Monday, December 14, 2009

National Eagle Center

On Saturday I took a trip down the Mississippi River to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN to attend a workshop on golden eagle identification. This is a prelude to the golden eagle survey that is held in south east Minnesota and Western Wisconsin each January.
The survey is sponsored by the National Eagle Center. The purpose of the workshop is to help those people interested in participating in the survey distinguish between golden eagles and immature bald eagles, both of which can be found in the same approximate area. I have participated in the survey the past two years. I have also taken the workshop in the past so I knew most of the info but a refresher never hurts and Scott Mehus, who runs the survey and the workshop, always ends the program by taking people out to a location where he knows golden eagles can be found
The Eagle C enter is a great facility located on the banks of the Mississippi River at the northern end of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Since the Upper Mississippi River NWFR hosts the largest number of wintering bald eagles in the continental US, the National Eagle Center is an a perfect location. With a number of decks, like this one outside on the river, lots of windows, marked with decals to prevent birds from flying into them, and plenty of scopes and binoculars to use it is tough not to see an bald eagle here. If you happen to visit at a slow time when there are no eagles around outside you can always check out one of the four resident bald eagles at the center. The bald eagles include Angel, pictured above, Harriot, Columbia, and the newest arrival Was'aka an three year old immature bird from Florida. On my way down to the eagle center I spotted about 35 eagles on the river, much of which is now frozen unlike in these pictures which I took at the end of October.
Over the past few years the center has been branching out to look into the golden eagle population that spends winter in southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin. After watching the golden eagles in the winter for several years Scott, who works at the center, put together a survey in 2005 to try and get an idea of the number of golden eagles wintering in the area. In 2005 25 people participated in the survey and they counted 21 golden eagles. Over the past five years the number of participants in the survey has increased, 2009 was the largest group with 100 people, which has helped to find an increasing number of eagles each year, 88 in 2009.
In 2008 the National Eagle Center went a step further and procured a golden eagle education bird from the California Raptor Center. This allowed visitors to the center to see a golden eagle up close. In 2009 a golden eagle inadvertently caught in a coyote trap in western Wisconsin became the first bird in a joint research project between the center and Audubon Society of Minnesota, with support from the Minnesota and Wisconsin DNR and a couple other groups. Golden eagle 42, nick named Whitey, was fitted with a satellite tracking pack when he was released, he was rehabilitated at The Raptor Center. The project hopes to discover where these golden eagles spend their summer as well as general research on behavior and migration. Whitey traveled from Wisconsin up into Canada and spent his summer up at the arctic circle north of Churchill. Currently Whitey has returned to western Wisconsin to spend the winter. The project hopes to tag a couple more eagles this winter if possible so that they can learn more about these magnificent winter visitors.
For more information about the Golden Eagle Project check out this website at Audubon Minnesota.


Sylvia K said...

What a wonderful place! And what a beautiful bird!! Always makes me catch my breath each time I see one or even a picture of one! Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing all the information!

Have a great week!


Dirkjogt said...

Nice place to visit. Nice pictures, the second one of the eagles in action is great!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

EB: Certainly a neat place.

marcia@joyismygoal said...

We have Eagle mountain lake very close and i am still so pleasantly surprised to see them

Martha Z said...

I enjoy watching all raptors, even the ones catching the birds I feed.

JOE TODD said...

So many places to visit and so little time

jay said...

Looks like a great place to visit! I love the birds. We have golden eagles over here, too, but only up in Scotland, I believe.

troutbirder said...

Hey Eco, it was great to meet you there. I see judging by the size of you camera how you manage to get such great pictures.
Although I've seen many goldens in Montana it was great to identify my first one in Minnesota. Am looking forward to the survey hoping my novice skills are good enough.

Jessica said...

Very interesting. We used to live in Berrien Springs, MI which is situated on the St. Joseph river. We were able to watch bald eagles from our yard in both the spring and the fall. I tried to convince my husband we needed a fish pool in the backyard so I could feed them too but he didn't think the idea was good or funny LOL