BY DICK NIKOLAI AND DONNA VANBUECKEN
Have you ever seen a bald eagle? If not, here’s an opportunity to get the chance to do so. On January 17th, volunteers for “A Day with Eagles Along the Fox River” invite you to join them at various locations along the Fox River to explore the best eagle viewing spots. Most locations are public; some are private.
Self-guided viewing sites include:
- Expera Specialty Solutions (formerly Thilmany), 899 Thilmany Rd., Kaukauna
- 1000 Islands Environmental Center, 1000 Beaulieu Ct., Kaukauna
- Riverside Park, Riverside Dr./River St., Kaukauna
- Prospect St. Overlook, near 345-349 Prospect St., Combined Locks
- Historical Marker, 1169 W. Main St., Little Chute
- Sunset Point Park, 800 W. Kimberly Ave., Kimberly
- Fox River Environmental Education Alliance (formerly called Mount Alverno), 1000 N. Ballard Rd., Appleton
- Telulah Park, 1300 E. Newberry St., Appleton
- College Ave. Bridge and Banta Ct. near 1143 E. Banta Ct., Appleton
- Lawe St.-Newberry Trail, 668 E. Newberry St. and Warch Campus Center – Lawrence University, 711 E. Boldt Way, Appleton
- Vulcan Heritage Park, 535 W. Water St. and Paper Discovery Center, 425 W. Water St., Appleton
- Lutz Park, 1320 S. Lutz Dr., Appleton
- WILD Center, 2285 Butte des Morts Beach Rd., Neenah
- Fritse Park/Trestle Trail, 899 N. Lake St., Menasha
- Jefferson Park, Kargus Dr./915 Third St., Menasha
- Kimberly Point Park, 290 Lakeshore Ave., Neenah
Since the late 1980s wintering and nesting bald eagles have returned to the Fox Cities area. Today, this region has become a popular destination for winter eagle viewing. Given the fact that this species was classified as endangered both in Wisconsin and nationally in the lower 48 states, its return to prior numbers is a significant event.
When the bald eagle was adopted as our national symbol in 1782 there were more than 100,000 nesting pairs of eagles in the continental United States. Due to contaminants like DDT, PCB’s and other heavy metals polluting the Fox River and other waters, the bald eagle populations declined drastically. These contaminants entered the eagles’ food supply causing populations of the birds to drop to only 487 nesting pairs in the United States (Wisconsin’s lowest breeding population was 107 nesting pairs in 1974).
Eagle recovery had its roots in Wisconsin with the banning of DDT in 1969, triggering a national ban in 1972. Wisconsin, through its Department of Natural Resources (DNR), assisted the national recovery by supplying eaglets to other states. Once endangered, bald eagles are now listed as a “Special Concern Species” both in Wisconsin and nationally. This focus provides effort to prevent future declines.
Special speaker presentations and a variety of children’s activities will be available throughout the day at the Fox River Environmental Educational Alliance Center (Chapel), Paper Discovery Center (River level room – enter through lower parking lot), Lawrence University (Cinema level 2) and 1000 Islands Environmental Center. For detailed information about A Day With Eagles Along The Fox River go to http://foxrivereea.org/eagle-days/.
Officially, the first wintering eagle was observed along the Fox River in 1982 during a DNR mid-winter waterfowl survey. The first nesting pair occurred in 1987 on private land east of 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna. Today the Fox Cities are home to hundreds of wintering bald eagles feeding and roosting along the Fox River. During late winter to early spring, at least a half-dozen pairs nest within the cities.
The bald eagles’ success along the Fox River relates to improved habitat, open water in winter, and the removal and capping of contaminants within the river. Our abundance of eagles symbolizes good health and high quality of life along the Fox River waterway which is part of the Great Lakes watershed. This is our reason for celebrating “A Day With Eagles Along the Fox River”!
Dick Nikolai retired as a Wildlife Biologist from WDNR after 39+ years last January. He is coordinator of “A Day with Eagles Along the Fox River”. Donna VanBuecken is Executive Director of Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. www.wildones.org