Forest Hill Drive and Guerilla Hollow are closed on Sunday, May 25 due to high winds.

Harper rides out the ice storms in stand of Virginia pines

By Andrew Berry


Looking out across Harper’s range. He arrived during peak color in the upland knobs.

Harper the golden eagle has maintained a low profile since arriving at Bernheim on November 4th. His movements have spanned an area of 5,000 acres, or nearly 8 square miles. His core range within that area has been less, with him using 2,000 acres of interior forest that include rugged knobs and mature forest. Several preferred roost locations have been identified on ridges with expansive views across the landscape.

During the ice storm on November 14-15th, Bernheim Forest took significant ice and lost many limbs throughout the forest including the high knobs. We can see from the GPS location data that Harper found refuge in a stand of Virginia pine on the mid-slope of a rugged section in Hart’s Run watershed. Conifers such as pine and cedar are critically important for birds and other wildlife as cover during ice and snow. Cedar thickets around my house were bustling with songbirds during the recent ice storm, where needles covered with an icy shell protect from wind and precipitation.

While the conditions during the ice storm were less than favorable to humans, the golden eagles that reside in Bernheim during winter come from subarctic Canada.   They thrive in cold temperatures throughout their range with adaptations such as feathered legs and thick down feathers. Golden eagles are part of the booted eagle group, with feathers that cover their legs down to the feet. They experience conditions much more severe on the Hudson Bay lowlands, especially during the spring when Harper arrives on his breeding grounds in early April. We will continue to update in Harper’s activities during the fall, stay tuned for the latest developments.

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