By Brock Parker on Boston.com
Once endangered, birds on comeback
It may surprise drivers along the Mystic Valley Parkway to see a bald eagle soaring above the largely urban area, but residents in one Arlington neighborhood say they’ve grown accustomed to seeing members of the once-endangered species perching in trees near their homes.
For several years, residents around Beverly and Robinhood roads in Arlington say a bald eagle - and sometimes two - has been spotted flying above Lower Mystic Lake and resting in a favorite perch that local birdwatchers now refer to as “the tree.’’
"It’s hard not to get excited about seeing a bird like that," said Marj Rine, who lives on Robinhood Road and started the Menotomy Bird Club in Arlington.
Wildlife experts say the town’s residents are getting a front-row seat to the resurgence of bald eagles in Massachusetts.
Every January, the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife attempts to count all of the bald eagles in residence across the commonwealth, as part of a national midwinter survey. The first census, conducted in 1979, spotted just eight. Last year’s count turned up a record-high 81 bald eagles, said Tom French, MassWildlife’s assistant director.
This month’s survey found 71 bald eagles, French said, but he noted that low visibility on Jan. 8, one of the days scheduled for the official count, may have prevented spotters from detecting some of the state’s population.
For the past seven or eight winters, bald eagles have been spotted in Arlington around Lower Mystic Lake, which also borders Medford. They tend to perch on a tall tree near the Medford Boat Club, Rine said. "They are very reliable," she said.
Seeing a bald eagle that close to Boston is “amazing,’’ said Kathleen Lucas, who recently traveled to Arlington from Woburn after fellow birdwatchers mentioned their regular appearances, and was able to photograph one of the majestic birds.
But Wayne Petersen, an official with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said the rebound of bald eagles is making sightings in populated settings more and more frequent.
"It’s increasingly reasonable to see them, and expect them," Petersen said.
Removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants in 2007, bald eagles are now commonly found in Massachusetts around Lakeville, the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, along the Merrimack River in Newburyport, and along the Connecticut River, Petersen said.
"We now have a substantial population," he said.
A bald eagle was even spotted last Sunday along the Charles River near the Museum of Science in Boston, French said.
In Arlington, most of the sightings occur during the winter, and Rine said she believes rugged weather father north, with colder temperatures and lakes frozen longer, drives the birds south looking for food.
Al Franchi, who lives on Beverly Street next to the lake, said he’s seen eagles in the area for the last couple of winters. At times, Franchi said, he and his wife, Susan, have even seen two bald eagles near their home.
Their most recent spotting was Monday, when Susan Franchi saw what she believes was an adult male eagle.
"He had a big wingspan," she said.
Rine said she wonders whether the eagle is the same bird that returns to Arlington every year. While it tends to perch in the same tree that the eagles have sought out in recent years, the current visitor tends to settle on a different branch.
But for her, Rine said, "There’s no way to tell if it’s the same bird."