Tag Archives: fox river eagles

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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.

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A Weekend of Fishing and Other Stuff

It seems that my routine is to spend my weekends fishing. I’m up at sunrise or sooner, everyone else in the house won’t be up for a few hours, what’s the point of laying there or rattling around the house thinking of and doing things I don’t really care about.

The cool nights, it’s been 50 in my neck of the woods, have started to cool down the river. I no longer take temperatures, just put my hand in the water. It’s cooler now than it has been the last few weeks.

The massive bug hatches of the past two weekends have died down and probably weren’t half what they were. The huge schools of carp feeding on the bug hatches in the eddies have started to disappear. I could see their torpedo forms back out in the shallow areas of the river.

Hardly a bug to be seen. They didn’t show up till a little later and it was nothing like it has been.

This is close to on schedule compared to years past.

Saturday morning I decided to hit a stretch that I never got around to fishing in the past 18 years. I’ve walked up to it numerous times and stood looking down stream. I could tell the first couple of hundred yards was going to suck, which is why I never did it.

It looks like no big deal until you get out into it. Then it sucked as much as I thought it would.

In that two hundred yards I had three “I’m getting to old for this shit” moments. One of them came as I crossed and another as I approached the opposite shore.

You don’t see too many limestone ledges along the Fox, but since summer clarity on the river is barely a foot you never really know what you’ll be walking on. Or floating over…

This was another one of those moments. You don’t see riffle like this on the Fox and to my left in this shot I already tried taking a step or two. At five foot nine, that didn’t go well. No soaking, but it was bit unpleasant.

At least the ledge produced a fish, even if it was a dink.

On the little island to my left it was time for a old guy piss break. You drink 20 ounces of coffee, some gulps of water, then walk across a cool water river in waist deep water and see how long you last. Sometimes just looking up finds you interesting things.

On the opposite edge of the island was a boat dock. It got here during the flood of 2008. I know where it used to be and I know the guy that owns it, or used to. The water dragged it a couple of miles down stream.

The fishing was what I expected for this time of year, but a few dinks were had along with a couple of nicer fish.

I’ll have to give this stretch another try. A lot of potential here and better yet, I figured out how to avoid that first couple of hundred yards.

Back at home I entertained myself around the house. Can’t have too may pictures of giant sunflowers. The seed pod on this one measures a foot in diameter. My wife was looking over my shoulder and said I didn’t get the whole sunflower in the shot. Then it’s just a sunflower, I told her. I’m more interested in the yellow, the green and the blue.

That evening called for a walk around Silver Springs State Park. I think it’s five miles away, maybe seven. Stuff catches my eye, I take a picture. It’s interesting to me.

The next morning I was out at sunrise again. Out in the middle of the river taking pictures of the sunrise from a down stream view point.

Then turning around and facing the sun.

That sun image was burned into my retina for a good five minutes.

Few bugs and fewer carp. I could get used to this.

First cast near a tangle of trees in the water I thought I snagged the tree, till it moved. Then I thought I snagged a carp. Was glad to see this at the end of the line.

The bite had definitely improved with a few other fish that size caught or hooked and pissed off enough to jump and throw the hook.

If you’re going to own a home along the river with a sprawling, massive yard leading down to the river, it should be done like this guy does it. You want less flooding, this is what you do.

I’ve read about this guy in a couple of articles. Impressive.

If you look at the two panoramic river shots above and the two below, you’ll see the hundreds of fishermen that are destroying the river.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA….. HA, no you won’t.

The last riffle before the pool of a dam. I think the dam is around two miles further down. No point fishing what looks like do-nothing water.

Damn people every where.

Off in the woods on the way back I was reminded of what this area used to be. There are easily 50 year old trees growing around this thing and it’s hard to imagine how it got here.

Why you would be walking along, shed your waders and walk away is anyone’s guess.

I had no interest in going to find the owner.

I have no clue who this is, but someone cared enough to leave it in a pretty nice place.

Did get to see the bald eagle on Sunday. I had heard rumors that he hangs out along this one stretch even this time of year. The tip off that the eagle was around was a very unhappy hawk that would not stop screeching. I was glad when the eagle finally floated off down stream. He was probably as annoyed with all that screeching as I was.

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.”

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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.