Department of Natural Resources biologist John Castrale and DNR pilot Dennis Rumley spent four days in a helicopter this spring counting Hoosier eagle Nests. While swooping around the state’s reservoirs and dodging down Indiana river channels during March and April, the flying surveyors counted a record 60 active Hoosier eagle nests.
Castrale and Rumley counted 50 Indiana nests with eggs last year. Eagle nests were found in 32 counties. More than a third of Indiana counties now have eagle nests. New nests found in Wabash and Union counties show Indiana’s eagle nesting range continues to expand into the northeastern and eastern parts of the State. Counties with the most active nests in 2005 are: Martin (5), Parke (4), Monroe (3), Owen (3), Greene (3), Knox (3), Gibson (3), Dubois (3).
Lakes with the most 2005 eagle nests: Patoka Lake (4), Monroe Lake (3). DNR properties with eagle nests: Patoka Lake, Monroe Lake, Cagles Mill Lake, Cecil M. Harden Lake, Brookville Lake, Versailles State Park, GlendaleFish and Wildlife Area.
A dead eagle found at Patton Lake (and presumably nesting there) was one of the original 73 birds from the Indiana eagle reintroduction program. The Patton Lake female eagle was nearly 16 years old when found. A cause of death could not be determined.
The first successful Indiana bald eagle nests of the 20th century were at Lake Monroe and Cagles Mill Lake in 1991. Before Indiana’s reintroduction project, bald eagles last nested in the northwest corner of the state in1897. The Southwestway Park bald eagle couple has moved a bit south and are raising two more eagle chicks. The park eagles fledged Indianapolis’ first-ever capital city eagle chicks last year. From 1985 to 1989, 73 Alaskan and Wisconsin eagle chicks were raised in artificial nests at Monroe Lake and released into the wild. Last year’s nest appears to have fallen from the supporting tree, and the pair have built a new nest near the Marion/Johnson County boundary.
The eagles hunt and fish over Southwestway Park land and lakes purchased in 2004 using Indiana Heritage Trust license plate funds. The purchase is in an area being rapidly developed with housing subdivisions.
Castrale also confirmed two other Indianapolis eagle nests during his eagle surveys. A second active eagle nest is on the southwest side of the city on the White River north of I-465, and a new inactive eagle nest has been built near the Eagle Creek Reservoir Dam.
The 96 acres of new Southwestway Park natural area was purchased using nearly $300,000 in Indiana Heritage Trust funds. The Heritage Trust land conservation program is funded by the sale of environment license plates. The blue plate has conserved more than 30,000 acres of natural area during the last eleven years.