While winter may not seem like a prime time to see birds, February is an excellent month to view bald eagles in Utah. Aimee Van Tatenhove went birding over the weekend and reports on her experience.
It’s a bright an early morning in Cache Valley, and I’m wandering around the parking lot of Benson Marina, with my binoculars out, looking for bald eagles. While many birds in Utah are easier to find in the summer, bald eagles are one of the few species that make an appearance in the cold winter months.
Mark Hadley, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ spokesman, said there’s a good reason for this.
“What's going on is we have bald eagles that are north of us, up in the areas where they nest and typically spend most of the of their time. Those eagles will migrate south, looking for conditions that aren't quite as cold, where they can find food a little easier,” Hadley said.
Since the eagles like to eat fish, Hadley said it’s easiest to find them near open water around the state, like what’s here at Benson Marina. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to find any birds at the marina today.
In the past, the DWR has organized special eagle viewing events in February, where people could meet up with state biologists to view the birds and learn more about them. These events won’t happen this year thanks to COVID, but the DWR is still encouraging people to get out and see bald eagles. To help, they’ve put together a list of good viewing locations.
Eagles can be skittish and Hadley suggested bringing binoculars or a spotting scope with you to view the birds from a distance. Hadley also said birding from inside your car is a great way to see the birds, because it reduces the chance you’ll scare the eagles away. However, he did have a few words of caution.
“Some folks you know, they’re driving around, and they're looking for eagles, and they spot one, and they get so excited that they've spotted an eagle, that sometimes they'll stop their vehicle like right in the middle of the road, or they'll pull off, but they won't pull off far enough,” Hadley said. “Yes, it's exciting to see that wildlife, but please make sure that you're safe. Don't stop in the middle of the road, or don't just pull off a little ways, you know, and cause a problem.”
The DWR is offering a free Bald Eagle Month pin at their offices around the state, available starting in mid-February. For more information about where to view eagles and where to pick up an eagle pin, visit the UDWR's website.