Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bald Eagles of Smith Mountain Lake

It's always a heart-stopping thrill to see our majestic National Symbol soaring proudly in our skies.  

What makes this even more exciting is if you're in Franklin or Bedford Counties, you don't have to venture very far to catch a glimpse of these graceful yet powerful raptors. Spend some time on Smith Mountain Lake and your almost assured to see one as the local population has been on the rise. Every spring we look forward to the return of another celebrated raptor to our area, the Osprey, but it is the American Bald Eagle that can truly inspire. With a wingspan of seven feet, the eagle is larger than even the Turkey Vultures that silently cruise the thermals overhead. With their white heads & tails and dark bodies, eagles tend to stand out when bird watching. Another easy way to spot the eagle is its silhouette; their wings create a T shape rather than an M or V when in flight. 
If you think you've missed your chance to view eagles in our area until spring, you might be surprised to learn that most eagles in the Southeast are not known to migrate. If they do travel from their hatch site, it's usually not far. Juvenile Bald Eagles differ greatly from their parents. They more closely resemble a Golden Eagle or male Harrier than their adult namesakes. Immature eagles will keep this darker plumage for up to 5 years of age before sporting the iconic "bald" head and white tail. 

In October we were treated with a sighting of two Bald Eagles at Smith Mountain Dam while aboard the Virginia Dare for the Wildlife Wednesday Cruise. Alice Swain, owner of the Virginia Dare says she always stops to watch as eagles glide down the cove between Virginia Dare and Smith Mountain Lake State Park. We've even had some eagle sightings while on our regularly scheduled summer canoe trips here at Smith Mountain Lake State Park. 

So remember to keep a sharp eye peeled toward the sky over Smith Mountain Lake, a sighting of our national treasure is sure to melt away winter's chill!

Article Courtesy of Lauri Schular, Parks Interpreter, Smith Mountain Lake State Park 

Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie @ The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Mount Virginia