Some in Starved Rock Country are patiently awaiting warmer temperatures, but not eagle watchers.
The iconic bird is known to make the local state park its home during colder months as the water around Starved Rock Lock and Dam is usually open while waters further down the Illinois River are frozen over.
Starved Rock State Park Natural Resources Coordinator Lisa Sons said the park is preparing for this weekend’s Eagle Watch Weekend, but warmer temperatures have made the site less appealing for eagles this year.
“With the wacky weather we have any more we’re (only) experiencing true winter right now,” Sons said.
The eagles have a large territory to hunt for fish along the river, and warmer temperatures have opened up more spots to scrounge for food.
Look to Plum Island and stop inside the Starved Rock Lodge and Visitor Center for eagle viewing
Still, Sons said the park is home to a number of eagles, including a “resident pair” that have made their nest on Plum Island along with two fledglings.
Popular eagle spotting locations include the top of Starved Rock, which stands 125 feet above the Illinois River, as well as sites, such as Lover’s Leap, Eagle Cliff Overlook and Beehive Overlook.
Eagle watching also is available inside the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center, which offers both inside viewing as well as on an outside deck.
Hikers can get an up-close presentation of birds during a number of shows during the weekend hosts at both Starved Rock Lodge and the Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center.
A full schedule of events for the weekend can be found at illinoisaudubon.org/programs/bald-eagle-watch-weekend.
Sons said it’s worth hitting the trails for some unique views that are only available in the winter months.
Ice falls have begun to form in some of the canyons, such as Wildcat Canyon and hikers are advised to look for animal tracks in the snow from a variety of the park’s natural residents.
“Personally, I think winter is very pretty at the park,” Sons said.
Eagle Watching Tips, provided by Starved Rock State Park
• Scan the tree line for eagles that are perched in treetops.
• Look overhead for eagles soaring high in the sky
• Check ice floes or river islands for eagles sunning themselves or enjoying a meal
• Arrive early, from 7 to 9 a.m., or stay late, from 4 to 5 p.m., when eagles are most active.
Hikers are advised to dress warmly and in layers including boots, hats and gloves. It's also advised to bring a hot beverage, park in designated areas and turn on your car heater for short periods of time during cold temperatures.
For more eagle watching tips can facts, visit starvedrockstatepark.org/activity/eagle-watching.