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Only 9 Eagles Show for Chicago’s Closest Eagle Watch

Only about nine eagles were on hand for the 3,000 visitors who showed up for the closest eagle watch to Chicago, Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock. Last year, 50 were there for the weekend and 115 spotted on the peak February day.

“I think most people got to see at least one eagle in the wild, which is better than seeing one on TV,” said Kevin Eubank, the head ranger at the dam where you do most eagle viewing. Plus, they had a live bird of prey demonstration, so people got to see one up close, too. Edna Daugherty, who was driving the trolley for Starved Rock Lodge, said that eagles were out off and on all day.

eagle treeThe northern states have had slim eagle viewing this year. In 2009 the mid-winter Illinois eagle survey showed lousy results. First the cold weather seemed to drive birds further south. Now some rivers aren’t frozen at all, meaning the raptors don’t have to concentrate in one spot. The fish they like are in slim supply this year. And, on top of everything else, it’s foggy. The local paper The News Tribune says presciently that eagle-watching has “never been much of an activity for serious birders.” Maybe that’s why it’s so fun: It’s relatively easy these days because eagle populations have recovered and the birds are big, obvious, and thrilling to watch. Six states have eagle watches this weekend: AL, IL, WA, MO, OK and TN.

If anything, I feel even better about my visit to the dam a few weeks ago, when we saw about seven birds. I think it should encourage people who maybe can’t come out during the special events to try to see them another time.

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