Bald Eagles Make Michigan Power Plant Their Winter Home

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Bald Eagles Make Michigan Power Plant Their Winter Home

Square Grouper
From the Detroit Free Press (link with photos and other info at the bottom):

MONROE — The bald eagles perched very still in the trees along the Detroit River — dozens of dark sentinels surveying the landscape around them, waiting for an opportunity to come along. Suddenly, a fish swimming below stirred one to action.

With a breathtaking spread and thump of its 6-foot-plus wingspan, the eagle took to the air. It glided, almost dancing along frigid air currents, before a sudden turn and dive to the water, its talons snatching a silvery fish.

This scene wasn't part of some pristine wilderness setting of babbling brooks and snow-capped mountains. It was in the industrial setting of DTE Energy's Monroe power plant.

One of the nation's largest coal-fired power plants is an unlikely setting for an environmental recovery story, but increasingly every winter, the plant's relatively warm discharge water has turned it into a popular gathering point for scores of bald eagles — the open water making catching fish easier for the birds of prey.

It's been this way for the past 10-15 years on the power plant's restricted 1,000 acres, said DTE wildlife biologist Matt Shackelford. As river fish, like the gizzard shad, seek warmer waters during the winter, they find DTE's discharge — about 12 degrees warmer than the river's normal water temperature. Then the bald eagles find the fish.

"As the birds are flying south, they see open water and secluded land," he said. "They dropped in, stayed for the winter and word got around, so to speak."

Once ubiquitous throughout Michigan, bald eagles were nearly wiped out in the state by the early 1960s because of pesticides, pollution, habitat loss and humans, said David Best, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who for more than a quarter-century was involved in bald eagle monitoring in Michigan (MORE AT LINK).