When Stanley and Carolyn Honeycutt began paying closer attention to two bald eagles at Wilbur Lake a few weeks ago, the couple had no idea they were seeing history in the making.
The couple first noticed the eagles months ago. During trips to the small TVA reservoir, the couple continued to observe the eagles.
“At some point, we realized we always saw them at the same tree,” Carolyn Honeycutt said.
About four weeks ago, the couple began to notice that the eagles were carrying large branches to the dead tree atop a cliff overlooking the lake.
“We sat there on a recent Saturday morning for three hours, watching them carrying sticks to the tree where they are nesting,” she said.
The eagles were nesting.
Stanley Honeycutt contacted Brookie Potter, a local birder who lives within walking distance of Wilbur Lake.
Potter and his wife, Jean, are well known in area birding circles. Stanley and Brookie knew each other from when they worked together at Snap-On Tools in Elizabethton.
The Potters confirmed what the Honeycutts already suspected, and they contacted other local birding experts to report the nesting activity. According to Rick Knight, one of the birders they contacted and a member of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, the nesting is a historic first for Carter County.
It’s not the only one. A pair of bald eagles in Unicoi County are also at work at the first recorded nesting by eagles in this neighboring county.
These nestings don’t come as a complete surprise.
“These local nests were not a surprise, given the increasing numbers and expanding distribution of the Tennessee population of bald eagles,” Knight said. “It was pretty much a matter of time.”