Eagle Watching in Sauk City: January 16, 2010


Kids spot eagles at the overlook. Sauk Prairie Eagle Photo

It’s always inspiring to see bald eagles in their natural habitat. It’s especially inspiring to give kids that experience. Each winter, we have a great opportunity to see bald eagles just 40 minutes from Madison in Sauk City. The birds migrate from the north, where lakes are frozen, to feed in the open waters just below the Prairie du Sac Dam.

For the second year, I led an excited group to Eagle Watching Days, an organized weekend event sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council. It seems like the whole  town participates. We started the trip with a bus tour to see eagles on the river. A large adult was perched on an island at the primary overlook on Water Street. The kids all got to see the eagle through high powered telescopes. Volunteers helped the kids get a good view. I really love this event because of all the volunteers who make it very worthwhile for kids. I felt taken care of.

Later we saw an eagle dive for food by the dam. On the way home we spotted two flying over the bluff. This was great as there were only 88 eagles spotted in town this year and few were spotted before the weekend. It’s as if they came out on cue. This year, we had 11 kids at 6 adults on the trip. This included volunteers from Inner City Outings. It was great to have so many adults. We needed them to keep track of the youngest kids in the crowd.

Laura Freedman shows a bald eagle to the kids. Sauk Prairie Eagle Photo

After the bus tour, the kids got to see a broad-winged hawk, a bald eagle, a great-horned owl and a peregrine falcon up close and personal. Laura Freedman, from the Minnesota Raptor Center gave the kids a presentation. The birds were just a few away from the kids. They really enjoyed this, especially when the owl pooped and flapped its wings.

The Monday after the trip, I asked Mary what she thought of day. She said she like the birds and proceeded to name all four birds of prey we saw. I was blown away. I think she has a propensity for natural history because she says insightful things. The other kids really enjoyed it too, but they weren’t as eloquent about their recall. “I liked the birds” and “I liked the hotdogs,” were the most popular comments.

Next year, I’ll do a few things different. I would go earlier to ensure a good seat at the bird of prey show, or just go to the follow-up “meet and greet.” Between the bird of prey show and bus tour, that’s a lot of sitting for kids. I would also make sure the kids were in line for the bus a few minutes early. Otherwise, there were few glitches. Gotta go for now. Eagles will be flying over the Wisconsin River until the ice melts up north, so go and see them while you can.

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