Volunteers keep an eye on eagles

Bald eagle in flight

Cathy Lail shot this photograph of an eagle in flight near the St. Johns River.

The District’s Bureau of Land Resources is fortunate to have two extra sets of eyes monitoring eagles on District properties.

Bob and Cathy Lail of Orlando monitor eagle nests on nine District properties during their free time. They’re volunteers with Audubon’s EagleWatch Program and their shared passion for the birds gives them another reason to spend time in Florida’s most unspoiled places.

District Land Management Specialist Amanda Lee says the Lails’ volunteer work is immensely beneficial to the District’s mission of protecting natural systems. The couple is tracking down every eagle nest they can find and updating incorrect locations, along with updating locations where nests no longer exist.

“The majority of our eagle nest data is extremely outdated so this is a huge help,” Lee says. “The data they gather also helps us prepare for prescribed burns since we avoid units with occupied nests during nesting season.”

Cathy Lail and her grandson prepare for a hike into the woods to observe eagle nests.

Cathy Lail and her grandson prepare for a hike into the woods to observe eagle nests.

According to the National Eagle Center, the average bald eagle nest is four to five feet in diameter and two to four feet deep. Despite its enormous size, an eagle nest can be challenging to find because many are located deep in the forest, Lee says.

The Lails are more than happy to hunt for eagle nests on some of the approximately 774,831 acres of land throughout the District’s 18-county service area.

“I take the photos so that I can compare the nests year after year, and to help age eagles,” Cathy Lail says. “My husband and I have been volunteering for the Audubon EagleWatch program for several years. We enjoy observing and reporting on eagle nests and it gives us more opportunity to be outdoors. We often take our three-year-old grandson with us. We firmly believe children are never too young to learn love and respect for our environment!”

The Lails’ contributions add value to the District’s work on its properties, which include hydrologic restoration of altered drainage, invasive species management, use of prescribed fire for restoration and wildfire prevention, and providing resource-based recreation opportunities.

Eagle nest in a tree

Eagle nests are often very high in trees.

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