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Spring's Journey North
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For the fifth season in a row, New York biologist Peter Nye will share satellite telemetry data with students
as he tracks bald eagles back to their nests in Canada. In 1995 one bird flew all the way to Labrador from New
York's Delaware River. Students will participate in an on-line guessing contest and predict the location of this
eagle's nest. To guide their guess they'll analyze satellite data collected during the springs of '94, '95, '96
and '97 as well as banding data from other New York eagles.
For the first time this year, additional information will also be provided on western eagles being tracked
in Washington State by biologist Jim Watson. These western eagles breed in British Columbia, Alaska, the Yukon,
and the Northwest Territories, and data on these birds will provide students with a great opportunity to compare
and contrast the two eagle migrations. Students will explore how weather systems affect each eagle's journey through
real-time weather lessons. They'll research the eagle's diet and Canada's climate, and then estimate when sufficient
food would become available there.
Nye believes the timing of an eagle's departure from New York is a clue to its ultimate destination. The further
north the eagle's nest, he theorizes, the later it leaves New York. This suggests the eagle has an incredible sense
of timing. Which set of eagls do you suppose will migrate first? Why?
Recently removed from the endangered species list, the eagle's recovery is a conservation success story. Students
will learn about DDT in the food chain and analyze eagle population statistics during the years of its recovery.
New research, however, suggests other chemicals in the environment may now be threatening eagles. Nye's work in
New York is presently measuring levels of such chemicals. In Washington, the affect of human activities on wintering
eagles is one of Watson's concerns. Thus, while conservation challenges continue to confront eagles, past lessons
have made scientists and citizens more watchful.