Jason Childress now carries a spotting scope with him almost everywhere he goes.
As a senior envirochemist at OG&E, Childress’ position generally will involve working with drinking water high quality and environmental challenges.
In the spring, a further duty was extra to his job description: keeping a near eye on an eagle nest: For 10 a long time, there has been an eagle nest located near Horseshoe Lake in Harrah, a ability plant lake of the utility enterprise.
Volunteers from the Sutton Avian Analysis Heart in Bartlesville normally monitor the eagle nest during the breeding season. But when they were denied access to the OG&E residence this spring because of COVID-19, a system was hatched to flip Childress and plant chemist Bill Baack into eagle watchers.
As section of their normal workday, they would just take time to spy on the nest and report their observations to the research heart. It became component of their daily plan to look at and retain a log.
“They needed to know about nest exercise,” Childress said of the analysis middle volunteers.
Volunteers for the Sutton Avian Investigation Middle preferred to know if birds were utilizing the nest, was there evidence of eaglets being hatched and how a lot of?
“Really immediately, Bill and I equally variety of acquired into it,” Childress reported.
Conserving endangered species
At one time, the American bald eagle was on the endangered record. The eagle inhabitants dropped dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s thanks to the use of the pesticide DDT, which is now banned. At the lowest point, only 417 breeding pairs of eagles were being acknowledged to exist in the state.
In 1978, eagles had been formally listed as an endangered species in all 48 contiguous states in the United States.
There were no recognized eagle nests in Oklahoma when the non-financial gain Sutton Avian Study Center opened in Bartlesville in 1984.
It was named after the male regarded to be the father of Oklahoma ornithology, the late University of Oklahoma professor George Miksch Sutton. An artist and writer, Sutton did substantial industry word in the Arctic and Mexico as effectively as Oklahoma.
These days, the Sutton Avian Analysis Middle is hoping to preserve two birds presently in risk of extinction: the Attwater’s prairie chicken and the masked bobwhite quail.
Captive breeding initiatives for both equally species are underway on the center’s 70 acres in the vicinity of Bartlesville.
The Attwater’s prairie-chicken is an endangered grouse that is unique to Texas and Louisiana gulf coastal locations.
A century ago, up to a million of the birds graced the coastal parts. Today, significantly less than 1% of coastal prairies stay and the Attwater’s prairie-chicken has been pushed to the edge of extinction.
The masked bobwhite quail is found only in the Sonoran Desert and semi-desert areas of serious southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico.
“There are only about a thousand left in the planet at this issue, and we’ve obtained a significant percentage of them listed here at the Sutton Centre to support with captive breeding efforts,” mentioned Dan Reinking, senior biologist at the heart.
“There is not extremely a lot of areas in the state that can declare to be a considerable participant in boosting, not just one, but two endangered species, and we are accomplishing it correct listed here in Oklahoma.”
The return of bald eagles
Bald eagles were the Sutton Avian Research Center’s to start with big restoration undertaking, beginning just a year following it opened.
In the late ’80s, officers from the center traveled to Florida, the only remaining place in the reduce 48 states at the time that however had a rather very good population of eagles, and brought back again eggs from wild eagle nests, Reinking stated.
The nesting pair in Florida would lay a substitute clutch so the inhabitants there was not staying harmed, he mentioned.
“We have been then able to provide people very first clutches back again to Oklahoma and incubate them right here, the two less than bantam hens and artificial incubators and hatch them out,” Reinking claimed.
The eaglets were raised very carefully so they didn’t “come to be imprinted on men and women,” he mentioned.
When the birds first become capable of flight, the younger eagles ended up moved to large towers in these spots in Oklahoma like the Sequoyah Countrywide Wildlife Refuge, he stated.
It is really a procedure recognized as hacking as the juvenile eagles are launched in the wild from an synthetic nesting tower.
“We crossed our fingers and hoped that the moment they matured in 4 or five several years they would appear back again and develop their nests in the vicinity of exactly where they were released,” Reinking said. “Guaranteed sufficient, it worked.”
By 1993, 10 eagles nests experienced been founded in Oklahoma. Nowadays, there are 249 documented eagle nests in the state, Reinking mentioned.
That suggests about 500 bald eagles simply call Oklahoma their lasting house and continue to be in the condition all yr, Reinking reported.
Oklahoma also is the wintertime household for thousands additional bald eagles, birds which journey south from the higher Midwest when the lakes up north freeze, he stated.
The American bald eagle rebounded and removed from the endangered species record in 2007. These days, Oklahoma’s resident population of eagles continues to increase, Reinking stated.
Bald eagles are mainly fish eaters and can be found all around lots of of Oklahoma’s rivers and lakes.
“Just about every year we understand of a amount of new nests,” Reinking mentioned. “Birds are going out of the intensely populated Arkansas River corridor, the location with the densest nesting population of eagles in the state. As that habitat has filled up, birds have been relocating farther and farther into central and western Oklahoma.”
Getting a birder
It is really really likely that the broad greater part of eagles nesting in Oklahoma now are descendants of the birds that the Sutton Avian Investigate Middle unveiled nearly 30 many years in the past, Reinking stated.
That involves the Horseshoe Lake eagles. Childress generally would see the grownup pair daily when he first started checking them, viewing them swoop down to catch fish on the lake.
Then the Arctic blast strike Oklahoma in February and Horseshoe Lake froze. Childress didn’t see the eagles as generally throughout that two-week period of frigid temperatures.
He would occasionally see just one of the adult birds pop its head out of the deep nest they experienced created around the North Canadian River.
Childress presumed the female grownup stayed on the nest for the duration of the time of the history-breaking weather, and wasn’t hopeful that the eagle eggs would endure.
But Oklahoma finally thawed and in the spring, Childress noticed eaglets popping their heads from above the nest.
Initial there was one. Then two. Then finally 3.
“It was exciting,” he said.
Childress kept watch around the up coming number of months as the mother eagle would carry foodstuff to her younger. Then he inevitably witnessed the youthful eagles having flight about the lake.
He sees the pair of adult eagles on event, at times soaring above the ability plant, and miracles if the young have previously gone and recognized territories of their on.
Childress and Baack nonetheless discover by themselves scanning the sky for eagles in the course of their day-to-day rounds out of habit, even although their formal chicken viewing responsibilities have ended.
“I like to be on the drinking water a good deal and now I have type of noticed myself observing all the various aquatic birds,” he claimed. “We have a ton of aquatic wildlife at Horseshoe Lake. We have distinct shorebirds and cranes on a regular basis. Pelicans that occur and go. Quite a couple of Canadian geese.”
Now, Childress scans the web attempting to discover unknown birds that he sees. Next spring, pandemic or not, he might become an “formal volunteer” for the Sutton Avian Research Centre and maintain an eye on the eagle nest all over again.
Reporter Ed Godfrey appears to be like for stories that affect your everyday living. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you identify it, he needs to report it. Have a tale notion? Get hold of him at [email protected] or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Help his do the job and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a electronic membership right now.