A grassroots group has been cultivating curiosity in bald eagles alongside the decrease Wisconsin River for many years.
Ferry Bluff Eagle Council held its thirty fifth Bald Eagle Watching Days occasion in Prairie du Sac this month. For as a few years, group members have tramped out alongside the river on chilly winter evenings to depend eagles as they roost. The data is shared with state and federal companies and serves as a software to construct conservation, consciousness and partnerships.
As 2022 Eagle Watching Days kicked off, inside Sauk Prairie Excessive College, wildlife educator David Stokes was surrounded by animals — some stuffed, some fabricated from plastic and others had been actual, just like the turtles, fish and a few snakes he introduced alongside.
“How tall are bald eagles,” Stokes shouted. Bald Eagle Watching Days at all times begin like this — with kids. Historically, Stokes could be razzle-dazzling an auditorium stuffed with bused-in college students from space grade colleges.
Stokes pointed to a life-size eagle perched behind him. “That eagle up there isn’t actual, however it appears like an eagle due to its construction. Construction is how an animal is constructed,” he stated.
As an alternative of participating with college students in individual, Stokes performed to a digital camera. It’s “zooming” him dwell into lecture rooms, answering college students’ questions alongside the way in which.
“Do eagles nest all alongside the Wisconsin River and the Mississippi River or simply in sure components?” stated Isaac Homar.
Homar remembers experiencing Stokes when he was a third-grader. Now, the highschool senior lobs children’ inquiries to Stokes and in addition helped manage this 12 months’s eagle occasion.
“It actually gave me a glimpse into how I may, after faculty, and getting older and the way folks try to make their group higher,” Homar stated.
The group has joined in. In downtown Prairie du Sac, the village lately constructed a brand new eagle-viewing overlook above the Wisconsin River.
That’s the place the Andersons, layered in opposition to the chilly, are on the watch with their 7-year-old and 4-year-old children. Dad and mom Andrew and Whitney stated it was definitely worth the hour-long drive. That is their first Bald Eagle Watching Days expertise.
“They’re enjoyable to take a look at. It’s a enjoyable exercise for the youngsters,” the Andersons stated.
Close by at Wilderness Fish & Recreation, you will discover one other signal of group engagement in eagle conservation. One risk the birds face is lead contamination. Through the years, hunters generally used lead ammunition.
The Ferry Bluff Eagle Council requested the native retailer to assist encourage hunters to shift to copper bullets.
Retailer purchaser Chris Scates defined: “The eagle council got here to us and stated, ‘Hey, we have finished plenty of analysis with this copper ammunition.’ And we defined it’s costlier they usually stated, ‘OK, what if we are able to increase cash and we’ll simply do a voucher for the shopper that brings the value down.’ It is a cool program. We sometimes run out of vouchers earlier than season.”
A late afternoon stroll with Joe Howard encapsulated what makes Ferry Bluff Eagle Council tick. “Look, see the road on the high of the bluff? There’s a again spot form of halfway. Right here take the binoculars and comply with that line. What you are is an eagle’s nest,” he stated.
Each two weeks within the coronary heart of winter, Howard has quietly assumed a strategic spot to depend eagles as they soar in to roost for the night time. “Bald eagles are communal, they discover the identical roost they usually roost collectively at night time, they don’t get shut physique sensible … they discover one of the best place that’s shielded from the wind,” he defined.
A seasoned observer traveled mild with solely binoculars, pencil or pen, information sheets and maps, and sufficient layers to maintain heat. Don’t make the error of asking Howard how shut he’s gotten to an eagle.
“Getting near eagles will not be a aim for me. Getting near eagles is a disturbance … and that’s in actual fact one of many issues we now have an issue with. Ferry Bluff is a extremely popular mountaineering place and regardless that it’s closed now and has indicators in all places, folks suppose it’s simply high-quality to hike up there,” he stated.
Howard could not wish to disturb the “roosters,” however he does take pleasure in watching their habits, for instance, once they court docket. “They fly round and dive at one another, even lock their claws collectively. They seize a stick, drop it and the opposite one picks it up,” he stated.
Quickly, many eagles will scatter north to nest. Some will keep behind.
Howard’s notes and people of others all through the area might be tallied and in comparison with earlier years’ information.
“It’s a method of monitoring them, you take a look at the climate, you take a look at disturbances, it’s a method of serving to you determine what’s it that’s making the eagles make modifications, and if it’s disturbances, what’s it that we are able to do to assist stop that,” Howard stated.
Howard is speaking about us, folks. “Yeah us, that’s precisely what I imply,” he stated.
As we weaved our method out of the woods, Howard stated the depend is form of a religious factor for him.
Through the years, Ferry Bluff Eagle Council has helped preserve 268 acres of eagle habitat. It is also supplied helpful information to the state Division of Pure Assets and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. And it is cultivated group consciousness that eagles aren’t simply fascinating, they’re vital members of a shared setting.
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