Super Bowl Sunday: A great day for (bald) eagles

Mercer County Park has become a haven for bald eagles and a terrific place for birders and bird-fanciers to watch them. If you’ve never seen a bald eagle in the wild, you have an excellent chance of seeing one and probably more this time of year at Mercer Lake in the center of the park.

It was this time last year — right around Super Bowl Sunday — that I watched several bald eagles swooping over Mercer Lake and parking on the giant electric power towers that cross the park. At least one breeding pair of bald eagles have built their enormous nest just off the lake at the border with Mercer Oaks golf course.

To view the eagles, I’ve most often driven into the park and turned into the marina parking lot. I walk down the paved path toward the gazebo that juts out into the lake, offering wide views of the action on the lake.

From the gazebo, you can look straight across the lake to the parking lot for the Casperson Rowing Center. That’s another great vantage point from which to view the eagles. However, there are no formal trails on that side of the lake, so your mobility is limited. You can, however, get good views of the great blue herons that roost in that area and hang out on the shore and in the trees.

For the best viewing overall, I recommend that you head to the West Picnic Area and park at the end of the lot, near the big shelter. From there, walk to the left along the trail that skirts the lake. A few “eagle viewing” signs will point you to a stretch of the shore from which you can look across the lake to the aerie of the breeding pair.

On the nest: A pair of bald eagles look out over Mercer Lake.

Besides the eagles, you can also see herons on the far side of the lake and, depending on conditions, spot common mergansers, Canada geese, mallards, sea gulls and other water birds that visit regularly.

You can also access the trail that skirts the lake from the marina lot. Getting out of your car, look for the footbridge to your left. Take the path, cross the bridge, pass the picnic shelter and keep following the path to the edge of the lake.

That’s the route I took Friday, and I had great looks at two mature and one immature eagle that had flown into the trees along the shore. One took off right overhead, as seen in the shot topping this post.

Being wild creatures, eagles follow their own schedules not tied to the whims and wishes of birders and photographers. I have gone to Lake Mercer some days and seen no eagles or hardly any birds at all. But that’s all part of the birding game.

At the nest viewing area, there’s a great explanatory sign on bald eagles that gives a timeline for eagle activity throughout the year. At this part of the year, the odds of seeing one are in your favor, if not for the fish in the lake on which the eagles feast.

This board contains great information on bald eagles and their habits. The board is placed at a great vantage point for seeing the nest across the lake, near the power tower.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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