This past Saturday, February 7th, my husband and I took a trip to Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois to see some eagles. It was a chilly day, but not as chilly as I was hoping. The Starved Rock website mentions that on colder days, when the water is frozen elsewhere, the eagles will often congregate around the dam for fish. Although admittedly, the weather being less cold meant we could be out in it longer.
The eagles migrate to the area beginning in December and stay until the weather starts warming up around March, although January seems to be the most recommended time to go see them. My original plan was to go earlier to go see them, unfortunately that didn’t work out with my schedule.
Starved Rock is a big park and quite popular. On the day we went, it was exceptionally busy. I generally prefer it a little more isolated when I’m out in nature and exploring wildlife, but it is nice to see so many people excited to see eagles. Many, like myself, trying out this little adventure for the first time.
Starved Rock State Park: Eagle Watching lists several tips for viewing bald eagles. We were only able to see a couple of them and there were a few rowdy individuals that certainly didn’t make the experience as enjoyable as I would have liked. Although the eagles were too far away to get some great shots (and stayed away thanks to the overzealous fans), I did still manage to walk away with some beautiful shots of the area.
The ideal times to see the eagles, according to the park, are early morning and just before sunset. We arrived about an hour before the sun started setting and headed back to our car just as it started going down. That’s a great time for photography if you want to avoid harsh midday sunlight. As we were about to leave, a little mist settled on a few particular areas and really enhanced the mood of the area.
While the eagles weren’t plentiful that day, there still was other wildlife to appreciate. It’s important to keep in mind anytime you’re interested in exploring wildlife that animals don’t act on our schedule. They aren’t performers for our amusement. It’s great to appreciate them, but remember that even if the animal you want to see isn’t around, there are plenty of others to notice.
They had a bat house up too! I was really excited to see this. My husband and I will be putting up our first bat house this spring (I’ll be sure to write a post about that when it happens).
On the way out, we got this interesting little surprise… A mosquito. While it wasn’t quite freezing outside, it still seemed much too cold (and much too early in the year) for this little guy to be hanging around. The photo isn’t the nicest. I didn’t bring the right lens with me since I wasn’t exactly expecting to be taking pictures of tiny little bugs while the ground was still covered in snow 🙂
Although there weren’t many eagles, we did still get to see them. There were two hanging around while we were there and while they were a little far away for a closeup, that didn’t deter me. So here’s my final image for the post:
If you get the chance to try your hand at eagle viewing, I recommend taking advantage of that opportunity. Please be respectful of others who are there, not just other humans but the animals too. It can be distressing for them to have people shouting at them, even from a distance. Appreciate nature and wildlife… at the rate things are going, you might not get too many more chances to enjoy it.
These photos and more will be available for purchase on my website around summertime. I know it’s a bit of a delay, but I’ll need time to go through the couple hundred photos I took and get them uploaded and I’m in school full time. Besides it’s better to see these sights in person, so go visit a local park in the meantime! 🙂