Today, I went with a group of friends to Mason Neck State Park in Lorton to watch 3 bald eagles being released into the wild. The Wildlife Center of Virginia provides health care to wild animals and at midday was releasing 3 immature eagles that were born this year but had been found injured and needing help before they could fend for themselves. I spent an hour before the release with a warden who lent binoculars and helped us identify the eagles in the wild. We saw an adult and several immatures, as the young eagles are called. They don't get their white head and tail feathers until they are 5 years old.
Ed Clark Jr. in these photos is a co-founder of the organization and formed the wildlife center in 1982.
This was the first eagle to be released and the crowd were ecstatic as he flew to freedom. Ed told the crowd that only 1 in 4 immature eagles reach maturity so the chances of all 3 of today's birds surviving were unfortunately slim. But they would be closely monitored after their release by the park's and foundation's staff.
Jim Moran, a member of Congress, arrived for the release of the second bird, giving a short speech beforehand on the merits of the wildlife center and praising their efforts.
It was wonderful to see these beautiful birds so close up. Note the size of the talons, the same size as Ed's hand. He holds them firmly by their legs as these are the strongest parts of the eagle's body.
Everyone smiled at the majestic bird as she passed.
Another release. Only one of the birds actually flew over the trees out of sight while the other two made for the branches of nearby trees to sit and digest their new surroundings.
This short video shows the 3rd release. It was an exhilarating yet humbling moment to watch these releases. After hearing from Ed how these birds had been nursed back to health from their injuries, it made me realize how wonderful this organization is and how much our environment relies on their actions to help keep our wildlife safe. Just this year so far, they have released 33 bald eagles back into the wild including our 3 today.
This link shows the page on their website explaining the history of the 3 birds released today, and other pages show just how far this organization goes to help all wildlife.
The bald eagle became the national emblem in 1782 but if Benjamin Franklin had got his way, the turkey would be on the backs of coins and on state seals. He said, "I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him.... Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest. . . of America.. . . For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on." Hmmm.