I finally got my chance to see the only known eagles nest in Manassas. Victor Rook, local author, producer, director and videographer, met with me to talk about eagles and his new documentary, “Who’s Protecting Our National Bird?”
But I didn’t drive out to the nest to talk about Rook’s books. I wanted to talk about eagles. Rook has become probably one of Prince William County’s leading authorities on eagle habitat, behavior, and protection.
The nest is behind an office building next to a parking lot on the road to Manassas Airport. Eagles are sensitive creatures. Rook’s film shows how the commercial development near the nest significantly affected their already fragile habitat. The nest also attracts people who don’t really understand the guidelines for observing eagles. “Close up” pictures just aren’t worth the damage that wandering around the nest causes. There are state and federal rules regarding how to protect eagles. According to Rook, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the city of Manassas have done little to protect this eagles nest.
Rook’s video documents years of daily observation of the eagles and activity that put at risk the birds’ lives, the lives of the eaglets, and their nest. Rook admits he is no “tree hugger.” He understands that eagles are more than our national symbol and a point of pride for Manassas residents. After all, the eagle is the mascot for Osbourn High School.
Everything is connected. The book “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy explains that the emphasis on development and subsequent habitat destruction are increasing the pressure on wildlife. Everything in nature is something else’s lunch. Take something off the menu, and the entire food chain is disrupted. This negatively affects biodiversity.
Rook’s investigative journalism and movie have gained national attention. Other activists and cities are paying attention for “lessons learned” to protect their eagles.
If you are into environmental issues or just love eagles, Rook’s movie is worth your time. It documents the failure of government at all levels to follow established guidelines regarding protecting our national symbol. It also provides solutions for other communities facing a similar issue. I was surprised to find he shot it with a camera he picked up during an Amazon “Black Friday” sale and a desktop computer salvaged from a dumpster. The quality is outstanding.
The eagles have already abandoned their favorite hunting ground, the nearby ponds at Cannon Branch Park, as development encroaches on this environmental habitat also. Rook shared that an eaglet died this year. Eventually, the eagle pair may move on. All that will remain will be the sticks that make up their nest. It’s never too early to try to save our eagles. That requires a larger appreciation of the habitat necessary for them to survive.
If the city of Manassas wants to keep its only known pair of eagles, it needs to pay more attention to protecting their nest. Rook said eagle-specific signs on the property warning onlookers to stay away would be helpful.
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.