Bald eagle spotted near Nome
The Nome Nugget is often the first to hear of peculiar or new developments in and around Nome and so it was of no surprise when Nome summer resident Chauncy Hoffman, a truck driver for Fimon Trucking, came into the office to report an odd sighting. He said “I have seen a bald eagle this morning, here, I took a picture with my cell phone,” and flipped through photos of a bald eagle on his cell phone. And then he asked “Is this normal?”
Nome and the surrounding region is a birder’s paradise, but to most of us, bald eagles are not a common sight. The Nome Nugget then went to seek advice from former ADF&G biologist Peter Bente, who has spent 22 years in Nome and who has developed quite a reputation as bird and raptor specialist. When asked about the distribution of bald eagles and if it is an unusual occurrence to have a bald eagle cruising around the Beam Road, Peter Bente answered: “Bald Eagles are present every year near Nome; they can arrive with the thaw in May and stay until freeze-up, generally as late as October.
“Through the years, the birds I have seen are singles, apparent non-breeders, although nesting pairs are reported from Fish River, Koyuk, and further south on Norton Sound.
“Past observations show they could occur any year along the Nome, Snake, Penny, Cripple, Sinuk, Pilgrim, Kuzitrin, Niukluk, and other rivers, so they can be seen from the Nome road system or while boating area rivers. Total numbers around Nome are very small, probably just a few individuals. Generally, they need suitable prey-base and large trees to support nests, and the lack of suitable trees near Nome makes the species uncommon, but not rare.
“I did receive digi-scope pictures of this year’s Bald and the head plumage is not fully white making the bird maybe 3-4 years-old, close to but not fully adult. Young birds tend to disperse, searching for breeding areas and mates, so that could be part of the explanation.
“Also, Bald Eagles are opportunist predators and when not relying on salmon or fish they substitute with waterfowl and other prey. It could be that the abundance of hares, especially young ones, might be a contributing factor to keep this eagle lingering in the Nome River area near Dexter. It was out exploring and found a good place to stay for a while.”