When I was growing up, bald eagles and osprey were virtual strangers in Ohio. A few nesting pairs of eagles were found along Lake Erie, but elsewhere nothing. Osprey, at least nesting birds, were gone from Ohio.
Pollution, especially DDT, and habitat destruction were the culprits. But since then, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the ban on DDT, and the efforts of the Division of Wildlife have resulted in two more wonderful success stories. Today, both birds are a regular sight on many inland lakes and rivers.
I don’t remember the first time I saw an osprey in Ohio, but I remember the first time I heard of one being spotted in the area. It was probably the early 1970s. A neighbor, who shared a love of bird-watching with my mother, told us she had seen an osprey perched in a tree along the Licking River near the 408 (Pleasant Valley Road) bridge. I think I drove there several times hoping to see it, but never had any luck.
My first Ohio eagle, however, I remember clearly. It was in the mid-1970s and I was fishing at Dillon with the late Paul Watson of Newark. As we prepared to fish an area on the right side of the lake (as you head upstream), I noticed a large bird heading for the trees. I didn’t think much of it at first, expecting it to be a heron, But as I turned to look at it, it spread out in a landing, giving a great view of the distinctive white head and tail.
Excited, I finally managed to get out the word “eagle,” and then I found out not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the great birds. Paul simply said “So?”
Since then, eagles and osprey have become regulars at Dillon, Buckeye, Knox, Delaware, Salt Fork, Seneca and most other area lakes. I never get tired of spotting them and I almost always have a pair of binoculars in the boat, just so I can get a better look.