Blame it all on the weather: Bald eagle sightings down
By Dave Lemieux
Chronicle staff writer
Bald eagle sightings in Muskegon and Ottawa counties
dropped by more than half from last year, according to
the Department of Natural Resources' annual midwinter
The state totals were also down from last year, but that
doesn't mean there are fewer eagles, according to the
DNR. It has to do with the mild winter, which meant eagles
didn't have to migrate so far south to find open water,
Volunteers reported 49 eagles in Muskegon
21 in Ottawa
during the two-week survey Jan. 1-15. Last winter, 112
eagles were sighted in Muskegon
and 148 in Ottawa
during the survey.
In a normal winter, eagles move south in search of better
fishing when the lakes and streams farther north freeze.
They usually begin arriving in the area in late November.
Open water extended much farther north this winter, the
state's warmest on record since 1896. The state's average temperature
from December through February was 29.1 degrees, or 7.5
degrees above the 108-year average of 21.6 degrees, according
to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records.
Statewide, 990 eagles were reported this winter. That's
down from the record 1,510 reported last year but still
ahead of the 782 reported in 2000.
Bald eagle numbers are fine overall, said Eve Rolandson, a DNR re-source specialist. As recently as 1980,
only 84 pairs were sighted in the state.
Rolandson said the weather
was a factor in this year's count also because there was
more snow last year, and more people were outside taking
part in recreational activities, which allowed them to
The 109 eagles reported in Muskegon,
and Allegan counties accounted for just under
17 percent of the 656 birds spotted in the Lower