Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Eagle Watching Day!

Every year my family goes eagle watching.  Eagle Watching Day is ALWAYS the coldest day of the year.  We pile into my parents van and drive around all day with binoculars or cameras glued to our faces.  I know, you are so jealous right now.  Every winter thousands of bald eagles fly south from Canada and spend the winter in Alton and Grafton, Illinois on the Mississippi River. Now this is an all-day event.  We head out around 6 or 7am.  We stop at Denny's for a nice, hot breakfast, then head to our first stop, Clarksville, MO.  We make a number of stops heading to Grafton, IL then Alton, IL before heading back home by 4 or 5pm.

Eagles are awesome.  The Bald Eagle has been our nation's symbol since 1782.  There may have been as many as 20,000 nesting pairs during that time.  But, by 1978 numbers had declined dramatically (3,000 nesting pairs) and the federal government added the birds to the endangered species list.  The Bald Eagle is one of the best recovery stories though.  By 2007, they were not considered endangered anymore, and today there are about 10,000!  That is amazing!

If you have never seen a Bald Eagle, you should know that they are big.  Like huge.  They have a 6.5 to 8 foot wingspan and get 3-3.5 feet tall.  They are hard to miss amongst the river gulls and starlings flying around.  When they are juveniles, they do not have the characteristic white head.  So you may have seen an eagle and didn't even know it!  My family has been eagle watching for the last 15 years or so, and I like to think of us as eagle experts.  When someone sees an eagle, we pull over and all gaze skyward, snapping photos.  Now, you may think this sounds boring, but you haven't experienced the rush of trying to frame the perfect eagle photo.  This isn't your mama's backyard birding!  Well, it is my mama's... but anyway...

Last year I wasn't able to go because I was SUPER pregnant.  I was pretty bummed out.  So I was not missing out again this year!  Besides you can never start your children early enough when it comes to eagle watching.  My baby girl's first Eagle Watching Day!  I can't wait to drag unwilling teenagers on this epic tradition.  It's going to be awesome.

(The little blurry dot in the tree above my baby's head is an eagle.)