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Wetzel County Resident Researches Bald Eagles

By Staff | Apr 22, 2020

Pictured is perches Bald Eagles.

Local resident Jay Smith resides with his wife Kathleen in Proctor, WV and he enjoys nature and monitoring the return of our National Symbol, the Bald Eagle. Jay studied Wildlife Biology at WVU and is owner of Smith Photography, and a volunteer at the WVDNR. His photography is also influenced by the love of his children, daughter Ashley 34, a multiple degree college graduate and a son, Josh 30, college graduate working in Auto industry, living and working in Staunton, VA with his wife and two kids. Jay and I have been friends for many years and in talking with him, you can feel the excitement he has for the amazing Bald Eagles. He has captured beautiful photos of eagles in their nests and soaring through the beautiful sky.

Smith quoted, “I have been doing the Bald Eagle Nesting Research for the last 17 years for the WVDNR.” The first 12 years in Grant and Pendleton counties and the last five years in the northern panhandle counties of Tyler, Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke, and Hancock. “I’m a Certified Master Naturalist with the State of WV. I have also Volunteered with the Oglebay Good Zoo and their Raptor Rehab Program.

The eagles start coming back to their nests in January, adding to them, and readying them for the nesting season. They usually breed in the first couple weeks in February.

They usually lay two to three eggs that hatch 34 to 35 days later (usually around Mid-March). The young eaglets are in the nests for approximately 12 weeks, until mid to late June. Every year is different, depending on the weather and the environmental factors. I’ve had them fledge as soon as June 10 and as late as July 8. WV rose above 100 certified nest locations in 2019.”

Jay adds, “We have gotten a few more new nests this year too. Here in the Ohio Valley I monitor 17 nests along the Ohio River and at the tributaries in WV and OH. I located two new nests in WV in 2019 in the northern panhandle area that I am assigned to, also one new nest locally in Ohio.

Nesting Bald Eagles are shown.

Living in the New Martinsville/Proctor area nearly my whole life, it is a blessing to see these magnificent birds establishing a solid new home range here. Growing up along the Ohio River, there was no such thing as a Bald Eagle sighting. Today, from January through August, if you spend some time, and don’t crowd them, you can view Bald eagles nearly any day.

Please remember that during nesting season it is a Federal Law to remain a minimum distance of 330′ from an active Eagle nest (660′ is recommended) according to the USFWS. Fines and jail time can be harsh but a picture or being close to a nest isn’t worth a failed nest. When there are eggs or young Eaglets in the nest it only takes a short time if left unattended for them to die or not hatch! Even after all these years, it still makes me excited to see an Eagle flying free and healthy!”

If you are interested in contacting Jay about his nature and wildlife photography, please feel free to contact him using the resources listed below:

All Things WildSmith Photography,1248 Proctor Creek Road, Proctor, WV 26055

Phone: (304) 455-3217 Email: smithphotography74@yahoo.com

Jay Smith