published Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Eagles nesting over Bear Trace

  • photo
    A Bald Eagle returns to it's nest carrying a fish near the 10th green of Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PGA professional Bruce Bowen has scored his fair share of eagles over the years on golf courses throughout the Southeast.

But he’d never seen a bald eagle with his own eyes until he played at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay earlier this year.

“It’s just cool and something you don’t see every day,” said Bowen, an assistant pro at The Honors Course. “I’ve seen plenty of gators and stuff, but the eagle is definitely the most unique animal I’ve ever seen while playing golf.”

A mating pair of eagles have built a nest about 140 feet up in a pine tree behind the No. 10 green and just off Chickamauga Lake. It is visible from the clubhouse and several other holes on the course.

The birds began building the nest in January, and course superintendent Paul Carter said he believes chicks have hatched, based on the increased activity of the white-headed male.

“When I go out on the course, the first thing I do is look out and see if he’s on his perch,” Carter said. “Right now, he’s flying around and we’ve had so much play that people are stopping and watching when they should kind of be moving to No. 11.

“I feel 100 percent responsible for them because we’re so graced to have them, and they trust our environment and that we’re not going to allow anything to happen to them.”

If the pair — Carter calls the male “Sir” but hasn’t nicknamed the female — decide through the next months that Bear Trace is a fine home, they could return for the next 10 years.

Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency ornithologist Scott Somershoe said the Bear Trace eagles are among about 150 mating pairs in the state and about 9,000 in the nation. He knows of eight pairs in the greater Chattanooga area.

“They must have decided it’s a good place to nest,” Somershoe said. “Most nests are in fairly difficult areas to access, so this pair must be fairly tolerant of people.”

Carter said Sir will sit on his perch and observe the grounds crew mowing greens, cutting holes and preparing the course on a daily basis.

“He knows you’re there,” Carter said. “We wondered if they’d get nervous. But then again, with those talons and that beak, he can probably wear out anybody who wants to come near the nest.”

Checking on the eagles is part of Don Campbell’s daily duties as park manager of Harrison Bay State Park.

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to watch them grow in the park,” said Campbell, who has worked there for 30 years. “It makes us a little proud to have the national symbol in the park and under our watchful eye.”

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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