Wildlife photographer Stuart Forsythe captured an image of bald eagle C43 on June 24, 2017, as she flew over his boat on Lake Monroe. C43 is believed to be the oldest wild bald eagle living in Indiana. Courtesy photo by Stuart Forsythe
At a glance
Until 2015, there was another bald eagle that was thought to be the oldest wild bald eagle in the state. C14 was an eaglet brought to Indiana from Lincoln County, Wis., in September 1987 that was also raised in the special "hacking towers" at Lake Monroe. Due to a shoulder injury in April 2016, C14 was taken the Indiana Raptor Centerin Brown County. The injury was severe enough that the bald eagle cannot be released back into the wild.
How to help
The bald eagle reintroduction program was the first endangered species restoration project initiated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. That project, other projects and ongoing research are possible because of donations to the Indiana Nongame Fund, which is the main funding source for Indiana's nongame and endangered species research and management.
In 2016 and this year, the non-game fund had a 60 percent drop in donations, which may have been partially due to changes in the state tax forms. Anyone can donate to the fund online at endangeredwildlife.in.gov and on state tax forms. For every $5 donated to the non-game fund, another $9 is awarded through federal grants.
Looking down from 30 feet up in a tree along the shores of Lake Monroe, bald eagle C43 allowed wildlife photographer Stuart Forsythe to get close enough last week to photograph her and her two silver leg bands. Those bands identify her as one of the 73 eaglets that were released at Lake Monroe between 1985 and 1989 as part of the state’s reintroduction program.
It wasn’t until later, when Forsythe was looking through his photographs, that he noticed the silver leg bands. He knew they were unusual and sent a photograph to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, where officials could read “C43” on one of the bands.
The eagle is 29 years old and is believed to be the oldest wild bald eagle in Indiana.
A small portion of an orange patagial tag on the underside of her left wing is another identifying mark. The tag was used by the officials who raised the eaglets in special towers along the shores of Lake Monroe to help identify each individual eagle. For most eagles the tags eventually fell off, but not on C43.
It was Forsythe’s first time photographing bald eagles at Lake Monroe. Forsythe, from Hamilton, Ohio, is an administrator for a Facebook group called Tri State Eagles and visited the lake to photograph eagles. He was in his BassTracker boat in the lake’s Middle Fork area, where C43 has been spotted in past years, when he saw the eagle perched on a tree branch above the water’s edge.
“As we got closer, I shut off the motor so as to not spook, and we drifted right in front of this eagle,” Forsythe said in an email. “We were amazed that she did not fly off as they usually do. I could tell it was a female from the extended beak size. She let me take lots of photos for about five minutes, then she flew right over the bow of the boat and headed to a higher branch about 100 yards away.”