Bald Eagle/Birding Report
If you would like to report Bald Eagle activities in the area, email your report to this web site or contact the Chamber of Commerce office, 1-800-732-1673.
For those of you coming to Prairie du Chien this weekend to see the eagles here is the latest update on the numbers. At 9 a.m. this morning a count, a complete as possible, was taken at Gremore Lake north of Prairie du Chien from the parking lot of the Crooked Oar Bar and Restaurant on the shore of the lake. The count results showed 298 eagles on the ice of the lake, 205 eagles in the trees around the lake, including one eagle on a nest, and at least 45 eagles in the air overhead. There was also about 1,000 white pelicans on the lake and overhead. No actual count was taken but this is an estimate. Some of the groups of pelicans are sitting or floating so close together that an exact count is not possible.
Popular Eagle Viewing Areas
Currently Eagle viewing is dictated by the weather. With heavy snow cover and cold temperatures the birds will move inland to small streams with open water to feed for fish. Or they will watch for a farmer that is spreading agricultural carion on snow covered fields.
As the weather warms and snow and ice melts additional areas of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers will open. This open water will provide bald eagles areas for catching their favorite food source, fish. In the Prairie du Chien area this open water will include areas along the river front and along St. Feriole Slough south to the Campion Boat Landing. Check open water areas near the Regional Tourism Center and at the Blackhawk Ave and Washington St. bridges. A scope works from these locations. Be sure to stay in your car, as a car is the best bird blind you can have at these locations. The best views of eagle nests occur north of Prairie du Chien. North of the cemetery on Main Street/County Road K there is a nest on the west side of the highway. This nest can be seen by stopping near the no passing zone sign and looking west. The nest is in a large cottonwood tree in the second tree line. Since early January a pair of eagles have been visiting this nest.
Three nests are located off Ambro Road. When County Road K turns to the right, just before the railroad tracks, turn onto Ambro Road. Follow this road to the left into the Ambro Slough area.One nest is located on the Gremore Lake side, east of Ambro Road, just north of the Wisconsin DNR boat landing.This nest is hard to see once the leaves are on the trees.When there are no leaves you can see the nest by stopping on the road and searching the trees along the edge of the lake just north of the landing. By parking on the boat ramp at the Ambro landing you can see a nest in the far tree line straight west of the landing.Just 100 yards south of the Ambro boat landing and on the west side of slough there is another nest in a large cottonwood tree. This nest is easily seen by simply stopping on the road and looking between the cabins into the first tree line.This is a huge nest and has been at that location for many years.
Lock and Dam 9, 11 miles north of Prairie du Chien, is also a good location to observed eagles feeding or sitting in trees along the river. Go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lock area or the Gordon’s Bay Boat Landing south of the dam for the best viewing. Eagles can also be found feeding on agricultural carrion in fields along U.S. Highway 18 east of Prairie du Chien, between Patch Grove and Mount Hope. North of Prairie du Chien on State Hwy 27 near County Road N watch for eagles feeding on commercial fish waste and agricultural carion in adjacent fields.
There are 5 active eagle nests in the Prairie du Chien area that are easily viewed. The pair of eagles using any of these nests is busy carrying branches and other nesting material to the nest in preparation for the upcoming nesting activity. Egg laying will occur in late February or early March.
The Mississippi River valley is an ideal wintering habitat for the bald eagle. There is food, shelter, and a good source of lifting winds in this area. The bald eagle prefers fish and the river has an abundance of species for the eagle to catch or scavenge. Eagles will also go inland where food sources are available. Eagles need deep valleys to roost in at night for protection from wind and cold.
During the day they use perching trees near open water feeding areas for resting and searching for food. Large riverbank cottonwood and oak trees are ideal for this perch. Eagles spend much of their time soaring over the river looking for food or moving from one area to another. As the cold air of the morning warms it lifts. The greatest lifting action occurs along the river bluffs. Eagles take advantage of this lifting action and can be seen soaring along the bluffs for hours utilizing this free wind. As long as there is open water on the river there will be eagles in the area.
Prairie du Chien Viewing Areas
A good spot for eagle viewing is between the Blackhawk Avenue and Washington Street bridges in Prairie du Chien. A large artesian well provides open water. Eagles will perch in trees along the slough. Check the trees along the Mississippi River shore near and across from Lawler Park on St. Feriole Island is another location of eagle activity. The park is west and north of the Blackhawk Avenue bridge. A mounted bird scope for viewing is available (located in back of building) at the Wisconsin Welcome Center/Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce building, 211 S. Main. Enroute to Prairie du Chien watch for eagles soaring or perching in trees in open field areas looking for food.
Tips For Viewing Eagles
You can spend the day or several days viewing eagles. You will need appropriate clothing and binoculars. A spotting scope is nice too. Eagle watching begins in the morning about an hour after sunrise. The birds are most active from then until about 3:00PM, feeding in open water areas. Birds can be seen soaring, perching in riverside trees, and sitting on the ice. By late afternoon the birds will be heading for the roost and will not be active unless you are on a flight path to the roost.
The best places to see eagles in the area include the Gordon’s Bay boat landing and Lock and Dam #9, 10 miles north of Prairie du Chien. The boat landing is cleared of snow so eagle watchers can simply park near the ramp facing slightly upstream. Watch for eagles in the big cottonwoods along the Wisconsin shoreline, across the river in trees along the Iowa shoreline, and soaring overhead or over the open water caused by flowing water from the dam. Staying in your vehicle will provide you the best viewing as soaring eagles have been known to come very close to the boat landing with their feeding activity. Eagles will be seen flying and perched in trees along the river as you travel to and from this area from Prairie du Chien.