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Longview, WA, is getting a second bridge at their First Annual Squirrel Festival August 6, when they’ll off a design contest to put up more squirrel bridges.

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Eagle Watching Festivals for 2011

From New York to California, families are heading out to watch bald eagles at festivals. Winter forces the raptors to hunt over unfrozen water.

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Purple Martin Festivals and Fans

Cape May lighthouse and birdhouse / By Vilseskogen

If you live in the eastern U.S. chances are there’s now a purple martin festival or fan club nearby–or will be soon. Watching and attracting America’s largest and most co-dependent swallow has become a big pastime and $30 million business. About a million Americans have put up housing for purple martins, says Louise Chambers, the Education Outreach Director for the Purple Martin Conservation Association. Purple martins are a special species because east of the rockies–where most of the country’s 11 million martins nest–they depend on people for 95% of their housing says, chambers. The martins (Progne subis) The martins are tame and tolerant of their human fans because they understand their special status, writes James R. Hill, III, the association’s founder: “The Purple Martin is one of the few birds in the entire world that was never persecuted or hunted by man, instead it was nurtured and loved by him.” Some people do try to chase the martins away–and decades ago even killed them mistaking them for starlings, Chambers says. In 2007, the last year figures are available, the USDA’s Wildlife Services, the federal agency for killing what’s considered nuisance wildlife, chased away 625,720 purple martins, mostly in Mississippi and Kentucky, and killed five. By now most Americans think of martins as something to enjoy, not shoo away. About 125,000 Americans a year try to because what martin lovers adorably call landlords: they put the distinctive white houses or gourds. A recent

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20 States Host Bald Eagle Festivals; Six This Weekend. Is There A Bald Eagle Near You?

See the full 2010 Eagle Calendar

In January and February rivers freeze and bald eagles have to come down from Canada to visit us. To capitalize on the event, Audubon clubs and parks around the country hold Bald Eagle Days or Festivals to give people a chance to see our national bird in places they haven’t been seen in generations. Within a couple hours of New York, Boston, Chicago and Dallas, you can see eagles.

Twenty states have bald eagle festivals, although two have cancelled this year because of the recession. The Upper Skagit Eagle Festival in WA and the CT Eagle Festival won’t be held this year. The eagles still show up, you just don’t get the luxury treatment, which usually entails scopes and hot chocolate. CT Audubon even still has $40 boat tours.

Current Eagle Festivals: AL, AK, AR, CO, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MD, NJ, NY, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT and WI

We’ve got six bald eagle events this weekend. We don’t just have a national bald eagle day because they show up at different times around the country. The peak for eagle days is the first weekend in February, with 11 states having eagle-watching events.

See the 2010 Calendar of Eagle EventsWhere to See Eagles Yearound

To see more animals go to

Eagle Season Begins in Illinois

Starved Rock Eagle

Bald Eagle Hunting above Starved Rock.

When I grew up in Illinois, seeing a bald eagle would have been impossible or at least fantastic. On January 2, my family and I drove just two hours outside Chicago and got to see seven bald eagles fishing on the Illinois River by Starved Rock State Park. More regular guests, jaded by appearances of over 100 eagles, walked away disappointed. We couldn’t have been more delighted.

Now Illinois brags that it has the most bald eagles of any (continential) state. Alaska blows everybody away with 50% of the world’s population of 70,000, according to Bald Eagle Info.  Haliaeetus leucocephalus only lives in North America and Ireland. The bird was upgraded from endangered to threatened in 1995, then totally bumped off the endangered species list in 2007, thanks largely to cracking down on poachers and DDT. The IUCN, which rates how vulnerable animals are, now dismissively says the bald eagle is of “least concern.”

The Mississippi River is where most Illinois eagles hang out and where most eagle-watching hotspots are, but Starved Rock is by far the closest place to Chicagoland. The number of eagles that visit the area has been climbing steadily since people started counting 15 years ago and no one knows how high it might go. (The eagle population is thought to have once been 100,000.)

Kevin Eubank, the head ranger at the dam where you do most eagle viewing, says the numbers hit a peak last February with 115. They’re coming down from Wisconsin and Canada,

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