Tag Archives: bald eagle sightings in illinois

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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.

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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.

Bald Eagles in Yorkville

Photo Courtesy of Larry Granat. Bald Eagle near Yorkville, Illinois.

I was out on my front porch today enjoying a leisurely smoke of a cheap cigar. I enjoy watching the late afternoon sun creating patterns on the leafless trees. Todays show had the addition of a fresh blanket of snow and snow covered branches stood out starkly against an intense blue sky.

On days like this the shadows on the snow have a blue cast to them. Hard to see if your brain has been trained to think of shadows as gray. All shadows have color in them. You have to retrain your brain to see them.

Down on the Fox River a couple of blocks away geese were honking. They are the occasional honks that hardly let you know that there are a few hundred geese sitting around in the open slack water areas of the river. This honking goes on night and day and you would think it’s not something you should be hearing at two in the morning.

Over the six years I’ve been living here I have got used to seeing the wide variety of wildlife. In my front yard I’ve had a couple of different types of hawks, a couple more varieties of owls, flying squirrels, wild turkey, deer, more birds than I know how to identify and then the usual possum, coons and squirrels.

What I’ll never get used to seeing are the bald eagles. There was one today, drifting high on the slight wind out over the river. This is the third one I’ve seen so far this year. I hear they’re out in greater numbers down stream from me, but I’ve yet to go looking for them. On January 10th, one of those balmy winter days we’ve been having, I was out fishing the Fox River in Montgomery and got to see an eagle drifting just over the tree tops.

From Elgin down stream through virtually all of the towns along the river, there have been reports of eagle sightings. As I said, even more reports of sightings down stream of Yorkville, in towns most have never heard of with names like Millington, Millhurst and Millbrook. The first part of their names will tell you how close they are to the Fox River.

I’ve been seeing the bald eagles along the Fox for about 10 years now. I keep thinking I should go to Starved Rock on the Illinois River, or out to the Mississippi River. There are eagle watching tours going out to these locations all winter and I hear they’re pretty popular.

But it’s hard to get motivated to do that kind of traveling. Instead, I go for a drive or a walk along the Fox, no more than 10 miles in either direction from my house. If I take my time and keep an eye on the sky, there’s a good chance I’m going to see a bald eagle. I think my fascination with eagles stems from being told as a kid that they were on the verge of extinction. I assumed by now there would be none left on earth.

No matter how many I see or how often I see them now, I can’t help but stop and stare.

I hope that sense of fascination never goes away.

Photo Courtesy of Larry Granat. Bald Eagle near Oswego, Illinois.

Bald Eagle Photos Courtesy of Larry Granat and his Facebook Page: The Kendall County Bird Page.