Bald eagles have returned in strong numbers to Aberdeen Proving Ground this winter. Warm weather along the Atlantic seaboard last winter kept them from flying south to APG.
Army and state biologists conducting an annual aerial survey saw 64 adult and 48 immature bald eagles last Sunday at APG, the state's premier roosting site for the endangered national symbol.
The increase over last year -- when only 65 bald eagles and one golden eagle were spotted -- marks a resurgent trend in the base's bird population since the eagle counts began in 1979.
"APG is just anindicator of what is going on throughout the eastern part of the thecountry and especially in the Chesapeake Bay region," said Glenn Therres, an endangered species specialist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Biologists spotted 73 bald eagles at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, up from 50 last year.
The total count at APG and the Blackwater refuge increased to 185 bald eagles, up from 115. No golden eagles were recorded.
In 1979, the survey showed only 44 bald eagles wintering in Maryland. The 1990 count of 263 was the highest on record.
"There's been an annual increase over the last 15 years, it's definitely not just the weather," Therres said.
Typically, eagles from as far north as Maine fly south to the Chesapeake region to escape the cold. Wildlife scientists attributed the low count last year to one of the warmest winters on record along the Atlantic seaboard.
Biologists say the long-term return of eagles has been helped by efforts to preserve their favored habitats along major waterways, such as are found at APG.
"Unfortunately, they compete heavily with people for their preferred lake frontand riverside habitat," James Pottie, an APG biologist, said.