River cleanup leads to eagle rescue on lower Rappahannock
On Saturday, members of the Tappahannock Rotary Club, with help from Friends of the Rappahannock, were on the river below the Downing Bridge, cleaning up trash, when they saw a large bird hopping along the shore. Richard Moncure, FOR
‘s river steward for the lower Rappahannock, says it became clear that the mature eagle could not fly. Local waterman Andy Brooks, he said, named it “Popeye” because of the way it was hobbling along. “We met officer Justin Martin” with the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge “and joined forces to flush the bird out into the water where we could grasp [it] with net and towel.” Moncure said it wasn’t immediately apparent why the bird couldn’t fly, saying it may have had a collision with a vehicle on the bridge linking Tappahannock and the Northern Neck. Another possibility, biologists say: eagles are territorial over feeding areas and mates and often have aerial battles that sometimes end badly, with one or both participants injured. A boat maneuvered next to the eagle, which was brought aboard in a net. Vasa Clark, a Boy Scout volunteer, snapped the picture of the rescue on this page. Moncure said it was a combined effort involving FOR, the Rotary club, June Parker Marina, Scouts, the wildlife refuge and the Essex County animal control office. Once ashore, Moncure said, the bird was taken to the Wildbunch Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Warsaw, for care.
Friends of the Rappahannock has been doing river cleanup since its founding in 1985. One of its partners is the Rappahannock Rotary Club, which has provided volunteers for FOR’s annual cleanup around Fredericksburg, and the boost to extend the cleanup downriver, says member Dana Herlong. The Rappahannock chapter put out a challenge for other clubs in the Rotary’s 20-member district, to help out. Herlong, owner of Herlong Associates, Inc., said she was talking with John Tippett, FOR’s executive director, a few years back about the fact that the Rotary district 7610 “overlays the river” to the Chesapeake Bay. “We wanted to get a district [cleanup] going,” she said. Earlier this year, the club and two other benefactors presented a new boat to FOR to help Moncure patrol downriver. The Warsaw and Tappahannock clubs helped with the the cleanup this year. “We’re very excited,” Herlong said. “We’re hoping this will grow each year.”