Bald eagles return to the valley |

Bald eagles return to the valley

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent
An adult bald eagle looks after two eaglets in the Aspen Glen area south of Glenwood Springs Wednesday as one of the youngsters tests its wings against a stiff breeze. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

Some bald eagles are making commonplace what was once rare in Garfield County.For the third straight year, eagle pairs are raising young at Aspen Glen near Carbondale and in the area of a gravel pit along the Colorado River near Rifle.Before 2004, eaglets hadn’t been born in the county since 1973, and before that, the last local eaglets were seen in 1954.Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said it’s not surprising to see the eagles repeatedly breeding locally. Once they establish a nesting location, they tend to return each year, he said.He said two eaglets have been spotted at both the Carbondale and Rifle nests. That’s a typical number, although Hampton noted that sometimes a bigger eaglet will push a smaller one out of a nest before the birds can fly.On Wednesday, the Carbondale parents could be seen bringing a fish to their young at their home in a conifer tree towering over the Roaring Fork River and the 10th hole of Aspen Glen’s golf course.Hampton noted that Garfield County’s recent experiences with breeding bald eagles aren’t unique.”It’s a trend we’re seeing all over the place. It’s not just there, it’s statewide and even to some extend nationwide,” he said.Hampton and Linda Vidal, past president of the Roaring Fork Audubon Society, both called the recovery of bald eagles a success story in terms of bringing back an endangered species.The local eagles also benefit from a clause in Aspen Glen’s development agreement. It calls for the closure of the 10th hole if there is a mating pair of eagles nearby because the nest was there decades before the development. The closure ends at the end of the breeding season.Vidal said eagles mate for life.”They use the same nest year after year – with a few more sticks in it,” she said.As big, easy-to-see raptors, bald eagles “are what bird-watchers call sexy,” Vidal said. And she said it’s exciting to see them make a return. But she said a lot of smaller, neotropical migrating birds are in decline because of habitat loss resulting from development.

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