Bald Eagle Chicks at Tinicum Marsh

March 22, 2012

By Kirsten Werner, director of communications

Photo by Adrian Binns, FOHR

The Friends of the Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum reported earlier this week that Bald Eagle chicks have hatched. Or perhaps there’s just one chick–the nest is 80 feet up in a tree, so it’s tough to tell the exact number! This is the third consecutive year that Bald Eagles have nested at the 1,000-acre refuge.

Once a common sight in North America, the number of Bald Eagles plummeted in the mid-20th century due to habitat loss and the use of DDT, a pesticide that caused sterility or the inability to lay healthy eggs. But thanks to conservation efforts and a ban on DDT, the species’ population has rebounded from the brink of extinction. It was officially removed from the U.S. federal government’s list of endangered species on July 12, 1995.

At Natural Lands Trust, we’re always happy to hear news of wildlife thriving. It’s further evidence that protected open space is critical for a diverse and healthy natural world. After all, without the trees to nest in and the marshes to hunt for food, the only Bald Eagles at Tinicum would be on the bumper stickers of football fans’ cars!

But we’re even more interested than usual when it comes to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, since we can trace our history back there. In 1953, a group of avid bird watchers came together as volunteers to protect these very marshes and soon found themselves in the vanguard of the private conservation movement.

Allston Jenkins

Allston Jenkins

In the years that followed, the group—known as the Philadelphia Conservationists—preserved natural areas, wetlands, and forests along the East Coast and even as far away as Costa Rica. In the early 1960s, they established Natural Lands Trust as a vehicle to permanently own and care for land. Thus began the building of what would become Natural Lands Trust’s 21,000-acre (and growing) network of nature preserves.

The Philadelphia Conservationists were led by an unlikely hero. Allston Jenkins was an accountant who was new to birding, going to ornithological classes with his wife as a way to get out occasionally and, according to his daughter, “enjoy a night away from the kids.” When Allston learned of the threat to fill the Tinicum marshes with dredging material, he began an association with our organization that would span five decades as both President of the Board and Executive Director.

To our friends at the Heinz Refuge, we extend our congratulations and wishes for many happy returns—of the eagles, that is!

Bald Eagles are frequently spotted at many of our preserves, most recently at Binky Lee, Hildacy Farm, and Gwynedd Wildlife Preserves, and Glades Wildlife Refuge. Grab your binoculars and come on by!