Saturday, February 24, 2007

Experiencing Eagles

We got a little snow on Thursday. It looks like more is on the way for later today or Sunday. About 6-8 inches would be great.

I have been meaning to tell you about part of our trip to Missouri. On Saturday Miranda, Sandy (Miranda’s mother), Zach and I went over to Truman Dam. They have a nature center at the dam that is set high on top of some cliffs overlooking Truman Lake. The view is spectacular from large curved windows all along the cliff side of the building.

While we were at the windows, a bald eagle soared into sight from the left and continued right in front of us. He then went almost out of sight before coming back and disappearing where he came from. Because the nature center is set to high, the eagle was soaring at our eye-level. What a magnificent way to observe the animal. There are several nesting pairs of eagles in the cliffs below the nature center which is one reason it was located there.

On the Saturday we visited the center, they had brought in two live eagles from the Springfield, Missouri, Zoo. One was a bald eagle named Phoenix and the other was a golden eagle. I can’t remember the golden eagle’s name. These are the only two types of eagles found in the United States. Every hour they presented programs about the eagles. Zach and I were in front seats for the 11:00 program.

Phoenix is a 17 year-old bald eagle. She was part of a complicated attempt to release 8 bald eagles into the wild to re-establish nesting pairs in Missouri. For some reason she was unable to forage and almost died. When her radio collared indicated no movement for two days, the monitoring staff went and found her. They brought her back to health and have used her for education ever since.

Seeing this 15-pound bird perched on the arm of an attendant just 5 feet in front of you is impressive. The eagle sits on the attendant’s arm which she rests on the crook of a stick about as tall as her shoulder. There is a rope attached to Phoenix’s leg so she can’t fly off. After fifteen years of being part of programs, Phoenix was very relaxed in front of the audience.

The golden eagle was taken into the zoo as an adult. The bird’s wing was injured so that it no longer has any ability to fly long distances. While Phoenix was comfortable in front of people, this golden eagle was not. He glared at us and twitched and was in constant motion.

The talk about the eagles was very interesting. Their eyesight is so sharp that could an eagle read, if you placed a newspaper on a football goal post, the eagle could read it from the opposite goal post. When the bald eagle picks up food or prey, the gripping strength of its talons is 2000 pounds per square inch. When the golden eagle dives after prey, he divides at 200 miles per hour. All the various facts and figures about the eagles were fun to hear but the really bonus was to just see these animals right in front of us. Zach sat still and was totally captivated during the entire show. I was too.

So if you are ever in Springfield, Missouri, try to find time to visit the zoo. If you are lucky they may even have a program featuring the eagles. If you are down by Truman Dam in Missouri, visit the nature center. Maybe you will be able to see one of the wild eagles in the air.

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