Birding, Feather Finds

Bald Eagles in Ottawa!

Do you love Bald Eagles? (The only acceptable answer is “yes.”) As the iconic emblem of the United States and an undeniably impressive raptor, I always find it a treat to spot these guys.

I spent the first few days of September 2019 in Ottawa, IL, one of the first places I started truly birding. Situated alongside the Illinois River, it provides a nice variety of wildlife without being too far out in the boondocks.

Bald Eagles regularly visit Ottawa–they’re a well-loved winter migrant that people will hike out to Starved Rock or Matthiessen State Park to see. The perk of having a riverfront cottage, though, was that the eagles would come to us! One year, my parents and I spotted an adult within a hundred meters of our front door, so close that even the unwieldy duo of my phone camera and binoculars resulted in a couple of relatively good shots.

I didn’t realize until now that sometimes, they stick around for summer too! In the last few days I’ve seen more eagles than I would usually see in a month elsewhere in Illinois. Adults and juveniles soared through the sky, majestic and imposing. Occasionally they glided down to the water in search of prey.

The highlight of my stay, though, was the discovery of a huge adult eagle’s secondary wing feather, at rest under a shaded section of the silt shore.

Needless to say, I enjoyed my time in Ottawa this September.

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