This year the IAS Eagle Trip occurred 26 February along the Upper Wabash River and its tributaries in Miami and Wabash Counties which offered participants the chance to sleep in instead of starting before dawn as has been tradition at the West Union bridge in west-central Indiana. Around 12 noon seven eager birders were met by Lynnanne Fager at Upper Wabash Interpretive Services (UWIS) building at Salamonie Reservoir. Lynnanne, the Interpretive Naturalist there, would be our able and often entertaining guide for the day.
The feeders at the UWIS building provided the standard feeder activity plus one Pine Siskin before we started our caravan. We headed south and west traversing the uplands and lowlands of Miami Co. Our first major stop at one of the nest sites was hindered by poor visibility due to a constant light snow, but we were all able to see the dark blob of a nest across the field. By this time our entourage had grown to twelve as we continued to Mississinewa Reservoir. As we crossed the dam our first three Bald Eagles flew past and we could see more sitting on the ice of the lake in the distance. Lynnanne led us to a closer vantage point where we were able to study eight eagles sitting close together on an isolated tree. Nearby were Hooded Mergansers, a Ring-necked Duck, Canada Geese, and many Ring-billed Gulls.
We continued our trek along the banks of the Mississinewa River and along the Francis Slocum trail where many eagles, mostly adults, allowed excellent close views as they posed above the water. As a bonus Lynnanne enlightened us by pointing out a number of historical sites related to the local Indian tribes that settled the region in pre-settlement times as well as the home of Cole Porter and many of his relatives that still reside in the area.
We soon arrived at the eagle roost site on the Mississinewa River below the reservoir dam where more than 150 eagles had been counted one morning in January. Since then the numbers had gradually moderated and we were too early to see the birds come in to roost for the night. Nevertheless at least five birds stayed at the roost "just for us" and one was observed swooping over the river and eating its catch nearby. A nice way to end the main part of the trip.
Upon returning to the UWIS building some of us crossed the Mississinewa Reservoir dam and noted nearly a dozen eagles sitting on the ice. Driving through the reservoir overflow below near the dam Lynnanne had staked out a dark-phased Rough-legged Hawk which was followed by a light-phased bird in the nearby uplands.
In spite of some early visibility issues due to snow it was a very pleasant outing, especially since we didn’t have to be there before sunup and the temperature was about 20 degrees higher that last year’s eagle trip. Overall we had at least 30 eagle sightings for the day. Other birds seen during the trip included Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, up to fifteen American Kestrels, many Horned Larks, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, and more.
Many thanks for the cooperation and patience of those in attendance, to Dale Crawford for the three photos, and especially to Lynnanne Fager for her informative and knowledgeable leadership.
Chair, IAS Field Trips