Tag Archives: bald eagles in yorkville

Fox River Bald Eagles are Heading Home

Or wherever it is they go when they decided to leave the Fox River. I never have bothered to look up the migration habits and patterns of bald eagles. I’m assuming when they’re not here, they’re up in Canada somewhere or soaring over a mountain out west. There are a few that seem to have taken up residence in the Fox Valley, but during the warmer months of the year, they’re harder to spot and find.

I guess I should be grateful that during January they come and hang out and I get to gawk at them like a kid in a candy shop. A chocolate shop to be more precise.

At the end of January the Fox River was low, pretty well frozen over or was flowing slush. There was little open water and for some reason the river temporarily became a magnet for bald eagles. I took a 10 mile drive along the river from my house in Yorkville to Montgomery two days in a row and wrote about what I saw here and here.

Since then the temperatures have warmed up a bit and we got a couple of inches of rain. This raised the river, melted off the ice and quite a bit of the river in that 10 mile stretch is now ice free.

Yesterday I took the drive along the river to Montgomery. I already noticed that there were fewer eagles in the half mile stretch from the Yorkville dam to my house. Early in the morning a juvenile bald eagle was floating over my house at treetop level. I was surprised that the neighborhood squirrels paid no attention, they seem to be more wary of the hawks than the eagles.

As I headed out, one eagle was seen down on the island below my house and further upstream one was seen at the dam. Three miles further upstream at a park called Saw Wee Kee, two more were seen. That was it for the drive. At the end of January there were over 20 spotted from Saw Wee Kee Park to Montgomery, today, not a single one, they’ve disappeared.

My friend Bob Frances reported seeing six of them up in South Elgin yesterday, so they’re still around. I doubt the big numbers for the eagles will be back, I think that’s done. If you’re determined to come out to the Fox River and hope to see one, you’ll have to be a little more selective on where you go.

I think it’s still worth the effort.

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Bald eagle photo courtesy of friend and avid bird watcher Larry Granat who runs a Facebook page called The Kendall County Bird Page.

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.”

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.