Shelter Island Eaglets Take Flight in Time for Independence Day

The Mashomack Preserve eaglet
The Mashomack Preserve eaglet. Photo credit: Courtesy The Nature Conservancy

Baby bald eagles on Shelter Island took flight from their oak tree nest on Thursday, July 3, in seasonally appropriate fashion for Friday’s holiday. Staff from The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve discovered the parent eagles and nest in March and have been observing the growing eaglets ever since.

Mike Scheibel, the Mashomack Preserve manager, expressed excitement at the discovered eagle nest and increased frequency of the birds on the island.

“Bald eagles have recently become a regular sight on Shelter Island,” he said. “Now their offspring, a pair of baby bald eagles, are just beginning to take wing. They will be soaring to celebrate this Independence Day.”

Situated on 12 miles of coastline, the Mashomack Preserve includes 2,039 acres of plentiful wildlife habitats. Creeks, oak woodlands, fields and freshwater marshes make up one third of Shelter Island, earning its nickname, “Jewel of the Peconic Bay.”

The Nature Conservancy bought the Mashomack land 34 years ago when developers were attempting to populate the wildlife reserve. Today, the Conservancy works to keep the bald eagle population flourishing by monitoring the water quality and fish levels in Peconic Bay. Bald eagles primarily survive on fish washed up on the shore.

Mashomack Preserve eagle's nest
Mashomack Preserve eagle’s nest.
Photo credit: Courtesy The Nature Conservancy

Nancy Kelly, executive director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island, explained the mission of the organization.

“Decades ago, protecting land was enough to ensure the survival and viability of local wildlife, but today our efforts are concentrated on keeping the lands and especially the waters around Long Island clean and healthy,” she said. “It’s especially important that we do everything we can to avert threats, like nitrogen pollution in our waters, so that our majestic bounty of wildlife can survive and thrive here.”

Though this eagle nesting is only the third for the region in recent times, the bald eagle has made a drastic comeback in New York. In the 1970s, there was only one bald eagle nest in the entire state. The Department of Environmental Conservation responded with a restoration program to revitalize the eagle population. For 13 years, eagles from Alaska were gradually released into New York to help stimulate the eagle population.

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