Burien, Washington




Mewsings from Millie

Staten Island, the southernmost shoreline of New York State, was created when the Pleistocene ice thawed 6,000 years ago. Water levels began to rise and the channels those floods created carved a moat around the hilly spit that is 14 miles long and 8 miles wide. The island is wedged between Central New Jersey and Manhattan Island and remained fairly unchanged until 1928. Then, the Goethals Bridge was built and provided access to New Jersey. Two more bridges to New Jersey were built before the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the U.S., connected the island to southern Brooklyn in 1964. This brought an influx of mostly second and third generation immigrants and a real-estate boom.

Now Staten Island is a county of around 500,000. It is easily the smallest, most suburban borough of New York City and it's also the most biologically diverse. The island has more than 12,300 acres of protected parkland.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because Staten Island is where two Bald Eagles have nested making them the first nesting pair of Bald Eagles in New York City in 100 years.

There have always been fish here. Menhaden, or mossbunker, a forage fish of the herring family, makes for a tasty treat along the southern coast. Gannets, Red-breasted Mergansers, Osprey, gulls and Brant have been enjoying the buffet for centuries returning every autumn to spend the winter.

Bald Eagles were sporadic, distant flyovers.

Then, in 2009, Bald Eagles began appearing on the island.  Vito (named after Vito Corleone, patriarch of The Godfather) arrived about three years ago and carved out a territory. He would spend his time hunting gulls, snakes, Brant and menhaden, perching on trees, telephone poles and chimneys. In 2014, a young female joined him and after a brief fling, he left her for a more mature adult female

Later that year, the pair began carrying twigs to some wetlands near Mount Loretto and built a nest in a tall pine tree. In 2015, Vito and his new mate, Linda (named after a local wildlife advocate) became the first Bald Eagles to nest in New York City in over a century.

The eagles tended a pair of eggs throughout the spring and in the process became celebrities - widely celebrated symbols of environmental success within development-crazed New York.

Alas, for whatever reason, Vito and Linda's nest failed to produce eaglets. They stopped frequenting the large pine and were seen together less and less. Finally, word spread that Vito and Linda's life together was over. Vito, though alone, persisted as the symbol of the Bald Eagle's reemergence in New York City.

Last June, Vito was investigating a goose carcass and narrowly escaped a close encounter with a Subaru. He survived and was later seen with a large female eagle in the same area as the tall pine. The birds were seen together throughout the start of summer and the word was out, "Vito and Linda are back!"

So, it seems the birds are thriving and bringing friends to the island which is great news. Let's wish them luck in their second attempt to raise a family of national symbols.

Until next time,

Millie, the Muse of Mews

( a flick of a whisker to: BirdWatching, Oct. 2016)