Tag Archives: bald eagle in yorkville

Bald Eagles on the Fox River Update

Yesterday I put up a post documenting my 10 mile drive from Yorkville to Montgomery along the Fox River looking for bald eagles. When I had got to 20 of them, I quit counting and enjoyed just looking for them.

Relatively early this morning I took that same 10 mile drive and decided to let the OCD side of me count every single eagle I saw.

Last night we had temperatures down into the single digits out my way and when I headed out it was 12 degrees. I was a bit surprised to see one long stretch of the Fox River that was locked up with ice yesterday, suddenly have a wide open stretch of flowing water. Kind of flies in the face of logic, but the eagles liked it. Saw three there today where yesterday there were none.

All total I saw 39 bald eagles in this short 10 mile drive up the river. I’m sure there are many more. This 10 mile stretch of the river has long stretches that are inaccessible by car. Over the years, during the warmer months, I’ve waded just about all of it in pursuit of smallmouth bass, but with temps in the teens I couldn’t gather up the stamina to make the long hikes through tougher terrain just to look for eagles. A heartier soul with a good map should be able to figure out how to get to these more remote stretches.

There were quite a few others out early to do the same as me. Cars were moving slowly up Route 25, more cars were parked along the side of the road and people with cameras, tripods and binoculars were lined up to get a better look at the eagles. With the cloudless skies this morning, the birds were pretty well lit up in the sunshine and much easier to spot.

This weekend is Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock State Park. I know a few people that head down to that event every year. With what little competitive blood I have in me, I am looking forward to hearing their eagle sighting reports and hoping it’s half of what’s been seen so much closer to home. That’ll teach them.

No pictures today. All of the eagles seen were on the opposite side of the river and I’ve grown accustomed to the limitations of my camera equipment.

Photo courtesy of Larry Granat and his Facebook page The Kendall County Bird Page.

Bald Eagles on the Fox River

Apparently I wrote about bald eagles on the Fox River in Yorkville back in January of 2012. Then I did it again at the end of December 2012. But when you see over 20 of them in one day, it’s hard not to bring it up again.

The small lakes and ponds in the surrounding area are all frozen over. Much of the Fox River is ice too, something hard to believe for water that flows. You wouldn’t think that’s possible. The ducks and geese that rely on open water have fewer places to go. The Yorkville dam is about a half mile away from me and the churning water over the dam keeps the river relatively free of ice for a good mile.

Everything that flies seems to congregate in these open areas. Thousands of waterfowl are gathered on the river below my house and many more arrive every day around sunset. The constant honking of the geese can be heard blocks away and it goes on well into the night. Blue herons are flying all over the place looking for spots between the geese to land.

For the last few days the reports of bald eagles on the Fox River have been appearing in earnest. The eagles too are looking for open water. Being primarily fish eaters, they have fewer places to go and I’m sure if all else fails, they’ll pick off a bird or two when hungry enough.

Friend and avid bird watcher, Larry Granat along with his wife Debbie, reported seeing 9 of them on Tuesday in Yorkville. For the birders, Larry runs a Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page and it’s worth a visit.

The photo at the top of this post is one of the photo’s Larry took that day as well as the following two. I really need to get me one of those cameras. I have film cameras that have this capability, but what’s film?

As far as I can tell, that’s a gizzard shad that it plucked out of the river for lunch.

On Thursday I went down to the river to see the eagles for myself. At the bottom of the hill and on the other side of the river is the mouth of a creek. Just outside the creek mouth is a small island. In the still water around the island were a few hundred geese and perched in the tree of the island were six eagles. By the time I got in position to take a picture, two of the eagles had flown off.

I know, they’re hard to see, but once you get used to what you’re looking for you can’t miss them.

Then I wandered over to the dam and got to see six more. Around 10 or 11 years ago I had seen my first eagle on the river and continued to see one now and then in the coming years. But the last few years have been bringing many more to the Fox River. I couldn’t believe I had just seen 12.

On Friday I went for a drive along the river from Yorkville to Montgomery, about 10 miles. Before even leaving Yorkville I had already seen nine eagles. I stopped at a number of places along the river only to find the river pretty locked up with ice. The few places that had small patches of open water were acting like magnets for the geese.

When I got to Orchard Road I noticed it was the dividing line between open water up stream and a river made up of almost solid ice. I didn’t expect this. I thought it would be all ice even further up. The mile and a half stretch from Orchard Road to Oswego has practically no access points for a car. You can hike that length, but it can be a challenge.

As I drove north along the river out of Oswego the eagles seemed to be every few hundred yards. Sometimes by themselves and other times three or four in a tree. I gave up counting them when I got to 20 and decided to just enjoy the ride and spotting eagles. I wound up seeing many more than 20 by the end of my ride.

With all this open water along this stretch, the waterfowl have congregated by the thousands. I couldn’t get in a good position to take a picture, so this shot from the same stretch a few years ago will have to do. Picture many more birds, but you get the idea.

On the way home, on the road along the river and below my house, I came across one eagle sitting in a tree about 50 feet away. I knew if I got out of the car it would take off, so with window rolled down and the zoom on my point and shoot camera all the way out, I kept taking pictures till it turned it’s head just enough to give me a profile.

I really do need to get a better camera.

Friends have been telling me that they are spotting eagles even further north. From Elgin to St. Charles and Batavia, but not in the numbers we’re seeing further south. So far anyway.

So get out your map and get to Montgomery right on the Fox River. You want to drive south on Route 25 starting at the dam. At one point you’ll want to take a side street that keeps you along the river and into Oswego. No, I’ve only been driving down that street for over a dozen years and I don’t know the name of it. That’s what maps are for, you’ll find it.

If you make it down to Yorkville, start at the dam. Right at the dam is a great little coffee house called River City Roasters . If you’re lucky you can get a window seat and leisurely gawk at the eagles. At least you’ll have a place where you can go in and warm up.

A lot of people in Illinois travel good distances to view bald eagles. Out to the Mississippi River, the Rock River and one of the most popular spots, Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River. I will grant that those areas may offer a better scenic view, but I saw well over 20 eagles in a short distance and it’s barely 50 miles from downtown Chicago.

You can’t beat that.

The 10 day weather forecast shows virtually no change in this weather pattern, so the conditions needed to keep the eagles around for at least two more weeks are pretty good.

Bring some binoculars and don’t forget your camera.

Hopefully you have a better one than I do.

Bald Eagles in Yorkville Again

In the 1960’s I had already assumed I would never see a bald eagle in the wild. I assumed that if I ever made it to my mid 50’s, they would either be extinct or you might be able to go visit a few in a bird sanctuary somewhere.

Growing up in Chicago made those assumptions more realistic than not. The chances of seeing a bald eagle, or making it to my mid 50’s, in the Chicago area… why would that happen?

And yet, 45 years later, living a two minute walk to the Fox River in Yorkville, 50 miles from downtown Chicago, bald eagle sightings have become almost commonplace, but still fascinating.

I see them year round while out fishing the river, but winter seems to concentrate them in the open water below the Yorkville dam. Last year my friend and avid bird watcher, Larry Granat, saw a dozen in one day. For the birders, he runs a Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page and it’s worth a visit.

A couple of winters ago I was out on my front porch when an eagle came drifting up from the river. The crows were following him and you can tell he was annoyed. To take a break and to get away from the crows, he landed in the tree in my front yard, directly over my head. Of course, no camera.

This morning I made my usual trip down to the dam area to see what birds were around. Besides the ducks and geese, herons were stalking the island shore and seagulls were drifting on the wind. Within 15 minutes I had seen four bald eagles, three adults and a juvenile. I was expecting to see none this day.

I know birders in Chicago and the surrounding areas that travel out to the Rock River, the Mississippi River or down to Starved Rock for the off chance of seeing bald eagles. Why travel if you don’t have to, they’re barely 50 miles away.

While out here, stop in at River City Roasters to warm up and grab some coffee and something to eat. They’re right on the river and overlooking the dam. From a window seat, you might not even have to stand around out in the cold to catch sight of an eagle.

Oh yeah, I forgot, the usual question… where the hell is Yorkville?

You know where Aurora is? Yorkville is about 12 miles southwest of there.

Here’s a map.

The eagles should be around all winter. If you’ve always wanted to see one, it beats driving 100 miles or more for the opportunity.

Golden Eagle flew over my house, December 11, 2011

That was the name of a post put on Facebook the other day by Larry Granat.

Almost two years ago I was out cruising along the Fox River on a sunny, relatively warm January day with my daughter Leah. We were out looking for places to explore.

On a long dead end road that follows the south bank of the river we were letting the car idle along. Out in the river, sitting on a log, was a bald eagle. I stopped to take a few pictures with a point and shoot camera I carry around.

Another car was stopped a little further down. A much nicer camera was sticking out of one of the windows taking pictures of the same bald eagle. I flagged down the other car as we idled past each other.

Larry and Deb Granat were nice enough to agree to email me some better shots of the bald eagle, and a couple of days later I got a few.

Someday I’ll have the extra cash to get me one of them better cameras.

I also did a write up on that day’s events that showed up here:

1/31/10 Fox River Eagle

Even though we apparently live about a mile from each other on the south side of the Fox River in Yorkville, I’ve never seen Larry or Deb again. Instead, thanks to our posting on the internet, I follow them around Kendall County and the Fox River while they are out exploring and looking for birds and they follow me around while I go out exploring and looking for more remote places on the Fox to go fishing.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. A little over a month ago Larry started the Kendall County Bird Page on Facebook. The post includes some nice photos of what he believed to be a golden eagle. A discussion followed on whether or not the eagle seen was a golden eagle or perhaps an immature bald eagle. It’s a tough call sometimes. In the thread Larry announces that it was indeed verified as an adult golden eagle.

You can read the whole thread, and see more photos, here:

Golden Eagle flew over my house, December 11, 2011

When I was growing up in Chicago, if you would have told me I would some day be living on the edge of the Chicago Metro Area, I would have said you were crazy.

If you would have told me that I would some day be living on the edge of the Chicago Metro Area and seeing bald eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, deer, fox, wild turkeys and now a golden eagle, I would have thought for sure that you had lost your mind.

And yet, I’ve had deer come peer in my basement window.

Flying squirrels that let us come up and pet them.

Wild turkey at my front window.

I watched a great horned owl swoop down on my black cat when it mistook it for a skunk. Hawks and falcons are seen floating by on a regular basis with prey hanging from their talons. A couple of months ago I stepped out into my backyard, which is fenced, to find a wild turkey out there wandering around.

Somewhere in that mile between me and Larry and Deb, I know there are coyotes. I’ve heard them howling down along the river. I’ve seen their footprints out in the woods. My goal is to track them down and get some photos of them. They are the ghosts of the woods, I think this is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve done while out exploring.

That does sound a little crazy though, doesn’t it.