Monday, January 28, 2008

Road Trip - A Convocation of Eagles

We spare no expense or energy here at the farmer's wife, to bring you exciting and authentic midwest adventures. If you're going to live in a cold climate you'll need to find ways to have fun outdoors.

Today we'll head down to the little town of Utica, Illinois, which is on the banks of the Illinois River. It's about and hour and 15 minutes south of here. The drive might be a little boring because Illinois corn country is flat. You can see from horizon to horizon, and the roads run straight as an arrow.

Along the way we're going to pass some interesting sights. Here's the wind farm in Paw Paw. These windmills are gigantic. The large barns and gigantic grain elevators are dwarfed by these machines. They take advantage of the constant wind. If you're even in this area get off the interstate and drive along the farm roads. You can stop and stand under these giants. They make a low whooshing sound as they turn.

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We'll also pass the final resting place for tons of farm equipment, rusting under the trees. This is near Troy Grove which was the birthplace of Wild Bill Hickock. There's a memorial to him in the center of the tiny town.

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The eagle watch is being held at Starved Rock State Park which lies on the banks of the Illinois River. The Illinois feeds into the Mississippi and at this time of year eagles populate areas along the river.

Here's a fact I bet you didn't know. At this time of year Illinois is home to that largest population of eagles outside of Alaska. Who would have thought? It's a good fact to keep in mind the next time one of your children has to do a report for school.

The eagles congregate near the dams. Most of the river is frozen during winter, but the spillover from the dam creates a small area of open water and this is where the eagles hunt for fish. There were thousands of all types of birds sharing this space. If you look at the photo of the frozen river you'll see a large flock of Canada Geese.

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It was a very sunny and warm day for this time of year. The eagles took the opportunity to sun themselves and watch the crowds watching them! Most of the birds were perched in trees on an island in the middle of the river. How many eagles can you count? We spotted at least 18 and another 10 on a small inlet on the banks of the river.

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It was a nice warm day, in the 30's, perfect weather for spending time outdoors in nature. Here's another group of eagle watchers across the inlet from us.

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The flat Illinois prairie drops dramatically into the river valley. A fort once stood on the cliffs overlooking the river.

Here's a magnificant bird sunning himself.

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An eagle's nest is an awesome piece of architecture. Forget twigs and mud, these nests are built from the stuff of trees. A six foot adult male could easily lie down in the nest. This is simply a temporary three month stop on their migration north and they do not build nests or lay eggs in this area.

If you're in the vicinity of northern Illinois, the eagles arrive sometime in December. Eagle watching will be good through January into the middle of February. There are great spots along the Mississippi from the Quad cities north to Thomson, Illlinois. This would be a fantastic adventure for your children.

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I would have thought that the correct collective noun would be a "soar of eagles", but in fact it's a convocation! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to visit, I appreciate it.

NOTE: The recipe contest is over and the entries have been submitted to my friend, the pastry chef. She will be getting back to me in the middle of the week. Stay tuned.


ALSO......Our adventure for February will involve warmer temperatures. Dig in your closet and pull out all your resort wear. Make an appointment with the tanning salon and work on a base tan. The farmer and I are going to take you along on an adventure to St. Croix! If you've been to St. Croix, please give us a heads up on what not to miss on the island.

Tomorrow we will take a look at Towanda moments.

5 comments:

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Great pictures you nabbed. Were you able to get any of the eagles in flight? I had no idea how large an eagle nest is...that's pretty incredible.

I love the architecture of the windmills, too. They look impressive standing in that field...modern day giants. Do they make a measurable difference in energy costs in your area?

Suzanne said...

Well there's no National Geographic shots due to the distance and the limitations of my long lens. I got a couple in-flight photos including that last one of him flying over the frozen river.

The energy produced by the windmills is shipped off elsewhere, I can't remember where. It was not built for local power usage.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Maybe I should wait for the Towanda moments post to announce this because you have an award waiting for you at my blog today. Come on over and pick it up!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Just reading your response...it's shipped off? Does that seem as unfair to you as it does to me?

Judy said...

I slipped over to visit from Vee's place & so enjoyed your post on the bald eagles. We have a lot of them in our area on the west coast (British Columbia) and I did a post on them a few weeks ago...January 16th. I had no idea they travelled into the midwest. You got some great pic's!