CLINTON — Despite favorable conditions, the 31st annual Bald Eagle Watch had the people, just not the birds.
As dozens of people gathered at Lock and Dam 13 on a brisk, but seasonably cool Saturday, US Fish and Wildlife Services biological science technician Eric Tomasovic explained that even though the weather conditions were ideal for successful eagle viewing, there were few for people to see.
“Everything says they should be here; there’s good snow cover, the river is freezing up,” Tomasovic said. “That’s the funny thing about nature though, we don’t really know it all.”
Though the quantity of eagles was low during the viewing portion of the event, Tomasovic added that the quality of viewing was about as good as it could be.
Back at Clinton Community College, where the other portion of the event was well underway, people may not have gotten to see an eagle up close and personal, but they did get a hands-on experience with some wildlife.
For the first time in the Bald Eagle Watch’s 31-year history, Wisconsin-based Naturalist David Stokes had plenty for people to see.
During his program “Who Lives with Eagles,” Stokes presented a variety of animals including snakes and turtles, using interactive songs, sign language and plenty of humor.
While his program had elements of education for the adults present during the event, his targeted audience was the children who came along, something Pam Steinhaus, visitor services manager at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, couldn’t have been more thrilled for.
“We always try to have a kids’ program at this event,” Steinhaus said. “And I’m very pleased with how this one turned out, especially seeing the amount of kids we have here. These are our conservationists of the future. We’ve come a long way in the conservation of eagles, so it’s important that the next generation continues those efforts.”
Conservation is the crux of the annual Bald Eagle Watch and since the US Army Corps of Engineers created the event, and the efforts it represents, there has been a surge of bald eagles that have returned to the area.
But Saturday’s event is about more than just wildlife education in Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge wildlife refuge manager Ed Britton’s eyes: it’s also about creating an inviting, friendly space for those people to learn.
“You see a lot of people you know and it’s just such a good family friendly atmosphere,” Britton said.
Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.