Thursday, March 6, 2014

Avon Lake's Bald Eagles

Here's the first of my posts highlighting the historic presence of bald eagles in the area. The article below appeared in The Lorain Journal on February 17, 1926 and tells about Avon Lake's eagles.

I had no idea that eagles used to hang around Avon Lake, and am guilty of the ignorance referred to in the article by Helen McCalla.


Altho much ado has been made of the eagles which build their nest at Brownhelm, the general public has lived in ignorance of a number of the great birds that live near Avon Lake.

So says Mr. Fred Hintz, Stop 40, Lake-rd, on whose farm the eagles have built their nest. Each day they fish off a cliff near the Hinz home.

"The birds were here when we purchased the property 42 years ago," Mrs. Hinz said. "The people who sold us the farm asked us to be kind to the eagles as they had been there a long time.

"They date back to the time when Avon Lake village was known as Eagle's Cliff, so named because of the American eagles who made the Lake shore their fishing grounds."

Mrs. Hintz told of observing the eagles for years.

Almost every day the birds roost on a dead tree watching for the ice to break so that they may fish in the lake water. The appearance of a hole is a signal for them to fly to the spot where they sit in a circle. When a fish comes into sight down go their crooked beaks. After flying south to their as yet undiscovered nest, with the white fish hanging from their beaks, they return for another long period of waiting.

In warm weather the eagles circle the lake, round and around, until it seems they will surely fall in dizziness. Shorter and shorter the circle grows and then like a flash one of them darts into the blue water and flies away with his prize.

They seem to delight in teasing the smaller King birds who fly squealing after them seeking to snatch the food, says Mrs. Hintz.

During the last break-up in the ice one of the eagles fell into the lake thru a hole about two miles from shore, Mrs. Hintz says. All during the day his great wings could be seen beating the water in his hopeless efforts to get out and away. When sunset came he was still there in his desperate plight and the next morning he had disappeared.

The other birds sat on their tree in silent counsel for hours without attempting to fish. Hunger soon drove them to the lake, however, and today they have forgotten the fate of their lost brother. Yesterday I visited the Hintz farm and saw three of the great birds, two males and a female.

The male bird is quite bald-headed and appears to be the model for the Silver Eagle on the American dollar. The biggest of the two males has white tail feathers and a wing spread of nearly seven feet. He usually leads the fishing party. The younger birds are all black except for the white on their heads and the females are entirely black.

Only the male birds fish. The females await their return on shore. At times they carry the fish back to the nest and the males return to their fishing.

Before the Lorain Tornado, their nest was in what is known as the Gilchrist woods, two miles from the lake. But since that time they have kept their home well hidden from all eyes but their own. It is only known in Avon Lake that they fly south.

In all the time the eagles have fished in the vicinity of the Hintz farm, Mrs. Hintz declares that she has never lost a chicken, a duck or a pheasant, all of which are raised on the farm and allowed to run free.

If a chicken dies, it is thrown on the beach, and the eagles carry it away to their nest.

The birds are quite tame and often stand on a tree stump not 10 feet from the house, the very picture of the American Emblem.

According to the graphic below – created as part of a map showing all of the interurban stops along the lake by Drew Penfield for his Lake Shore Rail Maps website – the Electric Boulevard interurban stop for the Hintz farm is indicated by the blue marker. As you can see the Hintz Farm was located at the eastern most edge of Avon Lake. Not surprisingly, Eagle Cliff Drive is nearby, just over the border in Bay Village.


Anonymous said...

Nice stuff Dan!! I feel pretty lucky that I see bald Eagles almost everyday. I like at the northern tip of Lake Washington near Seattle, and there are 6 or 7 that live there. A few of them have even drop fish on top of my son's head!!

Jeff Rash

Drew Penfield said...

Glad my maps are proving useful. That article has a few bits of info that will be useful to me as well.

A few years ago when I was visiting the LSE Ceylon Junction station along the lake shore near Huron, I was standing outside talking to the owner and we were buzzed by an eagle not five feet over our heads. It flew into a nearby grove of trees and we could clearly hear the chicks chirping and squealing. It's great to know they are thriving in the area once again.