For Antigo Times
Bald eagles, symbols of American strength and freedom, are soaring now above the Fox Cities, offering majestic evidence of the improved health of the lower Fox River and the communities that grew up along its banks.
Conservationists who have worked for decades to assist in the recovery of this once endangered species are inviting everyone with an interest to join them on Jan. 16 and 17 to celebrate “A Day with Eagles along the Fox River,” which actually amounts to two days of fascinating presentations and guided eagle watching opportunities.
Schedules and more information are available online at http://foxrivereea.org/eagle-days.
“We have many locations where there are concentrations of eagles you will see nowhere else in Wisconsin,” said Dick Nikolai, a retired biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources. “The average count we have from Neenah to Wrightstown in January is about 350 eagles. It’s possible to see dozens of eagles in a single day.”
Presentations begin simultaneously next Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at the Fox River Environmental Educational Alliance Center and the Paper Discovery Center, both in Appleton. Presentations continue in the afternoon at the FREEA center. More presentations and a movie will be featured Sunday at Lawrence University in Appleton.In addition to unparalleled eagle watching opportunities — and free presentations by experts on subjects ranging from falconry to the fish populations that support these large raptors –there will hands-on, eagle-craft activities for children Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton.
Birding experts have designated 16 eagle-watching sites from Neenah to Kaukauna, including four sites staffed with eagle-watching guides. Maps are available at the various venues and on the FREEA website.
Presenters include Nikolai, falconer Frank Ujazdowseki with a live goshawk, DNR fisheries biologist Adam Nickel, DNR wildlife experts Bryan Woodbury and Steve Easterly, retired naturalist Lee Hammen, DNR toxicologist Sean Strom, Robert Stark of the Fox River Navigational Authority and professor Jodi Sedlock of Lawrence University, who will address threats to bat populations along the river.
Given that the bald eagle was classified as endangered both in Wisconsin and nationally in the lower 48 states, the recovery of our national symbol is significant and worthy of celebration.
When the bald eagle was adopted as our national symbol in 1782 there were more than 100,000 nesting pairs of eagles in the country. Due to contaminants like DDT, PCB’s and other heavy metals polluting the Fox River and other waters of the continental US, bald eagle populations declined drastically. These contaminants entered the eagles’ food supply causing populations of the birds to drop to only 487 nesting pairs in the continental United States. Wisconsin’s lowest breeding population was 107 nesting pairs in 1974.
Eagle recovery had its roots in Wisconsin with the banning of DDT in 1969, triggering a national ban in 1972. The Wisconsin DNR assisted the national recovery by supplying eaglets to other states. Once endangered, bald eagles are now listed as a “Special Concern Species” both in Wisconsin & nationally. This focus provides effort to prevent future declines.
Another event highlighting eagles along the Fox occurs the following Saturday, Jan. 23, at 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna. Called “Eagle Days” that event also features eagle watching, presentations and activities for children. More information is available at www.1000islandsenvironmentalcenter.org.