Bald eagles take up residence near Milpitas elementary school

MILPITAS, Calif. (KGO) -- Two huge bald eagles have taken up residence near a South Bay elementary school. They're creating quite a stir with everyone from the kids to the seasoned experts.

Chasing crows away from a freshly built nest is all in a day's work for a bald eagle. But for the people on the ground, "I'm just in awe. It's beautiful how God created such a creature," Milpitas resident Celia Martinez said.

The two majestic birds are in the trees above Curtner Elementary School in Milpitas, a great spot for birdwatchers.

"Not only do I drop off my kids at school but I also take some time out just to look up and admire the birds," photographer Stan Szeto said.

PHOTOS: Incredible images of bald eagles in Milpitas

Szeto is a sports photographer, but with plenty of patience, he's captured breathtaking images of the pair as they hunt, build and defend the nest. "Everything's so high paced and fast action. Shooting nature definitely slows you down a little bit,' he said.

Then there was a perfectly-timed flyover during the Pledge of Allegiance. "I don't even think a Hollywood scriptwriter could write that one up," Szeto said.

Catching a shot like that may be good luck, but experts say it's far more than luck that brought the eagles here in the first place. They call this the result of a decades-long effort to restore the population of these birds and give them places to live.
"We have a rich habitat here. We've paid attention to what good development is and what bad development is," the head of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Ralph Schardt, said.

Schardt said leaving trees for the birds is just the latest step that's brought nearly a dozen nesting pairs of eagles to an area that had none a decade ago.

The bald eagle population was decimated over the last century by hunting and pesticides. "So we've witnessed an incredible recovery since that time," UC Santa Cruz predatory bird researcher Glenn Stewart said.

Stewart credits congress in 1973. "The Endangered Species Act passed unanimously. Everybody agreed it was the right thing to do to stop extinctions," he said.

Now as bald eagles soar over Curtner Elementary, he hopes it'll teach the next generation not to undo all that hard work.

"It's awe-inspiring to watch kids when their eyes get big and they see those birds," Stewart said.
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