Bald eagles are no strangers to the Tri-State. The bird's range covers all of North America and nests are not uncommon along area rivers. Twice this year, they've been spotted at Winton Woods.
Zuri Carter is a conservation biologist with Great Parks of Hamilton County. She says in January she saw one sitting in a tree, and fired off an e-mail to colleagues. "Bald Eagle! Winton Lake! And then people came outside just to see 'Where is this bird?' The first time I saw it, after I sent that email, of course it flew away. I had no way of verifying I actually saw the eagle. There were no pictures."
A couple of months later, the eagle, or another one like it, returned to the lake and hung out for a while. Carter says that time, they got pictures.
Carter says it's unusual to spot the national symbol at Winton Woods. "Typically, we'll see eagles at our parks along our rivers, like Little Miami River. We have parks on the Great Miami River and the Whitewater River as well. You can also see them sometimes at our parks that are closer to the Ohio River, like Woodland Mound and Shawnee Lookout."
Just going to the park doesn't guarantee a sighting. But there are a couple of apps that might help. Carter recommends eBird or i-Naturalist. "Other people besides park staff are recording sightings that they see. So that's a great way to see even the most recent sightings of bald eagles or any animal before you head out."
The Great Parks biologists keep a log of unique sightings, and the Winton Woods bald eagle made that list. The birds tend to shy away from human activity.
Winton Woods is pretty quiet in January, but in the spring, the park sees more traffic. Carter says the eagle could have been looking for food, for a place to build a nest or it could have just been passing through. "We do see in urbanized areas there are some species that are adapting to human disturbances," she says. "They either have to adapt or essentially die."
There's no record of a bald eagle nest in Winton Woods, but Carter says that doesn't mean there isn't one. She says the simple appearance speaks to the success in keeping the park natural and quiet.
This story was edited to correct a typographical error.