Bald Eagle Watch (Early Version)


Lonely Eagle atop the trees.


The American bald eagle stands up to 3 feet tall with a wingspan of 7-8 feet. Although male and female eagles share the same plumage, females, as in most birds of prey, are somewhat larger than males.

The adult birds are characterized by their white head and tail and yellow beak and eyes. Immature birds exhibit a brownish plumage with varying degrees of white “blotching”. They will not attain the white head and tail until they reach maturity at 4-5 years of age.

Bald eagles are found only in North America. Most of the birds seen wintering along the Illinois River come from up north—Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada. They will start the journey back to their breeding grounds by mid-March and return once again to the Illinois River Valley by late October to early November.

PLEASE NOTE: Bald eagles are protected by law and should not be disturbed. Please keep your distance and do not cause an eagle to fly from its perch.

For information on eagle activity at Starved Rock Lock & Dam call the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center at 815.667.4054

For event information call Illinois Audubon Society at 217.544.BIRD

The real Eagle Watch Weekend is next weekend (January 28-29, 2012) . You can find out more at the Illinois Audubon Society. They even have a nice brochure which you can download in PDF format.

Rather than risk being unavailable for next weekend or simply not wanting to brave the hordes of “feather peepers” bound to descend upon the area we decided to drive out today. We were hardly alone. Lots of folks with the same idea were there including the volunteer spotter scope operators who would give you a chance to view the birds up close and personal.

I learned in short order that a 300 mm equivalent lens on the Nikon 1 is nothing short of useless when trying to span the quarter mile distances to the birds in question. The Illinois Waterway Visitor Center is adjacent to the island where the birds are nesting. This is a good deal closer than the rear deck of the Starved Rock Lodge. Yet you really need something as powerful as a Celestron to view the birds at a close enough distance to make their feathing visible.

I decided to hunt quarry a bit closer to hand and fell to photographing the photographers. At least one gentleman had brought along what I would imagine was a 1000 mm telephoto. It may have in fact had a longer focal length than that. He was taking images using his DSLR which I can only assume was a Nikon.

Inside the center there were some interesting exhibits and stuffed birds to view. We stayed long enough to begin to feel the penetrating cold of the damp air and then retreated in search of some luncheon. It was a fun day and I hope that everyone gets a chance to enjoy next week even more.

We made a stop in Ottawa in search of a good Mexican restaurant but decided to grab a few mural images before returning to Oswego for a meal at the local Chipotle Mexican Grill.