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reason to expand natural areas: eagles!



Photo Courtesy of Jamie Smith
Bald eagles at Cootes are a rare pair
At-risk species making a comeback in area landscape


The Hamilton Spectator

(Jun 7, 2010) 

A pair of bald eagles is sticking around Hamilton for a third summer, a sign the area's natural lands are improving, experts say.
If the birds breed, that would make them the first mating pair of bald eagles on Lake Ontario in 50 years.
Their presence in Cootes Paradise, along with growing numbers of at-risk species making a comeback, is encouraging for local conservationists.
"One of the main things it means is we're doing something right," said Lee Oliver, communications manager at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
"We're trying to bring back an ecological balance."
Along with the two bald eagles, there are nine or 10 male Blanding's turtles, which look similar to tortoises and are very rare, Oliver said.
"It's like a bad party -- we haven't been able to find a female yet," he said.
It's not just animals that have returned. Plant life has made a comeback as well.
For example, the few-flowered club-rush is a grass-like plant that has only existed in Cootes since 2001, Oliver said. It was in Toronto's Rouge Park before that.
The RBG also burns invasive grass species to allow later-blooming native grasses to grow instead, and it diverts invasive giant goldfish carp back into Lake Ontario.
These changes are mainly credited to the RBG's Project Paradise, an effort to preserve its natural lands and nature sanctuaries, including Cootes, during about the last 10 years, Oliver said.
As for the bald eagles, it appears as though they've made a tall pine tree on Lake Ontario's north shore their home -- and tried to make another nest on the south shore near McMaster University.
They likely won't have eaglets until next season because one of them is too young, said Tys Theysmeyer, head of conservation at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
"Eventually we'll have little ones," he said, adding their mating season is in March.
Though the older bird has matured enough to show its white head and tail, the other is "splotchy," he said.
The fact that they're sticking around Cootes Paradise is "quite a phenomenon for this area," said Jim Quinn, McMaster biology professor and ornithologist.
He said youth is just one of the possible reasons why they haven't yet had eaglets. Others could be that they are laying infertile eggs or they're exploring the area first.
jdunning@thespec.com
905-526-3368

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