Hello New Hampshire Bald Eagle Watchers!
We have just wrapped up the 35th annual New Hampshire Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey, part of the national Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey. The 2015 count results are truly remarkable! We shattered last year’s Count Day total and posted a new state record high for number of Bald Eagles seen! Most of the state had very cold but precipitation-free weather on this year’s Count Day (Sat Jan 10 statewide, except Thurs Jan 8 in Lakes Region). Overall, a record 102 volunteer observers participated in the 2015 Count Day, and located 90 individual eagles on Count Day alone, surpassing 2014’s previous high of 67 birds by an astonishing 34%.
Two weeks of bitter cold weather preceded this year’s count, which likely had the effect of concentrating eagles into southern parts of the state where more open water and more observers were located. Add excellent visibility on Count Day and what is generally accepted to be a growing regional eagle population, and it might not be too surprising that we set a new record. However, the actual numbers for 2015 are stunning! Top regional honors for most eagles seen on Count Day 2015 goes to the Merrimack River watershed, where 29 eagles were tallied. The Great Bay-Coastal Region followed closely behind with 26 birds counted, and the Lakes Region was third with 15 individuals seen.
Count Day statewide results:
This year we located 90 Bald Eagles (48 adults, 41 immatures*, 1 unknown age) in New Hampshire on Count Day, exceeding the previous state record-high of 67 seen in on Count Day in 2014. A PDF graph showing Count Day results since 1981 is attached. Count Day graph
Count Period statewide results: The official "Count Day" occurs within a more inclusive two-week "Count Period," which spanned the interval from January 1-15, 2015. We keep records on the number of eagles seen during this 15-day interval. Any additional individual birds that are reported during the Count Period, and which are distinguishably different (by plumage or location) from Count Day birds, are added to calculate an overall Count Period total. During this year's Count Period, we documented a total of 110 Bald Eagles (62 adults, 47 immatures, 1 unknown age), 30% more than the previous record of 84 Bald Eagles for the Count Period in 2013. As for overall long-term trends, the number of eagles counted during the Mid-winter Survey in New Hampshire continues to double roughly every 10 years; for the Count Period in 2015 we had 110 eagles, in 2005 we tallied 55 eagles, in 1994 we counted just 25, in 1984 we counted only 12.
So, where were all these eagles found during the 2015 Mid-winter Survey? We located the following numbers of eagles in the state's five major eagle wintering areas (and a few elsewhere across the state) during the Count Day and the Count Period:
Androscoggin River - Total of 10 Bald Eagles seen, including 9 individuals (3 adults, 6 immatures) seen on Count Day (5 observers), with 1 additional eagle (1 adult) confirmed during the two-week Count Period. The Pontook/Dummer area tallied 8 eagles.
Connecticut River** - Total of 19 Bald Eagles seen, including only 6 individuals (5 adults, 1 immature) seen on Count Day (6 observers counting for NH’s total), plus 13 additional eagles (8 adults, 5 immatures) confirmed during the two-week Count Period. Several adult pairs not found on Count Day were observed near nests on other days in Count Period.
Great Bay/Coastal - Total of 27 Bald Eagles seen, including 26 individuals (12 adults, 14 immatures) seen on Count Day (29 observers), plus 1 additional eagle (1 adult) confirmed during the two-week Count Period. Teams covering Adams Point on Great Bay all day saw at least 11 individual eagles!
Lakes Region - Total of 16 Bald Eagles seen, including 15 individuals (10 adults, 5 immatures) seen on Count Day (19 observers), plus 1 additional eagle (1 adult) confirmed during the two-week Count Period. A bone-chilling cold morning starting at -15F but temps rose 30 degrees to a balmy +15F by afternoon, when the eagles finally showed up!
Merrimack River – Pace-setting total of 33 (!) Bald Eagles seen, including 29 individuals (15 adults, 14 immatures) seen on Count Day (24 observers), plus 4 additional eagle (3 adults, 1 immature) confirmed during the two-week Count Period. Photos attached show eagles seen across the watershed on Count Day, from the upper Contoocook in Bennington, to lower Contoocook in Penacook, to lower Merrimack in Nashua, to the Powwow River drainage in East Kingston.
Saco River/Ossipee River, and from elsewhere across NH - Total of 5 Bald Eagles seen, all 5 individuals seen on Count Day (6 observers).
A FEW NOTES ON TERMINOLOGY:
* Following the standardized rules of the National Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey, all sub-adult plumage eagles (including those displaying almost full adult plumage but with minor remnants of immature plumage – often called “dirty adults”) are counted as "immatures" rather than as "adults".
** To avoid double-counting, VT and NH "partition" the Connecticut River, with VT credited with all eagles seen upstream from Wilder Dam, and NH credited for all eagles seen downstream from the dam, regardless of which state's volunteers see the birds, or which state the bird was flying over or perched in.
This was the 35th consecutive year that New Hampshire Audubon has coordinated New Hampshire's part of the National Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey, starting with the Winter of 1980-81. For more information about the national count, visit the following web link: http://ocid.nacse.org/nbii/eagles/history.php
With completion of the 2015 Mid-winter Survey, NH eagle-watchers can turn our attention towards the rapidly approaching 2015 Bald Eagle breeding season. Just 5-8 weeks from now, our breeding pairs will be laying eggs and beginning their 5-week incubation period. Please watch for, and report, any courtship or nesting activity that you may observe as NH Audubon continues to monitor and manage NH’s breeding eagles in collaboration with NH Fish & Game.
NH Audubon monitors Bald Eagle abundance and distribution throughout New Hampshire each year as part of an annual contract with the NH Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. We have also received outstanding financial support from TransCanada Corporation. Donations to NH Audubon's Conservation Department in support of this work are always appreciated. And thanks once again to each and every one of you who donated your time and skills to participate in this year's successful Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey!
Thanks again for your support of the Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey, and happy birding to all!
Senior Biologist, NH Audubon
84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, NH 03301
New Hampshire Audubon – Protecting New Hampshire’s natural environment for wildlife and for people.