A new bald eagle has taken up residence at the Baltimore Zoo. It's a majestic bird found in a place not usually associated with such creatures: Halethorpe, a community crisscrossed by rail lines and highways.
State wildlife officials captured the male eagle, which has an injured wing, in a stretch of parkland near an interstate in southwest Baltimore County. The bird was taken to the zoo, which is designated as the area's first-aid center for eagles and falcons.
The timing couldn't have been better. The zoo's only male eagle died last year, and officials are hoping they will be able to replace him with the injured bird.
"It was fortuitous," said Dr. Mary Denver, associate veterinarian at the zoo. "A lot of eagles who are injured and impaired end up being euthanized."
The bird adventure began Jan. 9 when Brian Sykes, a Halethorpe wildlife photographer, was taking pictures on Halethorpe Ponds, an area under Interstate 895 at the end of Halethorpe Farms Road in Patapsco Valley State Park.
Sykes, 51, has been tracking bald eagles at the site for seven years, having seen as many as seven flying in the area. "They live here and fish here," he said. "Very few people know about it."
On this day, Sykes saw a bird go past, moving in a lopsided manner.
"If the eagles see you, they take off," he said. "That's why I thought it was a deer. Then I thought it was a turkey."
Sykes realized that the bird was injured and that it was an eagle that he had often seen and called "Streak" for the brown markings on his head.
"He was bold," Sykes said. "He would come right at me, and he stayed in the area."
Sykes became worried, because he knew that in a few days weekend all-terrain vehicle riders would be taking to the woods. He feared that the bird would be further injured.
Sykes notified the state's pre-eminent specialist on bald eagles, Glenn Therres, assistant director of wildlife and heritage services for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Therres, in turn, contacted David Brinker, the central region ecologist for the DNR's Natural Heritage Program.
Brinker traveled with Sykes to the ponds Jan. 11 and captured the eagle by throwing his coat over it. But not before it spread its wings once more.
"It was majestic," Sykes said. "It was awesome."
At the zoo, Denver discovered that the eagle had a fractured elbow joint of the wing and disrupted tendons. Sykes speculated that it flew into something.
"He's never going to fly again," she said.
The veterinarian said she expects that the eagle, who has yet to be given a name, will remain in the hospital at the zoo for a couple of months to recuperate.
"He's doing well," she said. "He's eating fine."
The experience left people like Sykes and Brinker amazed that a bald eagle was caught locally.
"You don't think of them in Baltimore," Brinker said. "Over a reservoir, over in the bay. But not in the Halethorpe Ponds."