By Don Torino
(from Wild New Jersey)
Within the sight and sounds of New Jersey’s busiest highways, surrounded by the most tightly congested human habitations in the garden state lies a very special wild place , a place enclosed by warehouses , roads, fences and concrete but wild none the less since a pair of Bald Eagles decided to nest along the Overpeck in Ridgefield Park.
Against all odds a pair of Bald Eagles known as Alice and Al who have become local celebrities have nested successfully in Ridgefield Park since 2011, producing 6 young. But this year is very special since 3 Eaglets have been confirmed thriving in one of the most urban eagles nests in the Country, and yet despite their superstar status their future may still be in doubt.
The three youngsters already have names Hope, Faith and Flyer and they are growing bigger every day. No North American bird grows faster than an eagle chick. They add one pound to their body weight every four or five days. At 6 weeks old, a healthy chick should weigh between 8 and 9 pounds, an incredible growth rate. At eight weeks, parents hunt almost nonstop to feed them and at about 13 weeks after hatching they are ready to take flight, Around 40% of young eagles do not survive their first flight and only fifty percent of those will survive their first year, a perilous beginning for these magnificent symbols of our nation, but sadly this could possibly be the very last time this marvel of the natural world will be witnessed at the Overpeck.
Alice & Al chose to raise their young in a most unlikely setting, an industrial part of Ridgefield Park, within sight and sound of the roaring trucks and cars on the NJ Turnpike and both route 80 and 46. Unfortunately the tree they chose to build their huge nest is located on a toxic waste sight scheduled to be remediated which just happens to rest on top of a proposed $660 million dollar development Project both which threatens the future of this magnificent pair of birds. And even though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ruled that the site can be cleaned up without threatening the nest and that the nest should remain the NJDEP has yet to rule on their future.
Against all odds Bald Eagles Like Alice & Al have fought back from the brink of extinction, victims of everything from DDT, water pollution, mass killings and habitat destruction, it is sad to think they could still be victims to the the sins of our past and lost in the name of misguided progress.
As the paper work gets shuffled, judgments prepared and deals made let’s not forget Alice and Al are raising three chicks as we speak at their suburban home in hopes that we can find a way to help them remain on their nest and bring forth another generation of Bald Eagles.
Many thanks to my good friend Jill Homcy for her dedication helping and protecting our Eagles, Alice and Al.
To watch the latest video on the 3 Ridgefield Park Eaglets go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPa6MIe4YwY&feature=youtu.be