Monday, March 7, 2011

Bird enthusiasts flock to Carlyle Lake eagle presentation

Bald Eagle catching fish in the Kaskaskia River.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo.
With the temperatures reaching 60 degrees, more than 300 bird enthusiasts flocked to Carlyle Lake Visitors Center this past Sunday to learn, "All About Eagles." "It was great to see all the people that came out to the event," said Kim Hammel, St. Louis District Corp of Engineers Park Ranger. "I was truly amazed at the interest and enthusiasm that the crowd had for the bald eagle."

The program was presented by Laura MacLeod from the World Bird Sanctuary; in Valley Park, MO. MacLeod shared with the crowd facts, characteristics, and habitats of these majestic birds.

Visitors at the lake that day also had the opportunity to meet Patriot, a bald eagle from the World Bird Sanctuary. Patriot was rescued from the water, and treated for pneumonia after a violent storm destroyed the tree her family was nesting in. The lung damage she sustained makes her unable to survive in the wild.

The Bald Eagle, distinguished by its white head and white tail feathers, is our nation's symbol. Representing strength, courage, and freedom, the bald eagle nearly faced extinction during the 60's. The use of pesticides, habitat destruction, shooting, and contamination of waterways and food led to the decline of this species.

Endangered species and environmental protection laws as well as active private, state and federal conservation efforts have helped the eagle make a remarkable recovery. It is a crime to possess even one feather of a bald eagle without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

During the winter months, the bald eagle migrates from the north to the south in search of open water and food. Up to 2,500 bald eagles nest along the Mississippi River near the lock and dams each year. The turbulence created below the dams provides open water and a tasty buffet of fish for the eagles to feast upon.

Bald eagles prefer to dine on fish, but will hunt other animals like ducks, geese, turtles, rabbits, snakes, beaver and muskrats. They have even been known to take down a weak deer.

The number of bald eagles sightings around Carlyle Lake has increased over the years. With 83 miles of shoreline, Carlyle Lake offers excellent habitat for eagles and has all the resources available for their survival. "With extinction at one time knocking at the door, it's wonderful to be able to say that the bald eagle is once again a fairly common sight at Carlyle Lake," said Bob Hammel, from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Following the program, local bird enthusiasts set up spotting scopes around the lake and assisted the visitors with viewing bald eagles and various other waterfowl in the wild. "It was great seeing all the people enjoying the beautiful day with all the eagles, pelicans, waterfowl and other wildlife," Bob Hammel said.

"By having these types of events we are able to get families outdoors and showcase the projects recreational opportunities such as bird watching," said Kim Hammel.

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