he confluence of the Des Plaines and DuPage rivers in Channahon is a perfect location for spotting bald eagles that spend their winters in Illinois.
To celebrate these majestic raptors and take advantage of the conditions that bring them to Will County, the Forest Preserve District will host its annual “Eagle Watch” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.
One of the highlights of the event will be Birds of Prey presentations by Wisconsin-based Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. The presentations will feature several live raptors including a bald eagle and a great gray owl.
Visitors also can join short, guided hikes to view favorite eagle hangouts at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Or they can listen to eagle stories around a campfire. Talon Talks (an eagle-centric version of a Ted Talk) will be offered inside the visitor center at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
A family craft and activities room will be set up inside Four Rivers and Lil’ Debs Mobile Eats will be serving delicious food outside. Registration is not required for any of the activities.
Four Rivers is an attractive site for wintering eagles because the surrounding McKinley Woods preserve is set on a peninsula at the confluence of the Des Plaines and the DuPage rivers, said Erin Ward, a Forest Preserve program coordinator.
“Eagles love and need open water in the winter, and the Des Plaines River delivers!” she said. “It’s a working river and a navigable waterway, so the main channel remains open throughout the year. Even on really cold nights, the top of the river will freeze, but barges will push through and create open water again the next day. The eagles feed on fish and waterfowl in this area.”
Eagles have flocked to the Four Rivers site in recent years as the species has rebounded, so “Eagle Watch” attendees should be able to spot some of the majestic raptors roosting in trees or circling overhead looking for food, Ward said.
“We haven’t been skunked yet!” she said of past events. “It really depends on the weather as to what we will see. Eagles migrate here from the north when rivers and tributaries freeze. We have year-round bald eagle residents, too, so there is always a good chance you will see eagles.”
The coldest winter months are the best for viewing these birds of prey.
“We tend to have higher numbers in January and February as they escape the frozen north looking for open water,” Ward explained.
If you can’t make the “Eagle Watch” on January 8, eagles will still be hanging around Four Rivers during the winter getting their fill of fish from the Des Plaines River. Any time during the day is a good time to spot them, Ward said.
“Fortunately, the eagles are active all day,” she added. “They don’t really have a schedule here. The more time you spend in the preserve, the more likely you are to see one!”
For more information on the Forest Preserve District of Will County visit ReconnectWithNature.org.