James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 4.96'
Flow: 4700 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond

  • Very hot and humid today so fill that Camelbak and bring an extra water bottle. All local trails are open.

Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 8:36am
Low Tide: 3:54pm

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Posted In: Birding

Eagles return to Cooper’s Island

February 11, 2012 3:22pm

The eagles featured on the Times-Dispatch’s eagle cam have stolen the show this year, grabbing the attention of thousands of birders all over the country as they mate, lay eggs and get ready to rear young. But in my Friday column in the T-D I wondered about the eagles Cooper’s Island. This time last year it was this pair that was generating headlines and had people lined up with binoculars on Riverside Drive in Westover Hills for a glimpse.

Cooper’s Island sits just west of the Nickel Bridge toward the south bank of the James River. There are two tall pine trees on it, the larger of which hosts the nest. Last year, the eagles laid eggs but were run off before they hatched in a territorial dispute with another eagle. Judy Self, a retired teacher, who watched them religiously last year from Riverside with her spotting scope, thinks the mother crushed the eggs by accident while defending the nest from the other eagle.


Bald eagles mating


I speculated in yesterday’s piece about where the Cooper’s Island eagles could be. They haven’t come back this year. There’s been no mating or nesting activity — at least there hadn’t been until yesterday. No sooner had my column gone to press than Self emailed me (at 5:15 p.m.) to say she just saw two eagles arrive and mate. She was back today at 1 p.m. and there they were again mating and using the nest, she said. By the time I got there at 1:15, the male had flown away, but the female stayed. Through Self’s spotting scope you can get a great view of everything taking place in the nest.

We joked that either last year’s eagles read my column and wanted to show me up, or another pair read it and figured they’d claim the vacant housing stock. There’s no way of knowing if these are the same eagles from last year, but no matter who it is, it’s very cool to have eagles back in the neighborhood. It’s worth making the drive from wherever you are in the Richmond area to see these beauties for yourself. This is not the kind of thing most urban dwellers get to experience.

Check back here for updates as the mating hopefully progresses to egg laying (about three days from now) and then possibly hatching.



About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?