BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — There is love in the air at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Two birds, year after year around Valentine's Day, meet again at the very same spot with the hopes of a successful nesting season.
Since 2007, a pair of bald eagles have sought out an area within the Pinery Narrows area in the CVNP and have successfully fledged a total of 15 eaglets.
The return of these eagles marks a monumental turn in the health of the Cuyahoga River that was once nearly inhabitable for fish and other wildlife.
“Like us, eagles are creatures of habit. They keep coming to this area because food is available. There was a time when the Cuyahoga River had very few fish. The eagles’ return shows the comeback of the Cuyahoga River. If the river didn't have an abundance of fish, the eagles would not be coming back to this spot," said Pamela Barnes, public information officer for the CVNP.
To protect the eagles from human disturbance, the CVNP has closed the area surrounding the nest tree until July 31.
The nest is located in the Pinery Narrows area, just north of Station Road Bridge Trailhead in Brecksville.
The railroad tracks near the nest tree and a 30-foot distance on either side of the tracks are closed to all pedestrian traffic from the State Route 82 bridge north to the Fitzwater Maintenance Yard for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, bridle trail and Cuyhaoga River will remain open.
“For some reason, the eagles don’t mind the train but when they see humans, they get a little freaked out,” Barnes said.
In the coming days and weeks, the eagle will lay one to three eggs that will remain incubated for approximately 35 days. Eagle eggs are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures, so teamwork is crucial.
The male and female eagles take turns sitting on the eggs and gathering food.
Barnes says several volunteers monitor the area to ensure the eagles are safe. When the eagles begin to stay on the nest for a period of time, it's a sign there are eggs in the nest.
“It’s really a beautiful story because every year around Valentine’s Day, we know to look out for them," Barnes said.
At the end of July, the eaglets will leave their home in search of their own territory, Barnes says.
Park rangers from the park ask the public to observe any posted restrictions within the eagle nesting zone. Although recently removed from the endangered species list, eagles are still protected and federal laws prohibit anyone from taking, killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nest or eggs.