Great bald eagle watching opportunities during the winter
I was part of the St. Paul Christmas Bird Count in December. We were assigned the fragrant spot of the Pig’s Eye Wastewater Treatment Plant, which contained tons of ducks and lots of bald eagles. With a scan of our binoculars from one spot we easily counted 26 eagles right next to the downtown area.
There aren’t as many species to see in the Upper Midwest in the winter, but we do get some charismatic ones in good numbers. Lots of people like to use the short daylight hours to search for eagles this time of year. Thanks to recovery efforts and eagle adaptability, it’s easier than ever to find them in winter. Some people prefer to hop in their cars and look for rivers with open water for bald eagles, but others can join one of the many eagle tours or events to see these majestic with like minded-individuals.
There are at least 19 events in the Upper Midwest dedicated to winter eagle viewing between now and the end of March according to Midwest Weekends. Some are bus tours and others are festivals that happen where eagles congregate.
And it’s not just the bald eagle. The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn., offers tours to find wintering golden eagles that hang out around the so-called goat prairies of southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
If you want to find eagles on your own where you live, look for areas of open water, especially those that attract diving ducks like common mergansers and common goldeneye. If there’s fish for ducks, there’s fish and ducks for eagles to eat. The Mississippi River is ideal wherever locks and dams keep the water open like in Dubuque, Iowa or where there’s a confluence like where the St. Croix River meets the Mississippi River on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.
Until we see some serious spring migrants back in March, consider taking a day trip to look for those majestic freedom gliders.