Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wintertime Bald Eagle Watches

Spot plenty of eagles during these Corps Lakes events

Bald Eagle, bird watchingA child inspects the Iowa DNR’s replica eagle’s nest. (Stacy Nelson, Iowa Natural History Foundation)

What You’ll Find

With the help of thousands of conservationists and U.S. citizens, bald eagles, our national symbol, have staged one of the greatest comebacks in U.S. environmental history. These steely-eyed birds live mainly on a diet of fish, and when lakes and rivers freeze in winter, they congregate around open water. These typically solitary creatures are territorial, carving out and fiercely protecting at least one square mile (2.5 km2) per eagle. In the winter, they share feeding grounds and seek out food in stretches of open water amid the ice. Eagle watchers can find eagles roosting near the turbulent open water downstream of the dams at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in the northern states and along the Mississippi River south to St. Louis, Missouri. You can see hundreds of eagles at many of these projects, and Corps of Engineers rangers and their partners celebrate the eagles’ success story with special wintertime “Eagle Watches” at many Corps projects. Some of these projects even bring in replica eagle’s nests, which weigh up to two tons (1,814 kg) and measure as much as ten feet (3 m) across.

Try This

Enjoy a sampling of these eagle-watching events across the country including:
Iowa
  • Des Moines—Saylorville Lake and the Polk County Conservation Board are partnering to host an eagle watch from 12:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., Sunday, February 28 at four locations around the lake. You are invited to pick up a “passport” at the Saylorville Lake Visitor Center. Check out their Facebook page, use this map (PDF) of the area and learn more aboutrecreation opportunities at Saylorville Lake. Highlights of the event will include a live eagle presentation at Jester Park and a replica of an eagle’s nest at the visitor center. Those who visit each stop on the tour will have their passports “stamped” and will be eligible for a prize.
  • Coralville—Rangers at Coralville Lake, located north of Iowa City, partner with the Iowa City Bird Club, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the state Audubon Society chapter to host the “Bald Eagle Watch and Expo” on February 6 from 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. at the North Central Junior High School at 180 E. Forevergreen Road in North Liberty. Noted naturalists and photographers will give presentations. Eagle expert Pat Schlarbaum from Iowa DNR will bring his life-sized replica eagle’s nest, and numerous exhibitors will provide insight about our national symbol. Take a drive to the tail water downstream of the dam here at Coralville Lake, and see many eagles taking advantage of the good fishing found here. Use these maps and resources to help you plan your trip. Eagle specialists will answer questions and provide a spotting scope. Refreshments will be served at the dam.
  • Dubuque—Eagles seek out good feeding spots at the turbulent water downstream of the many dams along the Mississippi River while the rest of the river is covered in ice. Rangers from Dam #11, just north of Dubuque, celebrate these wintertime eagle gatherings with an “Eagle Watch” on January 17 at the Grand River Center located at 500 Bell Street in Dubuque. Representatives from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota will bring live raptors and other animals and make presentations over the course of the day. Jule, the Dubuque bus system, will also provide free transportation to the Corps of Engineers’ Lock and Dam #11 located near 3100 Volunteer Drive just north of Dubuque, where visitors can see eagles in their habitat. A Corps of Engineers park ranger and a representative of the Dubuque Audubon Society will provide spotting scopes to get up-close views of the eagles, and will answer your questions. Use this schedule of events (PDF) to learn more about the event.
Kentucky/Tennessee
  • Dale Hollow Lake—Sign up early for the January 16 and 23 barge rides to view some of the more than 50 bald eagles that routinely winter at Dale Hollow Lake, a 27,000-acre (10,926 ha) lake fed by the Obey River that straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border about 120 miles (193 km) northeast of Nashville. Eagle enthusiasts will be picked up at the boat ramps at either Lillydale Recreation Area or Dale Hollow State Park . Call the Dale Hollow manager’s office at (931) 243-3136 to make your reservation. Check out more eagle watching reservation information. If the barge rides are booked, boaters can follow along behind the barge, or hikers can scan the woods for eagles from the Accordion Bluff Trail which extends more than 7 miles (11 km) along the lake from Lillydale Recreation Area to Willow Grove Campground.
Montana
  • Libby—The turbulent waters near the downstream area from Libby Dam located 17 miles (27 km) east of Libby remain ice free during the winter and hundreds (yes, hundreds) of bald eagles come to winter around the lake. Project managers will conduct their annual “Raptor Program” on May 14, 2016, with presentations by a raptor rehabilitator who brings owls and an eagle aptly named Liberty, which is unable to be released into the wild due to old injuries. During nesting season, generally March-mid June, the Libby Dam Visitors Center has a live video of an eagle’s nest, giving visitors to this 90-mile (145 km) long lake a rare peek at newly hatched eaglets.
North Carolina
  • B. Everett Jordan Lake lies about eight miles (13 km) south of Chapel Hill and is a mecca for nearby eagle watchers. The project’s managers partnered with the local New Hope Audubon Society and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to build a large observation platform 10 feet (3 m) above the lake. When the lake’s 40 bald eagles come out to fish they often can be seen from the platform, along with plentiful other wildlife.

Get Started

Can’t make it to one of the eagle watches? Find Corps locations and learn more about other special events and recreational opportunities closer to your home and across the country.
(source: recreation.gov)
8B Ranch / Outdoors

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