The Capture of P04: March 7, 2005
By Peter Nye and Kathy Michell

Hello J-North Eagle Trackers:

Eagle P04 with backpack satellite unit

My winter-eagle specialist Kathy Michell and I were out trapping yesterday (March 7, 2005), one last ditch effort to catch an adult eagle for tracking purposes. As I've said before, it gets tough this late in the winter, as many eagles have begun to depart already and most are on the move or staging to go. The good thing for us about trapping this time of the year is that most of our resident breeders are actively at and working on their nests, so we are likely to get only migrants at our bait stations.

Due to snow levels precluding access to our preferred Delaware River trapping location, Kathy and I baited and trapped at a nearby site along the Mongaup River. Both of these sites are within the area we refer to as the Upper Delaware River eagle wintering area, and eagles move regularly between these two sites. Many of our previously captured and tracked migrants have come from this site (refer to the archives).

At any rate, we completed set-up just as it was dawning at about 0545, and just as a few "early-bird" eagles were flying over our heads departing from their night roosts. We had about two dozen eagles in the immediate area of our trap-set, but mostly all morning 3-4 dozen ravens and crows were ravaging our deer carcass bait. The day got progressively nicer, and by noon we had bright sunshine, 57 degrees, and light wind, conditions just perfect for soaring, which is exactly what many of the eagles we were watching began doing. Generally, overcast, lousy-weather days, especially days when a storm (low barometric pressure) is approaching, are the best trapping days. So, needless to say, by about 1330 hours we were not too optimistic about our chances. Shortly after this, however, an immature bald eagle landed near our bait, walked slowly in, displaced all the corvids, jumped up on top of the deer and began eating. We were pleased, because anytime one eagle is feeding, it usually attracts others; this time was no exception.

A Perfect Deployment
Within a half-hour, up to 10 immature bald eagles were vying for space at the carcass. All this is well and good, but our target was an unbanded adult eagle. So we waited, but not for long. Within 15 minutes a beautiful adult flew in to the mix, trying to secure a spot on the deer. While Kathy made ready with the firing box, I watched intently as wings lept up and down and back and forth around the carcass. Even though our "target" bird was on/near the bait, with so many birds around and moving we had to be very careful not to fire the net when "outlying" birds could be injured. At precisely the moment I saw all the eagles down and at the carcass I yelled "fire" to Kathy, and without hesitation the net exploded from the box and deployed perfectly. Once the smoke had cleared, we saw we had established a new record for number of eagles captured in a single effort, as eight different bald eagles, including our beautiful, unbanded adult, lay under the net.

Now the work began. It took us over an hour to untangle, band and release the seven immature eagles, who, unfortunately for them were feeding at the same time as our target adult, before we turned our attention to the adult for his full treatment. In addition to his leg bands, P04 as he is now known received a satellite radio transmitter (Ptt), was measured, weighed and bled before being photographed and released. A very successful day as it turned out.
I am assuming that P04 is a long-distance winter migrant, but only time will tell. I don't think we will have to wait long to find out. Stay tuned as we track our newest member of the research team!

Pete and P04
Kathy and P04


Peter E. Nye, Leader
Endangered Species Unit
Wildlife Diversity Group