibis, Black-necked Stilts, Laughing Gulls, American Crows, and Boat-tailed Grackles present. Then a tractor scared them. Sigh.
My e-mail to Brian:
My husband and I were on our way from Everglade NP back to hwy 41 and
maybe a mile south of the "Robert is here" fruit stand on 997, we
passed a fallow field with two eagles. One of them had a transmitter
backpack - since we didn't see bands or wing tags, I'm not sure that
the sighting is of any use to you, since the transmitter is probably
working... just wanted to say that it was quite a highlight on our
trip =) Exact date would be 7/28/09, I'd have to get back to you on
what time in the afternoon, though.
Brian's enthusiastic response:
Thank you Heidi!
Always useful and it great to know that folks are always on the look
out for wildlife!
I'm attaching a map of the most recent movement of Camp Eagle (56105)
includes your sighting.
Camp Eagle was banded as a nestling (about 50 days old) and fitted
with a transmitter back in March 2005! She's beating the odds of
[truncated here -h]
If that first map wasn't nifty enough, here's the detailed map of SE FL activities during the time that Matt and I saw "Camp Eagle" (when was the last time you could put the name to a bird you were watching? ...on a project that's not yours??)
This map is infinitely cool, not just because it shows ample movement in the protected zone of Everglades National Park and tracks adventures east of Homestead, but because it even highlights the fruity awesomeness that is the "Robert is Here" fruit stand! And of course, we were just a bit south of "Robert is Here" when we saw "Camp Eagle," so our story has been validated with a bit of telemetry handiwork.
In the meantime, Brian reports that he is in the midst of analysis and manuscript work, so at some point in the near future, we'll get to find out what information "Camp Eagle" contributed by toting around the transmitter.
Edit: this post is now over at I Found A Banded Bird as "Eagles and bands and collars, oh my!"