Sammie is the Birdfreak Team’s Illinois young birder. She attended the Bald Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock State Park in Northern Illinois. She writes:
Yesterday, on Saturday, January 28, I went with my grandma, grandpa, and sister to Starved Rock State Park for their annual Eagle Watch Weekend. We woke up earlier than we usually do on the weekends so we could get there in time, because, after all, it is about an hour drive to Starved Rock from Rockford. So, after waking up around seven o’clock, we ate breakfast at my grandparents’ house and then we were off! Unfortunately my mom could not come, no matter how badly she wanted to, because she had to attend the school board meeting. We realized that we had forgotten the binoculars, of all things, a few minutes after we left. So we had to go back and get them because you can’t go birding without bins!
Once we arrived, we found a parking spot and went inside. It was really busy and we had to squeeze our way through the crowd. Grandpa got some 12 o’clock tickets to the raptor show because the 10 o’clock tickets ran out and we didn’t manage to get into the 10 o’clock show. So to pass the time, grandpa, Allison, and I went on a little hike to look at some of the Starved Rock canyons while grandma sat in a cushioned chair by the fireplace. We saw really cool canyons such as the Aurora and Sac canyons and but did not see any birds. When we got back, we got some popcorn and then waited in line for the next show.
While we waited, I pet a snake and drew a picture on a piece of paper for these people who needed help making posters. Then we finally got to go in for the show! We sat approximately in the middle of the room, the best spot to sit. The first bird they took out was a Harris Hawk. It flew back and forth right over our heads! Next they took out a Kestrel-falcon. It looked really pretty up close with all its colors. It also flew around above our heads. It was a fast little guy. Then they took out a Tawny owl and demonstrated how far an owl can turn its head around. And no, it cannot turn its head all the way around. They said that an owl’s eyes take up about three quarters of their head, so how owls are associated with wisdom, well it’s probably not very accurate.
Then a Barn owl, a bird with very excellent hearing, flew over us. Their ear holes are positioned so that one is raised above the other, allowing the Barn owl to better locate the source of sounds. Most ghost stories originate from Barn owls. Their white belly feathers and eerie shriek cause people to think they are ghosts. Also, owls fly silently so it makes them appear even more like ghosts. Next, we got to the eagles. First there was an Australian eagle. It weighed about 8 pounds and had brown feathers. The space right around the eagles’ beak has no feathers so they can eat carrion without it staining their feathers.
Next, they brought out the Bald eagle! Her name was Patriot and she weighed about 12 pounds. After the show, we got to go up for a closer look at Patriot and I had my picture taken with her. I also got hit in the face with her wing when she was flapping for balance. Cool, right!? It hurt a little, because her wing got me in the eye, but it was still cool.
They had the White Necked raven, Mischief, and we gave him some donation money. He would take it and then stick it in the box with the rest of the money. If you gave him a five dollar bill, he would give you a little medallion. Then we looked around a bit and left to have lunch at Burger King. We came back after lunch to look for some wild eagles. We did see some. Allison and I saw about 9 eagles each, my grandpa saw 5, and my grandma saw 4. We went inside a science fair trailer and looked around at the stuff inside. The trailer was down by the visitors center. Then we left to go home. We had been gone for about 9 hours total. It was really fun!