Garreth's Wildlife Watch


(2013-05-21) In thinking of a proper premier entry of the new Kensington North Watershed Association's "wildlife blog," I've come to the conclusion it would be best to start at the very beginning of my personal experiences with Canada's Atlantic wildlife. Coincidently, this also happens to be the first memory of my life. My family was on its first "road trip," and our chosen area of travel was the beautiful Island of Cape Breton. After a long day of exploring the wonderful historic site of Louisburg and dressing in period costume, we retired to a nearby park to enjoy a picnic. My father had purchased little Styrofoam airplanes for myself and my two brothers earlier in the day and we thought this was the perfect location to launch their maiden flight. I clearly remember leaning back to cast my plane into the air when I spotted something above me that froze me into position. Soaring effortlessly above our peaceful picnic were two of the biggest creatures I'd ever seen, a majestic pair of adult bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). My initial feeling of fear soon turned to the deepest fascination I had experienced to date in my young life. My father explained to me what these unbelievable creatures were and I soon forgot about my little airplane and was lost in a trance watching them swoop and dive over our heads.

You see, this happened in the late eighties when the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyltrichloroethane) had nearly reduced our eastern eagle populations to near extinction. The number of nesting bald eagles on Prince Edward Island could literally be counted on one hand at the time. DDT has the effect of making the eagles' shells quite soft, so when the parents would sit on the eggs to incubate them, the eggs would sadly be crushed.

However, this is one story that has a very happy ending. As I'm sure most of you know, DDT was made illegal. This resulted in the amazing recovery of these precious raptors and Prince Edward Island now boasts a very healthy eagle population with roughly 60 nesting pairs. This is something that can make all Islanders proud. I hope children all over the province have a chance to watch these exceptional birds perform their aerial acrobatics and get lost in the pure joy and imagination that such sightings can bring to a young mind.

About the Author

Garreth Ashley recently graduated from the Wildlife Conservation Technology program at Holland College and is returning to University in the fall. He is a current employee and also a former Board Member of Kensington North. His blog, Wildlife Watch, is a collection of his own observations of wildlife on PEI.

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