Bald Eagle Days offers bird-watching and more this weekend
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2013
1/10/13 at 7:02 AM
Along the Arkansas River, as it curves around the southern edge of Tulsa toward Bixby, a few feathered couples have set up house.
Or "nest," to be more accurate.
And this weekend is a chance to observe these families of American Bald Eagles in a way that will not interfere with the eagles' incubating and raising a family of eaglets.
The Tulsa Audubon Society and Jenks High School will host Bald Eagle Days on Saturday and Sunday, offering a morning "eagle watch" along with seminars, workshops and demonstrations on everything from wildlife rehabilitation to art lessons on how to draw birds.
The eagle watches are set from 8:30 to 10 a.m. daily in Helmerich Park, 7301 S. Riverside Drive, with the seminars at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Jenks High School Freshman Academy, 205 E. B St. in Jenks.
"This is the second year we've had this event," said Todd Humphrey, a biology teacher at Jenks High School and a member of the Tulsa Audubon Society's board of directors.
"In the past, we've done our eagle watches out at Keystone Dam," he said. "But the eagles have become so successful at nesting along the river that we decided last year to bring the eagle watch into town.
"Once we did that, it gave me the opportunity to create this additional event, with the seminars and demonstrations," Humphrey said. "We'll have 15 different presentations that will be done throughout each day."
The American bald eagle is one of the fewer predatory birds unique to North America. It was chosen as a national symbol in 1782. Because of hunting and pollution, populations of bald eagles decreased to the point that for many years the species was considered endangered.
In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list, and Humphrey said the slowly flourishing population is why more bald eagles are using Oklahoma lakes and rivers as sites for nesting.
"We have one pair of eagles that have been nesting along the Arkansas River for at least seven years," Humphrey said. "We consider them Tulsa residents."
Still, Humphrey said, that familiarity doesn't mean it's wise to get too close to where the eagles are nesting.
"We'll be doing the eagle watches from the other side of the river," he said. "When eagles are incubating their eggs, one of the pair needs to be on the nest at all times. If they get scared away from the nest for as little as 20 minutes, it could result in those eggs no longer being viable.
"Fortunately, we will have spotting scopes that will give people a very close look at the birds," Humphrey said.
The seminars will feature presentations on rehabilitating birds, whether raptors or song birds; how to access various websites that allow one to watch eagles online; how to make one's yard a bird-friendly locale; the importance of the eagle in many American Indian cultures; and the basics for those just starting out in the bird-watching hobby.
During the lunch break, representatives from the Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville and the Grey Snow Eagle House, the eagle rehabilitation facility near Perkins run by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, will give presentations with live bald eagles.
"When you realize that 50 percent of all bald eagles don't live past the first year," Humphrey said, "and when you know that they don't develop the white head and tail feathers until they are about 4 or 5 years old, then you know that whenever you see a mature bald eagle, you're seeing a true survivor. And for me, that's one reason why these animals are so awe-inspiring."
Original Print Headline: Bald Eagle Days offers bird-watching and more
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
A bald eagle watches her baby eagle, which is approximately 4 weeks old, in a nest east of Oklahoma 97 along the Arkansas River. Tulsa World file