Eagle Watching on the Fox River

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think there would come a day when I could go eagle watching on the Fox River. And yet, from my front porch I see them all the time floating down the river at eye level. My house sits on a bluff that’s probably 60 feet up from the river and it’s hard to mistake these big birds for anything else.

Now and then one will come floating over my house. A couple of years ago, in order to get away from a flock of annoying crows, one even landed in the tree in front of my house, directly over my head.

There are a few eagles that live along the Fox River somewhere year round. I see them all the time in a couple of stretches I like to fish, but during the winter over the past three years they’ve been arriving in ever increasing numbers.

This colder than usual December has locked up the river with ice much sooner than usual. Normally it doesn’t look like this till nearly the end of January. At the end of January of this year I did a couple of reports on the eagles I saw. Twenty one day before I quit counting and 39 on another. If you have an interest in seeing the eagles near the Yorkville area, I give more details on how to go about it in those two posts.

Bald Eagles on the Fox River

Bald Eagles on the Fox River Update

This year the reports started appearing early. Larry Granat, who took all the photos in this post on December 12th, put up a report of seeing 6 bald eagles in the stretch below my house in Yorkville. If you haven’t done it, you should Like Larry’s Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page. He takes quite a few interesting photos of the bird populations around the area.

Of course, over the weekend I had to walk down the hill to the river to see this for myself. Below my house, out on the island, were four eagles. Down the road a bit, closer to the dam, were two more. The next day I ran into Larry out at Hoover Forest Preserve. That morning he said he saw 14 eagles in that same stretch.

Earlier this week I heard from another friend that likes to stay anonymous about another dozen eagles seen near the dam in Montgomery.

And a little while ago I got a note from Bob France about seeing 25 eagles up in Elgin today. He said 13 to 14 of them were all in one tree. You should go check out his Facebook page Bob Outdoors where he’s put up a bunch of photos he’s been taking.

When I was a kid I assumed that by the time I got to this age I would never see an eagle in the wild. Or I would have to go to Alaska or somewhere in Canada for the opportunity.

Now I walk out on my front porch and there they are, floating up and down the river. I go fishing over the summer and one will come floating by over my head. This weekend I’ll go for a drive up the river and I’d be surprised if I don’t see at least 30 of them.

I think it was Dale Bowman that said that one day I’ll take them for granted and view them as common place.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

I hope it never does.


All photos in this post courtesy of Larry Granat of The Kendall County Bird Page on Facebook.

23 thoughts on “Eagle Watching on the Fox River

  1. Dan "The Impractical Fisherman"

    Always cool to see eagles out and about. Back when I was stationed at Whidbey island we would see three or four a day. Lots in the foothills of the sierras, but they are always flying too high around me to take a picture of them though.

  2. Jim McClellan

    That’s just beautiful! I love it that we’re seeing more of them each year. Though I still consider it cheating when you can fly and pick out the fish you want to catch!

    1. Ken G Post author

      No kidding Jim. I’d wind up with a few more decent fish rather than all those dinks I seem to catch the conventional way.

      I have to get over to read you and Walt’s been putting up a few things.

      Man, I just don’t have time. This is only the second post for December. Unusual for me.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Once upon a time Bob I never thought I’d live outside the Chicago city limits. Rats, sparrow and the occasional Robin was what I thought I’d have to live with.

      We’ve come far since then and I savor every moment.

  3. Dan Sims

    I bet the boys would love an adventure walk checking out some Baldies!!

    Why did he grab the Shad I wonder?! Smallies taste much better!!

    1. Ken G Post author

      Just go down 25 from Montgomery toward Yorkville Dan. Turn down any street that veers off toward the river.

      You gotta see the schools of shad, some monsters. Too bad they don’t really hit anything. Could probably catch a few hundred. I’ve even tried maggots. I have no clue what those damn things eat.

        1. Ken G Post author

          That might work. Only other problem I have with fishing for shad is getting them off a hook. I thought carp were slimy…

  4. Larry

    The eagle in the pic actually stole it from a gull that was sitting on the ice. The eagle swooped out of a tree, scared off the gull as he approached, and grabbed the fish. The gull tried to take the fish with him, but couldn’t pick it up fast enough. Eagles like to scavenge prey from another predator.

    1. Ken G Post author

      That makes it an even better photo Larry, knowing the back story.

      Once out in Virginia an osprey came down and got a fish out of the lake. As it was flying away, an eagle came out of nowhere, chased the osprey, flipped upside down and stole the fish out of the talons of the osprey. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

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  6. Howard Levett

    It’s certainly a thrill to see eagles isn’t it? We have one we see fairly regularly in back of our house perched on an old cottonwood. It never fails to excite me. I feel the same way about owls, once considered for the national bird I believe. Thanks for posting this Ken…I loved it.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Ben Franklin wanted the wild turkey Howard. I mentioned in the post about the dozen eagles in Montgomery. That’s where I’ll be moving soon. At least I’ll still get to see the eagles. Probably not much else, but I’ll get used to it.

    1. Ken G Post author

      The best is yet to come I think. Normally this happens toward the middle and end of January. Temps in the next week are dipping into the single digits, which means the river will freeze up again. Might bring even more around.

    1. Ken G Post author

      At sunset the other day I saw three heading downstream. One of these times I’m going to follow them to see where they’re going. I’ve noticed the upstream migration in the mornings too. They gotta be somewhere.

  7. Jim

    I am super excited that eagles are becoming more prevalent in this region. They are beautiful and majestic creatures and also a positive sign for the improving ecosystem of these waterways. It is encouraging to see the rivers getting cleaner!

    I grew up along the fox river in Kane county and now spend time enjoying the shores around the Montgomery area. It is amazing the wildlife I see at the shoreline! I

    I wonder if anyone would be willing to brave the weather for a short canoe trip from just past the dam to say, the pull out at violet patch park? AS long as the river is flowing, it has the potential to be a cold but Fantastic Trip!!!

    1. Ken G Post author

      Jim, I think it’s been about a dozen years from when I spotted my first one in Montgomery. Hardly ever saw more than a couple a year. The last few years there’s been an explosion of them.

      I know a guy that kayaks all winter from the bridge at the end of Silver Springs and heads down stream. He sees quite a few of them down there too. I can’t handle the cold any more for a canoe trip like that, but if you do this, make sure you stay along the west side when you get to the treatment plant. They like to hang out in that stretch cause of the open water from the plant. Counted six of them in that one little stretch last year.

  8. Erik O.

    Great pics, Ken.

    I can confirm there are alot in the dundee/Elgin/South elgin area. Like you say, more and more every year. I’m not sure it’s a coincidence that the bald eagle sightings are exploding right along with the gizzard shad population. Although I’m sure it also has to do with the river improving as well.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Erik.
      South of Montgomery the shad population has always been pretty big, I’m sure that’s a draw, but I got a message from Bob France that he saw between 30 and 50 of them up in Elgin the other day. I’m just glad they’re around, for whatever the reason.

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