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Wild Wednesday: Mystery of missing eagles

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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.

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I am currently living in the UP (Watersmeet) and it has been a mild winter here. Ice up didn't happen completely until the last week of November. Perhaps the rivers aren't freezing over as well so they aren't following the open water South as they usually do?

I saw no shortage of eagles up here last year. In the past I would put fish guts on the ice to watch the eagles and osprey come in, but haven't done that this year due to wolves in the area.

No shortage of eagles around Channahon,Joliet area on the Des plaines river.Spotted at least a dozen last weak while out fishing.

I live in Bloomington-Normal, in the watershed of the Mackinaw, a tributary to the Illinois. Eagles have been building mock nests in our valley down here since December.

Agree with JimL about Channahon. I work at a barge terminal on the river there and it seems that each year I see more and more Eagles there.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on January 20, 2010 9:30 AM.

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