The bald eagle is making a comeback in Maryland and there have been plenty of sightings in North County.
But an eagle of another kind has been increasing in numbers, too.
Since Gene Ruhl became scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 485 in 1986, some 69 boys have become Eagle Scouts, the highest rank a Scout can achieve.
On Dec. 23, Ruhl's 63rd birthday, he hosted a reunion for Eagles and their families at Immanuel Episcopal Church, in Glencoe, where the troop holds its meetings. He organizes a yearly reunion for just the Eagle Scouts and invites their families to join in every five years.
"The first reunion was four Eagle Scouts at our house. We had dinner on good china," said Ruhl, who lives in Monkton. "But we ran out of china and room pretty quickly. The Scouts used to come with their parents. Now they come with their wives and kids. It's always neat to catch up with everybody and see what they're doing."
They are teachers, college professors, engineers, information technology experts, CPAs, business owners, lawyers, a half-dozen Ph.D.s, one surgeon and one who served as mayor of Marathon, Fla.
One of the Eagle Scouts has died. J.R. Egerton, an Eagle in 1997, was killed in 2007 in an accident in South Korea, where he was teaching.
The Dec. 23 reunion attracted 45 Eagle Scouts and a total of 115 people, including Ruhl's three adult sons. Of course, all three are Eagle scouts.
Roger Munn, 41, has the distinction of being Ruhl's troop's first Eagle in 1988. He is now an attorney who lives in Timonium with his wife and two children.
"I know being an Eagle helped me get into college, into law school, and it got me my first job," Munn said, as his son, Konner, 10, stood next to him wearing his Webelos uniform. Munn has missed only two reunions over the years.
Also attending the reunion was Troop 485's newest Eagle. Bobby Jaklitsch, 18, earned the rank on Sept. 6. He was one of three from Troop 485 to make Eagle last year.
Before Ruhl took over the troop 25 years ago, there had only been four Eagles — one in 1962 and three in 1967.
"I think when the younger Scouts saw us making Eagle, it gave them the incentive to go for it, too," said Joe Kroart, who earned the rank in 1988. "I still use the things I learned at Scouts every day."
He recalled walking up and down the aisles of a grocery store to find ingredients for meals for camping weekends.
"We had to plan our meals, figure out what to buy and then cook it," he said. "I know our wives are happy we actually know how to cook and how to shop."
Ruhl has worked hard to keep the older Scouts in the troop by taking them on Boy Scouts High Adventure trips. They've gone scuba diving in the Bahamas, backpacking in the New Mexico wilderness, canoeing in Canada and hiking up Mount St. Helens.
Troop 485 has 42 Scouts. A few are getting ready to plan their Eagle projects, one of the final steps on the long road to Eagle.
Many spots in North County have been improved over the years as each of the 69 Eagles completed a service project. The boys have done projects on the Bike and Hike Trail, at Gunpowder Falls State Park and at their churches and schools.
"It seems like everywhere I go, I see something the Scouts have worked on," he said. "It's neat when you consider how much they've helped the community."
Ruhl doesn't have any plans to retire. A group of parents handle the administrative work and organize fundraisers for the troop.
"That leaves me free to do the fun part," he said. The troop is going cross-country skiing and then goes on a survivor weekend in February during which Scouts have to build their own shelters and spend the night in them.
"Believe it or not, the survivor weekend is one of their favorites. It's that kind of thing that keeps the boys in the troop."