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Bald eagle babies find home at Michigan plant

May 14, 2018

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — There were three bald eagle chicks in a nest on DTE Energy’s Belle River Power Plant property, but only one of them got a checkup and a leg band on May 1.

The other two were just too young and too small to make the trip from the top of the nest tree to the bottom.

Bald eagles are part of the scenery at the power plant. Last year, a pair in the same nest raised three chicks to fledgling status, Brian Corbett, communications manager for DTE Energy, told the Times Herald .

The parents recently swooped and hovered anxiously nearby as Rachel Eberious, a master’s degree student in environmental science and technology at the University of Maryland, laboriously climbed the nest tree and invaded their privacy.

Eberious was assisted by Shannon Healy, a recent graduate with a degree in biology from the University of Maryland.

Healy said they usually don’t have such a crowd when they work. Besides DTE Energy employees, several Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts got the chance to watch.

Tyler Bommarito, 14, of St. Clair said it was an honor to see the young birds.

“I’m going to tell everybody in the troop,” he said. Tyler belongs to Troop 261.

He said he had never been so close to an eagle.

“We did have conservation presentations where they brought out animals, but never like this,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience to see them up so close.”

Corbett said the three eaglets were the second clutch hatched at the power plant property.

“It looks like the nesting pair has returned and they were incubating on the nest,” he said. “This whole property here has wildlife habitat certification.

“We want to be good partners in the community where we live.”

On April 27, DTE Energy was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission to build a new 1,100-watt natural gas-fired power plant near the Belle River property. Corbett said the plant is part of the company’s plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 80 percent from 2017 levels.

He said DTE employees also volunteer to build bike paths and clean up beaches. The company also has eagles nesting at other property, including the Monroe Power Plant, he said.

According to information from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the state has about 800 nesting pairs of eagles. That’s an increase from 1969 when the population dropped to around 80 nesting pairs.

“It’s a good example of how wildlife can cohabitate with industry,” Corbett said.

Healy said the presence of bald eagles is a good indication of environmental health.

“They’re very sensitive to environmental changes,” she said. “The fact they are here shows things are improving.”

Eberius, who is in her third year with the eagle program and her second year climbing trees said as an apex predator, everything eagles “eat goes through the entire food web, so we use them as an indicator.”

The eaglet at the Belle River property was weighed and measured and had a blood sample taken that will be analyzed for chemicals that might be present in the environment.

Eberius said she and Healy will be in Michigan through June, visiting eagle nests and banding eaglets.

Healy said she’s been nicked a few times by sharp beaks and talons, but no major bloodshed.

“We wrap them and take all the precautions,” she said. “They don’t realize they are an apex bird yet.”

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Information from: Times Herald, http://www.thetimesherald.com

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