When attempting to do some bald eagle spotting around Will County, it can often be a case of feast or famine, depending on the day and the weather conditions.
But for the past few weeks, there has been a fairly consistent bounty of bald eagles putting on a show at Rock Run Rookery Preserve in Joliet. While places like Rock Island and Starved Rock State Park in Utica are often go-to spots for those fascinated by America's bird, this Joliet preserve has been providing more than a suitable alternative closer to home.
The eagles regularly can be seen perched high atop the trees and visible from a number of spots within the preserve as they patiently scour the landscape looking for their next meal. You might even see them while cruising past the preserve on Route 6. Visitors have captured some incredible photos and have been sharing them on our Will County Wildlife Facebook group.
RELATED: BALD EAGLE PHOTO GALLERY
"We typically see more eagles during the colder months because (they) are utilizing this area to overwinter," said Chris Gutmann, a facility supervisor at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, and an avid birder. "When there are long stretches of sub-freezing temperatures and lakes freeze over, the eagles tend to concentrate at locations that retain unfrozen water."
While some parts of the rookery have been frozen of late, there are open stretches of water and for these bald eagles, it's all about location, location, location. The preserve's proximity to the Des Plaines River, along with the ample food supply of fish and ducks in that area, make the eagles feel right at home and it's a perfect spot to weather the winter.
When more food is available, more eagles will be present. Based on the activity we're seeing at this preserve, there's plenty of food to go around. For example, there was the one photo featuring five eagles in one tree.
FOLLOW OUR TODAY'S BALD EAGLE TWITTER ACCOUNT
Be sure to follow these guidelines
With more people getting into birding during the pandemic, it's important for novices — or overeager birding veterans — to follow some basic birding rules and etiquette.
You should never attempt to get close to an eagle. Responsible bird-watching etiquette states that a birder’s presence should not change the behavior of a bird. If a bird is reacting to you, then you are too close. Causing birds to flush causes stress to the birds and puts them in danger.
Nests also should be avoided and their location should never be disclosed publicly. Repeated disturbances could cause the eagles that are incubating eggs to abandon the nest.
Bald eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.