Bald Eagle Appreciation Days

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A lone eagle looks over the Wisconsin River. (Photo by Ted Pennekamp)

Pairs of bald eagles have been seen at various locations in and around Prairie du Chien in recent weeks. The larger of the two is the female. (Courier Press file photo)

 

Prairie du Chien Bald Eagle Appreciation Days 

offers viewing in controlled and natural settings

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The 12th Annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Days will be held on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24-25 in Prairie du Chien. The event will feature new programs and presentations by state and local birding experts. The event will consist of educational and fun activities for outdoor enthusiasts and the whole family.

Free programs open to the public begin Friday evening at 6 p.m. at two local hotels, the AmericInn, 130 S. Main St., and Country Inn & Suites, Highway 35 North. Robert Vavra, former clammer, will start off the event with his new program concentrating on the history of clamming on the Upper Mississippi. Pat Schlarbaum, Iowa DNR representative, will then follow with a presentation entitled “Eagles, Falcons and Ospreys.” Highlights on Saturday at Hoffman Hall, 1600 S. Wacouta Ave., will be live bird programs featuring a bald eagle and five other raptors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., presented by The Schlitz Audubon Society. 

Other educational programs will include “Viewing Local Eagles Today” by Effigy Mounds volunteer Dennis Kirschbaum, “Bald Eagle Status and Monitoring” by Dan Goltz, Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Biologist, and “Tracking the Decorah Eagles” by Eagle Valley Biologist Brett Mandernack. 

Attendees will also be able to view throughout the day many educational birding and nature exhibits. Children will be able to participate in hands-on activities. Local birding observation will also be available. A program called “Loon Magic” by nature photographer Ty Smedes will also be held Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at Country Inn and Suites. This program is also free and open to the public.

Outdoor viewing of bald eagles through spotting scopes and a life-sized bald eagle nest will be at the Prairie du Chien Regional Tourism Center, 211 S. Main St. 

Every year is a bit different, said Dennis Kirschbaum, who noted that the number of eagles in the Prairie du Chien area that can be easily viewed will be dictated by the weather. 

“The migration will start if the recent warm weather continues and we get a good breeze,” said Kirschbaum. “The local birds who stay here year ‘round are already on their nests. They will be protecting their nests from the migrating eagles.”

Dead shad drifting through at the Washington Street Bridge, the Blackhawk Avenue Bridge, the Campion Boat Landing and other local areas usually make for easy feeding and roosting sites for bald eagles. Recently, there haven’t been many eagles at the Washington Street Bridge and other normally good viewing spots in the Prairie du Chien area, but that may soon change, said Kirschbaum.

“There has been too much current in the sloughs for the eagles to fish effectively,” said Kirschbaum. “So, the eagles have been going inland to smaller rivers such as the Kickapoo, Grant and Yellow as well as to area trout streams.” 

If the weather remains relatively warm, however, and the migration begins, migrating eagles will follow the Mississippi River as their natural flyway, said Kirschbaum. “With a breeze, we might see some early migrants coming through,” he said. “The normal peak for good numbers of birds is around March 2.”

Kirschbaum noted that their is a nesting pair that can be viewed from one’s vehicle on the left of County K as one heads just north of Prairie du Chien. There is another nesting pair that has also shown a lot of activity in recent weeks on Mill Coulee Road about a quarter of a mile off of Highway 35 north of Prairie du Chien. Both pairs of eagles are bringing new nesting material to their sites as well as adjusting old nest material. No egg laying or incubating behavior has been observed. Kestrals and rough-legged Hawks are being seen along Highway 27 between Prairie du Chien and Eastman.

Ritter’s Fish Market on Highway 27 near County N between Prairie du Chien and Eastman can also be a good spot to view eagles if fish remains have been spread on the nearby fields, said Kirschbaum.

People are encouraged to bring their scopes and be sure to stay in their car, because a car is the best bird blind they can have at these locations, said Kirschbaum.

Kirschbaum also noted that  at least 12 nesting pairs were spotted on nests on Feb. 11 between Mount Hope and Prairie du Chien along Highway 18. “The pairs have been feeding together,” he said.

At the end of February, normal winter flock (local eagles) will start laying their eggs, said Kirschbaum. He said that soon, people may get the chance to see synchronized flights and other activities by the various pairs.

“Eagles are fun to see whether in a natural setting or a controlled setting such as the presentations at Hoffman Hall,” Kirschbaum said. “With the presentations at Hoffman Hall, there should be a lot of photo opportunities for people with the live birds as well as photographing the people who are in various (educational) costumes.” 

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days is sponsored by Effigy Mounds National Monument and the Prairie du Chien Tourism Council.

For a list of programs and exhibits, as well as times and locations of activities, call (800) 732-1673, ext. 12, or visit the website at http://prairieduchien.org/?q=visitors/eagles.

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