Bald Eagles on the Fox River

Bald Eagles on the Fox River

Apparently I wrote about bald eagles on the Fox River in Yorkville back in January of 2012. Then I did it again at the end of December 2012. But when you see over 20 of them in one day, it's hard not to bring it up again.

The small lakes and ponds in the surrounding area are all frozen over. Much of the Fox River is ice too, something hard to believe for water that flows. You wouldn't think that's possible. The ducks and geese that rely on open water have fewer places to go. The Yorkville dam is about a half mile away from me and the churning water over the dam keeps the river relatively free of ice for a good mile.

Everything that flies seems to congregate in these open areas. Thousands of waterfowl are gathered on the river below my house and many more arrive every day around sunset. The constant honking of the geese can be heard blocks away and it goes on well into the night. Blue herons are flying all over the place looking for spots between the geese to land.

For the last few days the reports of bald eagles on the Fox River have been appearing in earnest. The eagles too are looking for open water. Being primarily fish eaters, they have fewer places to go and I'm sure if all else fails, they'll pick off a bird or two when hungry enough.

Friend and avid bird watcher, Larry Granat along with his wife Debbie, reported seeing 9 of them on Tuesday in Yorkville. For the birders, Larry runs a Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page and it's worth a visit.

The photo at the top of this post is one of the photo's Larry took that day as well as the following two. I really need to get me one of those cameras. I have film cameras that have this capability, but what's film?

As far as I can tell, that's a gizzard shad that it plucked out of the river for lunch.

On Thursday I went down to the river to see the eagles for myself. At the bottom of the hill and on the other side of the river is the mouth of a creek. Just outside the creek mouth is a small island. In the still water around the island were a few hundred geese and perched in the tree of the island were six eagles. By the time I got in position to take a picture, two of the eagles had flown off.

I know, they're hard to see, but once you get used to what you're looking for you can't miss them.

Then I wandered over to the dam and got to see six more. Around 10 or 11 years ago I had seen my first eagle on the river and continued to see one now and then in the coming years. But the last few years have been bringing many more to the Fox River. I couldn't believe I had just seen 12.

On Friday I went for a drive along the river from Yorkville to Montgomery, about 10 miles. Before even leaving Yorkville I had already seen nine eagles. I stopped at a number of places along the river only to find the river pretty locked up with ice. The few places that had small patches of open water were acting like magnets for the geese.

When I got to Orchard Road I noticed it was the dividing line between open water up stream and a river made up of almost solid ice. I didn't expect this. I thought it would be all ice even further up. The mile and a half stretch from Orchard Road to Oswego has practically no access points for a car. You can hike that length, but it can be a challenge.

As I drove north along the river out of Oswego the eagles seemed to be every few hundred yards. Sometimes by themselves and other times three or four in a tree. I gave up counting them when I got to 20 and decided to just enjoy the ride and spotting eagles. I wound up seeing many more than 20 by the end of my ride.

With all this open water along this stretch, the waterfowl have congregated by the thousands. I couldn't get in a good position to take a picture, so this shot from the same stretch a few years ago will have to do. Picture many more birds, but you get the idea.

On the way home, on the road along the river and below my house, I came across one eagle sitting in a tree about 50 feet away. I knew if I got out of the car it would take off, so with window rolled down and the zoom on my point and shoot camera all the way out, I kept taking pictures till it turned it's head just enough to give me a profile.

I really do need to get a better camera.

Friends have been telling me that they are spotting eagles even further north. From Elgin to St. Charles and Batavia, but not in the numbers we're seeing further south. So far anyway.

So get out your map and get to Montgomery right on the Fox River. You want to drive south on Route 25 starting at the dam. At one point you'll want to take a side street that keeps you along the river and into Oswego. No, I've only been driving down that street for over a dozen years and I don't know the name of it. That's what maps are for, you'll find it.

If you make it down to Yorkville, start at the dam. Right at the dam is a great little coffee house called River City Roasters . If you're lucky you can get a window seat and leisurely gawk at the eagles. At least you'll have a place where you can go in and warm up.

A lot of people in Illinois travel good distances to view bald eagles. Out to the Mississippi River, the Rock River and one of the most popular spots, Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River. I will grant that those areas may offer a better scenic view, but I saw well over 20 eagles in a short distance and it's barely 50 miles from downtown Chicago.

You can't beat that.

The 10 day weather forecast shows virtually no change in this weather pattern, so the conditions needed to keep the eagles around for at least two more weeks are pretty good.

Bring some binoculars and don't forget your camera.

Hopefully you have a better one than I do.

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  • You scooped me on this, sort of. I was considering a post on "Bald Anglers on the Fox River".

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I could probably arrange that this coming fishing season. I think I know enough guys to make it interesting.

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