Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bald Eagle Safari 2012

Mature Eagle in tree
In order to see and photograph Bald Eagles (haliaeets leucocephalus) in the wild many people in the United States must journey North to Alaska or Canada. That is, unless you live near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. This area hosts the wintering and breeding grounds for hundreds of these majestic birds.

One of the best Christmas gifts my wife and I received this year was a "Bald Eagle Days" package at the Pere Marquette Lodge near Grafton, Illinois. The package included wine and cheese appetizers , dinner in the rustic dining room,  an overnight stay at the lodge, breakfast in the morning and a day-long guided tour of wetlands surrounding the park and the land between the rivers.

Scott Isringhausen, site interpreter at Pere Marquette State Park, was our guide for the day. Due to an unusually warm winter in Canada and North America the eagle migration is a little late this year and there are not as many eagles in the area as usual. With Scott's guidance we were able to spot twenty eagles on our day long journey.

An eagle nest high up in a tree with Geese flying over.
Our tour began at the information center in Pere Marquette State Park. After an orientation video Scott shared some information about the eagles in the area. We then departed on our tour. We traveled through the woods next to the Illinois river for some distance and saw eagles' nests in the tree tops.

Snow Geese take flight
We crossed the Illinois river on the Brussels Ferry. Once across, we hugged the river and spotted a few eagles. We journeyed up to Swan Lake where hundreds of Snow Geese were resting on the water. Something startled the geese and they took to the air.

Eagle in tree near river

Over the course of the day we spotted a number of eagles in the trees or in flight. Even though we didn't see a lot of eagles on this trip we plan on going back later for another visit to photograph more of these majestic birds.