The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s annual Eagle Watch will feature many ways to celebrate a species that was once on the verge of extinction but is now thriving.
The free event is set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, located at 25055 W. Walnut Lane in Channahon.
Hike the trails to see bald eagles fishing and hunting for waterfowl on the open waters of the Des Plaines River. Warm up inside Four Rivers by a crackling fire and view eagles from afar with a spotting scope manned by a bird expert. Or meet Victor E., a bald eagle that will be part of live indoor raptor presentations.
Forest Preserve staff have their fingers crossed for frigid weather because the colder the temperatures, the more likely eagles will gather around the open waters of the Des Plaines River near Four Rivers. And when they do gather, it’s a wonderful sight to see these massive birds soaring around the Four Rivers area, said Jess McQuown, a Forest Preserve program coordinator.
“They’re one of the few birds that can coast in the air,” she said. “And they’re so distinct because they’re big and they’re ferocious predators. They dive and catch fish with their feet and watching it is pretty magical. It’s like watching an adventure movie.”
If the weather is warmer, “You’re guaranteed to see an eagle one way or another because of the bird presentations,” McQuown added.
Eagle Watch activities
Victor E., the bald eagle, and four owls will be part of the bird presentations offered by Milton, Wis.-based Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center. Two 45-minute bird presentations will take place at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. A 20-minute “meet and greet” is set for 12:30 p.m. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to the bird presentations, Eagle Watch attendees can join 40-minute guided hikes to search for and learn about eagles at 11:50 a.m., 12:55 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. Or they can hike the McKinley Woods site on their own.
Also, three 15-minute Talon Talks will be offered. The times and topics are: noon, Eagles of the World; 1 p.m., Eagle Eyes and Other Awesome Adaptations; 2:30 p.m., Comeback Kid – The Bald Eagle’s Road to Recovery.
Other activities include family crafts, an Eagle Eye Scavenger Hunt and food available for purchase from Lil’ Deb’s Mobile Eats.
Bald eagles have rebounded from a low of around 400 breeding pairs in the early 1960s to an estimated 316,000 today in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And the Illinois Department of Natural Resources states that Illinois hosts more wintering bald eagles than any other state outside of Alaska. There are an estimated 3,100 eagles wintering in 27 Illinois counties each year.
Eagle Watch is supported by funding from Alliance Pipeline, a joint venture of Enbridge and Pembina, and through the assistance of The Nature Foundation of Will County. This is an inclusive program, welcoming individuals of all abilities.
For more information the Forest Preserve District of Will County, visit ReconnectWithNature.org.