This has been a record year for the comeback of bald eagles in New Jersey, with a reported 248 fledglings — young birds leaving the nest — reported.

David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, says 2019 has been a "fantastic" year for bald eagles — with more eagles fledgling than ever before, reaching that point where they're old enough and healthy enough to leave the nest.

He credits hard work by volunteers and stronger restrictions on insecticides as major factors in the continued rebound, since a low point in the early '80s.

"In the early 80s we were down to just a single bald eagle nest in all of New Jersey, and that nest had failed many years in a row," he said. Failure is defined by wildlife experts as the inability to produce a new fledgling into the state's environment.

Wheeler points to other factors that have also helped this year's record rebound: "Stronger laws and also cleaner waters ... and then also a much stronger prey base to continue that recovery."

Twenty or 30 years ago, the chances of seeing a bald eagle in New Jersey would have been slim. Not anymore.

"And it's such a breathtaking experience that it's just something we encourage people to (do)," Wheeler said. "Get outdoors, and whether you're seeing a bald eagle or something else ... it really is a great way to connect with nature."

Several bald eagle webcams are at conservewildlifenj.org.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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