By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
BURLINGTON _ The abundance of local wildlife and the complexity of animal relationships are being documented as the Delaware Otsego Audubon Society works to examine the winter range of golden eagles.
The program is part of a regional study overseen by Professor Todd Katzner of West Virginia University.
According to the Charleston Gazette, the study is designed to protect eagles from collisions with wind turbines by charting the routes they take as they migrate over the Appalachian Mountains.
The DOAS was asked to be part of the study and has cameras installed at five locations in Otsego County, according to Tom Salo of Burlington, a member of the organization's board of directors.
"We're set up on hilltops, from near the Unadilla River to close to the Schoharie County border," Salo said.
To increase the odds of seeing wildlife, each site is baited with a deer carcass provided by local highway officials, he said.
Cameras, triggered by motion, are set up to record activity at the dinner table.
Since late December, when this year's observation began, only one golden eagle has been spotted, compared to three last year.
"It seems that we are at the northern edge of the golden eagles' winter range," Salo said. Because this winter has been more severe than usual, the eagles probably ranged farther south, before flying north to mate in Canada in the spring, he said.
Eastern golden eagles are rare, however, likely numbering fewer than 2,000 in the eastern United States.
Bald eagles are much more common, and several have been sighted at the busy observation posts in Otsego County.
"We've seen a surprising number of bald eagles, which is very good," Salo said. Also red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, crows and common ravens have flown into the picture.
Terrestrial visitors have included foxes and coyotes, "but the coyotes are very wary; you only see them once," he said.
"And I was really surprised we had a bobcat at one site," he said.
Salo said he enjoys studying the natural world, particularly birds, learning by closely recording their world.
"If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do it," he said. "My hope is that by engaging in a little bit of research, we can do something that will benefit the birds."
On March 18, at the Elm Park Church in Oneonta, Salo will present a slide show with photographs from two years of "camera trapping" in some of the county's remote areas. The program is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.