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Shadow, the six-month old eaglet rescued near Palmer Point in June, takes flight after being rehabilitated and returned to her home. (Dan Robillard photo) / September 15, 2021

A recently rehabilitated bald eagle is again flying high above Buggs Island Lake.

The eaglet, named Shadow, was released back into the wild at Palmer Point near Boydton on Saturday, after being nursed back to health by Tonya and Chris Weil with the Wild at Heart Wildlife Sanctuary in Richlands, N.C.

Shadow took to the skies and headed in the direction where she was found injured and near death by Palmer Point resident Dan Robillard in June.

Watching and photographing her release were her rescuers, Randy Atkinson with Wildlife Rehabbers, and Robillard and his wife Andre.

Also released on Saturday was a male eaglet named Poxer. He, too, had been undergoing rehabilitation at Wild at Heart Wildlife Sanctuary.

Tonya Weil said while they would prefer to return rehabilitated birds and other wildlife to the area they were originally found, the person who brought Poxer to them was unable to provide that information. Because of his young age, Weil said they wanted to release Poxer in an area where there were other adult eagles around to teach him to hunt.

“I can only teach them so much,” she said.

Weil said it is also good “for the DNA” to introduce new birds to the area every so often.

When Robillard first saw the raptor Shadow, she was standing by the shoreline near his home at Palmer Point. Despite no visible signs of injury, Robillard said it was clear something was wrong with the bird. She appeared unable to fly.

Robillard, whose passion for eagles includes photographing them in their native habitat, kept an eye on Shadow for three days while searching for someone or some group able to help with a rescue. He learned there are a lot of regulations and rules required in order to rescue an eagle.

With the help of U.S. Army Corps Ranger Emily Jones, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and wildlife rescuers Atkinson and Kristye Steed, Shadow was caught and brought to a bird clinic for x-rays and blood work.

The eaglet was infected with a parasite and suffering from dehydration, but otherwise unharmed. After being placed on a regimen of anti-fungal and deworming medication, Shadow was transferred to the Wild at Heart sanctuary.

For the next three months, the Weils fed and cared for Shadow. Once she was strong enough, they began flight conditioning as they readied her for return to her home on Buggs Island Lake.

Before the three-month old eaglet was given over for care to Atkinson and the Weils, Robillard said his family named her Shadow, for her ability to “hide in the shadow of trees to stay out of sight while stranded on the ground.”

It will be another 4-1/2 years before Shadow will develop the white hood, yellow beak and yellow eyes that are the hallmark of the American Bald Eagle. Her brown feathers and dark brown eyes and beak helped her fade into the shadows cast by the trees and undergrowth near the lake.

On Saturday, as he watched Shadow and Poxer take flight, Robillard could only smile — not only at the birds, but at the outpouring of support evidenced by the crowd that gathered to witness the release. “It was a really fun day and it was great to see so many come out and watch two baby eagles get another chance for life,” Robillard said.

In addition to releasing Shadow and Poxer, Tonya spoke with the crowd about some of the other birds and reptiles they treat at Wild at Heart. She was joined by Kaitlin Adkins, who shared information about turtles, snakes, and other reptiles living in the area.

Jones was there, too, with information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its work to preserve habitats for the many birds and other wild animals that live in the area.

To thank Weils and others for saving Shadow, Robillard raffled off a framed photo of a bald eagle he took during one of his many photography excursions on the lake. The money raised from the raffle was donated to Wild at Heart Wildlife Sanctuary to cover their many expenses.

He encouraged others to help support the sanctuary that saved Shadow and Poxer. Donations can be sent to Wild at Heart Wildlife Sanctuary, 106 Conley Hills Drive, Richlands, N.C. 28574. To support Randy Atkinson, who rescued Shadow, send donations to Rocky Mount Rehabbers, PO Box 964, Nashville, N.C. 27856.

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Ms. Kyte, Please see below for a "prequel" to Shadow's story. I'll be glad to talk with you further about our experience with Shadow.

To Melissa, Re: article by Susan Kyte in the Mecklenburg Sun.
The juvenile eagle named Shadow has to be the same one that you and I discussed back at the end of May. I'm so glad to see that someone else noticed her and was able to help. You may recall that you were going to drive down here and see her on Tuesday, June 2, and that morning I looked for her and couldn't find her, so there wasn't any reason for you to come. I never saw her again but believe now that she had eaten the shad that we left for her and gained enoough strength to fly toward Palmer Point about a mile from our dock. That's where the person spotted her and called someone else for help. I had assumed that her parents had found her and that she was safe with them.

It's quite a story with what seems to be a good ending!

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