Ice and Eagles

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

My very first birding field trip six or so years ago was through the Morton Arboretum. It was billed as “Ice and Eagles.” That particular trip entailed a bus drive to Starved Rock State Park where, as best as I can recall, we must have seen a few Bald Eagles. Oddly enough, I remember being more impressed seeing a Red-Bellied Woodpecker for the first time.

Juvenile Bald Eagles on the ice

Juvenile Bald Eagles on the ice

Sunday I joined the DuPage Birding Club on a day trip to the Mississippi River to see eagles, waterfowl, and whatever else was present. At our first stop, Lock and Dam 13 near Fulton, Illinois, it was estimated we had more than 250 Bald Eagles. But all day the weather was the catch. When we got there it was pouring rain. While we escaped the predicted thunderstorms, when it wasn’t raining it was drizzling and foggy. Not exactly ideal conditions for photography.

Eagle on the Ice IMG_0381_1

So I’ve been poring over the pictures I did take, to see if there was anything clear enough to publish. If nothing else, maybe I can convey what a grey, miserable day it was. Nevertheless, it wasn’t all bad.

We saw two Red-Headed Woodpeckers.

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

And a couple Eastern Bluebirds.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Hundreds of Gulls, mostly Herring and Ring-Billed, but we did manage to find a Lesser Black-Backed Gull and a Greater Black-Backed Gull mixed in after careful perusal…

Gulls on Thin Ice IMG_0651_1

and a Thayer’s Gull or two.

3rd Cycle Thayer's Gull

3rd Cycle Thayer’s Gull

Among other waterfowl, an estimated 7,000 Canvasbacks, too far away to photograph, but here are a few thickening the air.

Canvasbacks IMG_0633_1

And we managed to find Eurasian Tree Sparrows hanging out with House Sparrows where they have been located before, at someone’s feeders. I never did get close enough for a decent photo, but it’s a life bird for me, so this is for the record.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Above all, wherever we went, Bald Eagles reigned supreme.

Eagles IMG_0541_1

My last chance for Bald Eagles this winter is on the 24th. DuPage Birding Club is featuring a field trip at Starved Rock. I think it will be the first time I’ve been back since, well, my first field trip.

8 thoughts on “Ice and Eagles

  1. Thanks, Bob, I hope so too, although the 24th is getting pretty late for ice, and from what I understand, no ice means no eagles! Even though our group was small, overall I think the better photo ops are going alone, not with a group. But I never would have seen the Eurasian Tree Sparrow if I wasn’t led to it. I’m just glad Bald Eagles are so plentiful and I can count on seeing them again.

  2. Thanks so much, Syl. I wish I could have gotten closer and a little more light, but maybe this is more realistic – Bald Eagles having a bad day. Winter weather is hard on everybody!

    • Thanks for your comment! I know, it’s so wonderful to see them now taking advantage of all our rivers and streams. By the way, if you’re wondering where that 250+ number comes from, at a much greater distance you could see all this black blobs sitting on the ice down river, and many more in trees across the expanse of the river — impressive to see in a scope or binoculars only.

  3. I prefer to go bird-watching alone, but on the rare occasions that I did go with a group. I saw more birds that I wouldn’t have been able to identify if I was by myself. I agree bird watching in bad weather conditions is difficult.

    • If left to my own devices, I would not have made this trip, not only because of bad weather, but also because I’m not particularly inclined to drive six hours round trip alone. But after paying in the past for birding classes and doing Christmas counts, I think I’m conditioned to the mentality that no matter what the weather, you go out and try to see whatever you can. Which reminds me, the weather this weekend is not going to be great for the Great Backyard Bird Count, but I’ll participate on some level anyway. And it will be solo birding which I also prefer. =)

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