By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer
---- — FULTON, Ill. — Bald eagles have been said to be the symbol of America and to celebrate that, Clinton Community College, the US Fish and Wildlife Services and the US Army Corps of Engineers will host the 30th Annual Bald Eagle Watch on Saturday at CCC and Lock and Dam 13.
The watch, originally created in 1984, honors the majestic bird of prey and its triumph back to existence after being listed as an endangered species in the 1970s as a result of the Endangered Species Act.
“I’m not sure exactly, but probably why (the Bald Eagle watch) originally started is because we didn’t have eagles in the 70s,” Pam Steinhaus of US Fish and Wildlife Services said. “Through the Endangered Species Act they started to come back and now they are an extremely successful story.”
For 15 years Steinhaus has helped organize the annual Bald Eagle Watch and she expects this year will be the most successful event she has been a part of.
“This might be the best eagle watch in a long time,” Steinhaus said. “You never know, but earlier in the first part of December we had over 1,100 eagles out there. Winter came early up north and pushed them down and there’s plenty of food available at the lock, so were having a really good year for eagles.”
Aside from witnessing hundreds of bald eagles soaring at Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, Ill., the event at CCC also will feature a special presentation from the National Eagle Center and a live eagle program.
Eileen Hanson, director of public relations for the National Eagle Center, said the group will present a general live eagle program, giving people the opportunity to see a bald eagle up close and examine its massive wingspan and other distinguishing features.
“Generally that’s a pretty big draw for people,” Hanson said. “We anticipate a lot of people like to see that up close so we do a lot of interactive stuff with the naturalist to try to engage the audience.”
After meeting the bird in person, visitors are encouraged to take advantage of a shuttle bus provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Services from CCC to the watch site at Lock and Dam 13, where it is anticipated that more than 600 bald eagles, along with other birds of prey, will be roosting.
“Now is perfect because it’s cold and snowy,” Steinhaus said. “There are more congregated at the Lock and Dam because that’s where the water is and where the food is. Greatest numbers you’ll see is where the food source is. Plus, right now is a good time because when the trees have snow they really stick out.”
The eagle watching will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, and the educational programming will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Clinton Community College in Clinton.
Steinhaus invites people of all ages to come enjoy the annual event and says it is an incredible experience to see the beauty of a bald eagle.
“There is something about eagles and the American spirit; there’s just a special connection,” Steinhaus said.