Ea­gle Watch­ing

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story and Pho­tos by COR­BET DEARY

Bound­ing from atop a pine, she glided across the bay. With a cou­ple flaps of her enor­mous wings, the ma­jes­tic bird slowed and came to rest on a tall, dead snag pro­trud­ing above the wa­ter’s sur­face. A ca­dence of shrill whis­tles cut through the fogladen air, as she re-sit­u­ated her foot­ing. Dig­ging her ra­zor-sharp talons into the dead snag, the beau­ti­ful spec­i­men gazed into the dis­tance, scan­ning the sur­round­ings for her next po­ten­tial meal. The dull brown plumage cov­er­ing her bulky body and mas­sive wings con­trasted with head and tail feath­ers that were as white as a freshly fallen snow. As the morn­ing sun fi­nally man­aged to cut through the thick, moist air, her mighty beak and pow­er­ful feet il­lu­mi­nated with a vi­brant yel­low. They were ob­vi­ously pow­er­ful and well-tuned tools ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing and dis­man­tling their prey. She epit­o­mized strength and in­tegrity; a true sight to be­hold. For no known rea­son, the adult bald ea­gle sud­denly took flight and dis­ap­peared into the hori­zon. I might never see her again, but watch­ing this pris­tine spec­i­men from a close dis­tance would for­ever be etched in my mind. With the winter months, one’s odds of see­ing a bald ea­gle will in­crease dras­ti­cally, as an in­flux of our na­tional sym­bols will be navigating Arkansas’

skies. Bald ea­gles will ven­ture upon a lengthy jour­ney from the most north­ern reaches of this coun­try dur­ing their an­nual mi­gra­tion, many of them opt­ing to winter on our wa­ter­ways. That in mind, our lo­cal state parks are al­ready gear­ing up for their an­nual “Ea­gle Watch” tours.

“Ea­gle Watch” tours will be­gin in Novem­ber at Lake Oua­chita State Park and will con­tinue through Fe­bru­ary. Par­tic­i­pants will load up on a barge at the ma­rina, and em­bark upon a pleas­ant boat ride last­ing any­where from 1 to 1⁄2 hours af­ter de­par­ture.

Cost for the tour is $9 per adult, $5 for young­sters ages 8 to 12, and chil­dren un­der 6 years of age are free. The state park will of­fer blan­kets on cold days and have a limited num­ber of binoc­u­lars they can loan out dur­ing the tours. Lake Cather­ine State Park will be host­ing “Ea­gle Watch” tours Jan. 17-19. Ten to 12 par­tic­i­pants will be al­lowed on each ex­cur­sion, which will cover in the neigh­bor­hood of 5-7 miles, tak­ing ap­prox­i­mately one hour to com­plete. Three tours per-day are sched­uled and the cost is free.

Degray Lake Re­sort State Park is also a pop­u­lar stop­ping point for win­ter­ing bald ea­gles. “Ea­gle Watch” tours will be­gin in Novem­ber and con­tinue through Fe­bru­ary on Satur­days and Sun­days. The 1 ⁄ 2- hour tours, be­gin­ning at the ma­rina, will be of­fered on a daily ba­sis from Wed­nes­day through Sun­day dur­ing the week of Thanks­giv­ing. The cost for the tours is $9 for adults, $5 for young­sters ages 6 to12, and free for those un­der 6 years of age. Degray Lake Re­sort State Park will also be host­ing its 35th an­nual “Ea­gles Et Cetera” event dur­ing the last week­end of Jan­uary. Along with sev­eral barge tours, visi­tors will have the op­por­tu­nity to see a live ea­gle up close as well as var­i­ous other birds of prey vis­it­ing from the Lit­tle Rock zoo on Satur­day.

So those who want to see a live bald ea­gle navigating Arkansas’ sky, might con­sider bundling up in their warm­est winter at­tire and head­ing to one of our lo­cal state parks for a pleas­ant and ed­u­ca­tional barge ride while sa­vor­ing an ex­cur­sion in the won­der­ful out­doors. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.arkansasst­ateparks.com

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