Monday, February 13, 2012

Going to See the Bald Eagles

(I have a high-school friend who lives near Chicago, and I wanted her to see something of where I've settled.  There is nothing quilty in today's post. )

Yesterday we had the opportunity to view the Bald Eagles about 130 miles from our home, at the base of Kingsley Dam, near Ogalala, Nebraska.  This is a long trek through open, seemingly uninhabited grasslands of the Western Nebraska Panhandle.  For this  women born in Chicago, and living half of her life in areas with wall-to-wall shopping malls, landing in this open country took some time to get used to, but overall, given the choice between the two kinds of areas, I'll choose this one. 

I'm including photos of our drive and maybe you'll agree to the part about "open country".

The eagles are usually in this destination from late January to early March, so the window for viewing is narrow. 

Each of the first photos are rather indistinguishable -- but they ARE in order leaving our house in town.

Below is "First Thirty Miles" -- see? not much to see.  And it was 22 degrees and windy - not a lovely day. 

Below is "Second Thirty Miles" with one of the usually-visable BNSF coal trains next to the highway.  They come from Wyoming, going to Kansas.  I always wonder, given the hundreds of loaded coal trains we see, "Is anything left of Wyoming?"
 Below is "Third 30 miles"  - that's snow.
 And here is "Fourth thirty miles" -- notice a pattern? 
Below - could that be water?????  Yes, in the middle of all this open space, there is Lake McConoughey (I probably didn't spell that right!).  This is where the North Platte River is dammed by the Kingsley Dam, our destination.

I think this is it!  No one here, too cold.  We are BELOW the earthen dam, which is on our right - just a bit scarey when we remember those small quakes some months ago.
 Below -- there they are!  I see 2 adults and 2 immature.  There is a small heated building closest to the bottom of the dam, where is was most comfortable for viewing, with several telescopes available, a small ladder for small children to reach the telescopes, tables and chairs for classes, and floor-to-ceiling windows.  There was no charge.  There were a bazillion birds were on the ice, in the water, flying about, diving for fish at the base of the dam.  Here and there we could see an eagle, swooping about, I believe it was trying to steal fish from the other birds.  The mature eagles are dark and their tail feathers in flight were white, so we could see them.  However, most were just sitting and watching, both the mature birds (black with white heads) and the immature ones, that looked really rough and motteley.  (That's motteley, not motley!)  This photo is as enlarged as I could get on my camera, so they are waaaay across the water, where no traffic is allowed, to keep them undisturbed. A young guy was there to answer our questions - employed by the Power District - he was not a ranger but he knew a lot about all the birds. 
 If you are in the area, it's very close to the road that goes over the dam, and easy to access, worth a short stop, although the eagles will likely NOT be there, but many other birds are here.  As we were leaving, several families arrived with kids who were thrilled with the whole event.

Occasionally I see a bald eagle on the way to Quilt Meeting, and they do show up here and there, especially around water sites.  This area is a major flyway for bird migration. 

The drive back home was as exciting as the drive TO the eagles.  You might notice from the photos, that TRAFFIC is not a problem here.  We can cross this off our "to-do" list.  8-))


Exuberantcolor/Wanda S Hanson said...

I remember Nebraska very well, on the ride from Chigago area to Denver 3 times. People think IL is flat, I tell them drive through Nebraska to see flat.

The coal trains come through our town many times a day 120 cars full of coal, usually 130 empty cars going the other way. I don't know if our coal comes from WY.

Cyn said...

Beautiful post; I love it! Thank you for sharing your day with us. It brought back a lot of memories for me when I used to visit my Great-Aunts, who lived in Chadron. Nebraska is a gorgeous part of our country.

Donna said...

Nebraska has its own beauty, and some areas more than others, I've decided. I didn't realize that there were bald eagles in NE in the winter. Remember those John Denver lyrics: "He'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly." I find that to be true. We see them occasionally here, and they always strike me with awe. They are so majestic.

Nancy said...

I agree with Cyn that Nebraska is beautiful. It is the isolation that makes it so appealing to me.

I can assure you that Wyoming still has coal, and the seemingly endless train cars mounded with the black nuggets will continue to head your way. ;oD

Every once in a while, I see bald eagles sitting in the dead trees along the river when I go to Lander. They aren't very active though.

Pokey said...

Well, I certainly enjoyed the drive, looks like home to me (really Larry's home)! You left out the wonderful conversations and good laughter that comes from the long drive. To tell you the truth, we would make that drive to see eagles, Larry loves birds of prey.

I had opened another post of yours with the OB quilt, I so admire anyone who completed this quilt. Yours is a beauty! I printed the pattern out, but only made the 72 blue strings...they will work out in something else!

Lynn said...

I love it when we see bald eagles here in my part of Nebraska too. It has been only maybe in the last 20 years that they migrated here during the winter. Don't forget to watch the Eagle Cam in Decorah, IA...just Google Decorah Iowa Eagles and you should find it. They should be laying eggs soon.

Ruth said...

Eagles are such amazing birds, I would gladly drive 130 miles to see them. And I'm sure you and your friend had plenty to talk about during the drive, so that and the scenery made it quite enjoyable. We live in Texas and there is a lot of flat land to the west. I always say that each place has it's own beauty.

JudyCinNC said...

I could recognize those roads anywhere - you are so lucky to be able to view them up close. We have an Eagle cam at Jordan Lake here in NC to watch the Eaglets. and believe me I spend a lot of time doing so. Love them. Thank you for sharing your adventure. Judy C

jovaliquilts said...

We saw a couple of bald eagles when we were driving from Chicago to Champaign this year. I couldn't believe it and was absolutely certain we must be wrong, but then I read that they are now in the area. Incredible! You got a great photo.

Kathy ... aka Nana said...

I live near St. Louis and a large contingent of bald eagles migrate to the confluence of the Missouri and Misssissippi Rivers. In all the years that I've lived in this area (40+), I've never gone to see the bald eagles in the winter. You've spurred me to go.

Bonnie said...

Thanks for the nature trip. I remember seeing bald eagles in Alaska once on a trip up there. Magnificent birds...

JuJu said...

Elaine, I read you blog several times a week. I grew up in the general area, south of Oglalla, small town, Grant. I have family in your area of NE, Scottsbluff. So it's a bit of home ... Enjoy your quilts, I'll be doing your Rebuilt Log Cabin, for a workshop that Bernina Studio is having here in Lincoln for Quilts of Valor in April. So keep enjoying NE and happy quilting!!

Mama Spark said...

Those eagles are fantastic. Thank you for sharing!!

Lynn Dykstra said...

I do miss the prairies, but, as you and I swapped our places on earth, the bald eagle has followed each of us!
There is a nesting pair here in Chicago on the south side near Calumet Lake--interfering with the planned Chicago Police Department shooting range!

Lori said...

no people! that's what you don't see in the pictures! Where I volunteer in the summer has loads of eagles during the winter because of the open water by dam. One winter morning they quit counting when they got to 65--the birds roost in the big cottonwoods. They are scavenger birds--and will steal or eat road kill rather than hunt for themselves.

MARCIE said...

You really crack me up with your scenery photos. Our car broke down driving thru Nebraska years ago. I thought we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere forever! No eagles, just corn. We survived.