It’s definitely the season to see birds of prey take wing, especially our national bird. A couple of weeks ago, a pair of bald eagles flying beside Quincy’s Bayview Bridge were in view as I returned from a jaunt to Kahoka. It was the first time I’d ever seen a bald eagle in the wild, let alone two.
This may not be news to most people — even if it was to me — but the river region in Northeast Missouri is one of the best places in the country to watch for bald eagles.
Missouri is one of the nation’s leading state in bald eagle sightings, according to a release from the Missouri Department of Conservation. More than 2,800 bald eagles have been wintering in the Show-Me State since 1992 — not bad for an endangered species. Although the bald eagle’s federal status has been changed from endangered to threatened, it’s still considered endangered in Missouri, mostly for the sake of protecting its nesting areas.
One of those nesting areas, and one of the state’s prime eagle-watching spots, is in Northeast Missouri — Lock and Dam 24 at Clarksville. The MDC sponsors Eagle Days events each year at the Clarksville dam, and this is the weekend for those events, with children’s events and plenty of bird-watching available on the riverfront Saturday and Sunday. The festival features a live eagle program, hands-on exhibits and displays, a video, a bonfire, kids’ activities, and spotting scopes and MDC staff available to aid the area’s amateur ornithologists in watching eagles soar above the river and feed on its fish. It’s going to be a cold weekend, but an interesting opportunity.
However, even if you don’t venture down to Clarksville or get out of your car, it’s not hard to see bald eagles along the river. I saw two of them purely by accident. If you hang around the riverfront and practice patience, you’re likely to see more. And even if you’re used to seeing bald eagles, it never gets any less impressive.