As a family, we try for at least one eagle-watching day or weekend in the winter, sometimes combined with a getaway to a water park or weekend overnight stay. Not so far this year.
One of our regular spots is the Starved Rock area, which has become famous for its eagles in winter. If we can, we get in some swimming during a stay at Starved Rock Lodge and watch the eagles. This year we had hoped to try Grizzly Jack's, the family getaway/water park across from Starved Rock SP.
But it is just tough to do when few eagles are around, like this year. The photo above was from several years ago when we only saw one eagle near Ottawa. Trust me, that made for a long morning with a car loaded with young kids.
It's been a bit of mystery where the eagles are this year, and plenty of theories.
It should have been an ideal time the past couple weeks, with the rivers icing, to concentrate the eagles around Starved Rock dam.
But it hasn't happened. I have been checking about every week for the past month with the rangers at the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center, across the Illinois River from the park.
Here's what park ranger Kevin Eubank at Illinois Waterway Visitor Center had to say Tuesday:
It seems to be an issue with the fish they eat, gizzard shad. They are seeing [the same problem] all over the Mississippi too. The five locals are around, but we have not seeing the migratory eagles.
The lack of shad tends to be the favorite theory. And it is one I am inclined to believe since a lot of fishermen, especially those who targetted white bass, reported the same lack of shad this summer.
But I thought Eubank had a wonderful aside/closer about even being able to see a few eagles around Starved Rock:
It is still better than seeing them in a zoo.
Amen. And hopefully we will get in our family getaway over the next month or so.