The birds are back in Branchburg: Bald eagle family returns to PSEG tower
The comeback of endangered bald eagles in New Jersey has been dramatic in recent years, with a record 220 nests recorded in the last year.
News 12 New Jersey’s Brian Donohue had the chance to see some of the population’s newest additions, who have made a home along a PSEG power line in Branchburg.
Scientists with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife were out at the location on Friday to band and examine a pair of baby eagles. It is another great sign of the dramatic comeback of the Garden State’s rising bald eagle population.
“The chicks look great. They’re very close in size, which is good for siblings,” says the Division’s Kathy Clark. “They look really healthy, and it’s all good.”
But the good news wasn’t always guaranteed for the eagle family. The bird couple had been nesting for seven or eight years atop an old power line tower raising chicks each year and doing well. But when PSEG began replacing the old towers with bigger ones, town residents and bird watchers became worried about what would happen to the eagles and their home.
“The new towers are a little bit taller, and they’re also tubular monopole structures, so there’s really no place where they can build a nest,” says PSEG’s Claudia Rocca.
Mary Ellen Hill, of Raritan Township, is a member of a volunteer group that monitors eagle nest sites for the DEP.
“And people would come up to me and they would be upset and they’d say, ‘I’m calling the DEP’ and calling all these government agencies. They were mad and looking at me like, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” Hill says.
A plan was then created. PSEG workers removed the nest from the old tower, saving it on plywood. They then built a special platform on the new tower and put the old nest back.
But in early spring, the eagles seemed to want no part of their new home and started a new nest in a tree a few miles away.
“People had given up hope. they'd always come over and stop and say, ‘They're gone now, aren't they?’” Hill says.
But finally, the eagles seemed to see the advantages of the higher tower and the new platform built just for them. One day they were back, settled in and laid two eggs.
“It was just wonderful because this was such a great site for everybody to be able to view and for the banding to happen,” says Hill.
Besides banding the birds, workers were also hoping to get the webcam back up and running so that people can watch the nest from home. They expect to have that fixed soon.