By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Martha has had a trying few months.
First, a rival female bald eagle attacked her in April, badly injuring her and leaving her with a scarred beak. While she recuperated at a bird rescue hospital, her chicks died on a particularly chilly night despite the valiant efforts of her mate, George.
Then on Friday afternoon, an injured eagle was spotted hopping and flapping around on the grounds of the National Harbor project, a quick flight from George and Martha's longtime roost near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
It was Martha, all alone with an injured right wing, and specialists fear that she might never fly again.
"She has had a rough, rough year," said Mike Baker, environmental manager for the Wilson Bridge Project, whom National Harbor officials called after Martha was found.
Baker said it was unknown whether the beloved Martha, whose story captured the nation's attention in the spring, will survive her latest setback. She suffered a dislocated elbow, a grave injury for an eagle.
"The wing injury is pretty serious stuff," said Glenn Therres, eagle biologist for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources. "It's not like a broken leg, like you can put it in a cast and it will heal up." Therres guessed that she flew into a power line or tree branch during a recent storm.
She has been taken back to the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research center in Delaware, where she recuperated from her other injuries this year. Specialists are deciding whether to send her to a special facility in Minnesota for surgery or to wrap the wing and hope it heals, Baker said.
Martha and George have lived in a tree on Rosalie Island on the Maryland side of the bridge since the late 1990s. The area, part of an eagle habitat along the Potomac River, is monitored by the project's environmental specialists.
It was Baker's team that first responded after the midair struggle that left Martha bloody and crumpled on the ground, and it was his team that reported that the chicks had not survived.
America watched, riveted as the episode culminated in May when Martha, after being released 90 miles away in Delaware, made her way back to George and their nest.
The story took a sad turn in the summer when the pair disappeared. Some speculated that the attack by the other female had left an indelible mark on George and Martha's relationship, driving the two from their nest and perhaps from each other.
Now Martha is on the mend again. It's still unclear what happened to George.