Category Archives: Eagle Sightings

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Watching People Watching Eagles

I took a drive today from Yorkville to Montgomery along the Fox River and wound up watching people watching eagles.

Before the rains came and a bit of a thaw and the river came up, I took this same drive earlier in the week by chance due to a closed road. The river was pretty well frozen over and in one stretch where warmer water enters the river I saw eagles. I stopped counting them when I got to 30. I called Larry Granat to give him this information knowing that he wouldn’t sit on it. I knew he would have to get out and go look. He wound up counting 52 of them.

I guess I should mention they were all in a stretch less than a mile long.

Today I saw more people out watching the eagles then I saw eagles.

I almost stopped to take a picture of the people taking pictures of the eagles. Some were taking this quite seriously with their tripods and cameras with long lenses. Definitely needed the long lenses, almost all of the eagles were on the opposite side of the river.

I almost stopped to tell the photographers… you know, there’s a way to the other side of the river.

But I decided against that. Give the eagles a break and my way to those areas on the other side of the river aren’t really all that safe for the not so sure footed. Lord knows I’ve damn near killed myself enough times over there.

Best to leave well enough alone, even though, I have a feeling I’m going to get a phone call from Larry.

I did see 15 eagles. Far fewer then the other day, but the river had opened up with much more flowing water and less ice.

I was wondering about this. Where do the eagles go when the river opens up again? How many eagles are there in the Fox Valley? How does the Fox Valley compare to the usual eagle watching hot spots in Illinois?

Like reading my mind, Larry Granat, who also runs The Kendall County Bird Page on Facebook, put this up today:

Bald Eagles’ Numbers Soaring in Illinois

As much as I’ve despised this cold winter and the intense cold spells we’ve been having, I guess I could put up with one more cold spell as long as it locks up the river again with ice.

I want to see that concentration of eagles again in that one mile stretch.

Photo of the eagle at the top of this page courtesy of Larry Granat.

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A Walk Down to the River

It was starting to snow and 14 inches were being called for within the next 36 hours, I thought now would be a good time to take a walk down to the river.

On the other side of the river is a huge field ringed with trees. There are no homes in that stretch. Three deer could be seen in the field. They looked like they were playing in the snow. They would run, then stop. Then run again. Whenever they would stop they would look across the river at me. I had to be a good 150 yards away, but they were still cautious of this lone figure wandering down the hill toward them. Then they would go back to playing.

The river was pretty empty. A few geese were in the open water and I counted a half dozen blue herons spread out and hunkered down on the edge of the ice. Hunting I assume.

I got to the edge of the bluff, still a good 30 feet above the river and started wandering down the thin tree line. In one of the tallest trees that hangs out over the river were a couple of adult eagles. Of course I had to see how close I could get to them.

One didn’t like that and took off. The other didn’t seem to mind so much.

Debbie Granat and her daughter pulled up on the side of the road and I wandered over to talk. Her husband Larry started the Facebook page The Kendall County Bird Page and I rely on him for all things eagles in this stretch of the river. One of these days I’ll have a better camera and I can quit asking him for eagle images. Or, I’ll never tell him I got a better camera, keep borrowing eagle images and give him the publicity he deserves.

That sounds better.

After they left I turned around and the skittish eagle was back. I tried stalking up to them again, and again the skittish one took off. Decided to leave them alone and head downstream.

Off on the island was another eagle. In that short period of time, more geese were coming down to the river and a couple of hundred of them were circling the area.

I live about 80 feet away from a pretty heavily wooded ravine. I walked along the top of the bluff, heading for the mouth of the ravine. The tracks of deer, squirrels and what I assume are either coyote or fox were all using the ravine like a highway. I tracked them to the top of the bluff overlooking the ravine.

On a good day wandering down the steep slope of the bluff is a no brainer. Conditions did not make this a good day. All I could imagine was gravity taking over and suddenly finding myself in a heap at the bottom. The tracks being seen were all old, I convinced myself. No point wandering down there.

A juvenile bald eagle drifted overhead and landed in a tree a hundred feet away. This one was on to me, it took off long before I could get any closer.

In that short time, hundreds more geese had arrived. The honking was starting to echo down the river valley. The only ducks I can recognize from a distance are mallards, but I can see that others are different even if I can’t identify them. I saw a couple of other different types of ducks mixed in with all the other waterfowl.

The other day while out shoveling snow at sunset I stopped counting the geese flying overhead when I got to 500. Today, the geese weren’t coming in from north or south. The bulk of them were coming straight down the river out of the west.

This is what I’m going to miss when I move at the end of the month, that ability to wander down a hill and see such a variety of wildlife. Granted, I’ll still be living two blocks from the river, but it’s slightly more urban. There will still be plenty of geese and ducks around, but for the deer and coyote and the bulk of the eagles I’ll have to walk a good half mile downstream.

Maybe a little less.

I’ll try to think of that as a motivating factor, hiking that extra half mile.

I could use the exercise.

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It’s 7 PM and I just came in from wandering around while smoking a cheap cigar. It has to be about 30 degrees out there, no wind, the snow is falling straight down and the neighborhood is dead quiet.

Down on the river a few geese were honking and at the mouth of the ravine, coyotes were howling.

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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.

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

Please Don’t put up Pictures of Fog

But I like fog.

I like the way it visually cuts me off from my surroundings. This one wasn’t horribly dense, but you could see nothing beyond the trees on the opposite shore of the river barely 100 yards away. Even those were indistinct shades of gray.

In the tree on the left are a couple of bald eagles, no, really.

Fishing in fog like this is one of my favorite things to do. It makes you concentrate and focus on what is readily apparent rather than letting your mind wander on what is down stream and around the next bend. You can’t see the next bend.

This morning I had already been out on my porch listening to the bald eagles talk down on the river. The geese were being unusually noisy this morning too. Maybe because of the eagles. With the air temperatures just above 40 degrees, it was time to go for a walk. We’ve had a long stretch of below freezing temps and this year my bones are paying the price. Today they didn’t feel so bad.

I could tell by the sound that there were a lot of geese along the river. They were thick on the ice and in the shallow water below the dam when I got there. Some were already getting nervous about me walking along the shore and took off.

The geese that hang out around here all year don’t get so nervous. I can always tell how wild the geese are by how close they let you get. The more domestic ones will let you walk right up to them, they get used to people tossing them food. The wilder ones will start honking and moving around, getting agitated.

I decided to make matters worse by walking out on a spit of land that got me even closer to the geese. The honking kept getting louder.

It wasn’t long before they started leaving in small groups.

This kept up for a few minutes.

Till they were all pretty much airborne.

I quickly realized there were now a few hundred pissed off flying crapping machines over my head.

I flipped the hood onto my head and stood on the end of the spit of land to watch what I started. The honking was deafening and there were so many geese low over my head that I could feel the vibrations from displaced air coming off their wings and onto my eardrums. It took them a few minutes to realize I wasn’t leaving and they headed off down stream.

The other benefit of fog is that it deadens the noise of human activity, but I noticed that it had practically no affect on the sound of the birds on the river. I noticed how clearly I could hear the eagles this morning though they were two blocks away. As I walked home in the same direction the geese flew, I could hear them still pissed off and honking, but I couldn’t see them.

I think I’ve always noticed this, but not so distinctly as today. There must be something about the sound waves from their noises that cuts through the fog. I would assume so they can continue to know where each other are even if they couldn’t see each other.

The geese were heading down stream making a ruckus. I could hear them flying around and remembered that there were few places for them to land. The river further down was already filled with birds and I’m sure no further company was wanted. A half hour later I went in the house. The birds were still squawking loudly.

My mother-in-law was sitting in the living room and commented on the sounds of the geese as I walked into the house. She could hear the noise building out on the river two blocks away even in a closed up house.

Yeah, that was me. I decided to have a little fun with the geese.

“They didn’t sound like they were having fun.”

Shooting Out Street Lights

The other day at 9 PM I stepped out on my front porch to smoke the last cheap cigar of the day. Earlier in the day I spent a couple of hours dismantling and storing away all of the Christmas lights and decorations. My house was now dark again.

Apparently the whole neighborhood had the same idea. Not a Christmas light to be seen. It was dark again on the streets. For the most part.

There was frost on the cars. Odd for this early in the evening. I looked up. The sky was crystal clear. I walked around to the side of my house. There’s a spot where I can stand in the shadows to get away from the glare of a couple of street lights. I looked up again. Directly overhead I could see the slight haze of the Milky Way.

Like the bald eagles I see regularly, the Milky Way is something I thought I would never see while living in the Chicago area. Too many street lights.

I live on a dead end street that is barely a couple of hundred yards long. The house lots are big, so there are few homes. The street ends a little over a hundred feet to the west of me, where the edge of the wooded ravine starts.

Forming a T directly in front of my house is another dead end street, barely 100 yards long. Again, few homes down that way. At the intersection, directly in front of my house, is a street light. It lights up my whole front yard and the front of my house. At the end of the street that T’s in front of the house, it’s pitch black. If the homeowners down at the end don’t turn on any lights, you would never know there were houses down there. Only one in the neighborhood feels the need to leave bogey man lights on all night. Luckily, he lives the furthest away from me.

At the end of my dead end street, we’re not so lucky. I’ve been living here for seven years and I hear that a few years before we moved in, the two homeowners at the end of the street petitioned the city to put up a street light. Now the bright orange glow of a sodium vapor light dominates that end of the street. The two original homeowners that insisted on this are long gone. We have to live with it now.

A few months ago I was standing out in the street, at night, enjoying a cigar. The wife came out on the front porch.

“What the hell are you doing?” It’s more of a statement than an actual question.

Well, I was sizing up the light to see if I can take it out with one shot. It’s kind of tricky cause you have to go through the glass first in order to hit the bulb. If nothing else, two shots at the most, but I have to be accurate.

The sound coming from her was a mix of a sigh, ack, ugh…

“And for some reason you think it’s a good idea to stand in the middle of the street, in the middle of the night and blast away at a street light with a shotgun.”

We both hate that light, we both want it dark so we can sit out here at night and not be annoyed…

“So your solution is to blow it away with a shotgun…”

I never said anything about a shotgun, you’re putting words in my mouth.

“You want to kill a street light, what else am I supposed to say?”

Well, it won’t be a shotgun. I have that air rifle that at short ranges has the same initial velocity as a .22. I’d use that. I’m not so stupid as to go blowing off a shotgun in the middle of the night.

“Oh, of course, that’s right, you just want to shoot out street lights.”

Well, yeah, I guess.

“And you think the neighbors won’t have a problem with this?”

I’ve already talked to the neighbors along here, except for the guy that keeps the bogey man lights on all night. Talking to him is a waste of time, he won’t understand.

“And talking to the neighbors about shooting out the street light isn’t a waste of time?”

It winds up they feel the same way I do about the lights. They like the dark too. A couple of them have encouraged me to go through with my plans.

“Remind me to talk to them about never encouraging you in anything you say.”

Besides, trying to hit street lights with just about anything is a time honored tradition. Starts with rocks, then snowballs, baseballs, footballs, just about anything you can throw. Then one day your parents actually agree to your idea of having a bb gun that’s shaped like an M-1 rifle. It was inaccurate as hell, but pretty powerful. The light and pole in the alley behind their house took a beating. So did the neighbors bogey man light on his garage. And then there was the incident with the windshield on the VW bug. I thought the guy was going to beat me to death with the bb gun…

“You have a point, but grownups outgrow these things.”

Yeah, right. Grownup women maybe, but guys never get over the joy of hearing the sound of broken glass. It’s as American as apple pie. Hell, even Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed did it in It’s a Wonderful Life. Walking down the street in the middle of the night, they start throwing rocks through the windows of an abandoned house. The one guy in the neighborhood that catches them in the act tells Jimmy Stewart…. Why don’t ya shut up and kiss her instead of talking her to death.

That’s the best he could do? Breaking glass as an aphrodisiac? Doesn’t get any kinkier than that and that was in 1946.

Years later there was even a song extolling the pleasures of breaking glass.

“I’m going in the house now. Goodbye.”

You’ll appreciate this once it’s done.

“I will not come get you out of jail. Good. Bye.”