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Soon to take flight

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LOOKING FIERCE: A mature bald eagle looks out from a tree branch near Salamonie Lake.
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HIGH FLYING: An immature bald eagle soares next to a forest near Salamonie Lake.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

An eagle watch put on by the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services Center on Mississinewa Lake is expected to draw a large crowd.

There are more than a 100 people expected to attend the eagle watching event, featuring bald eagles and perhaps even a glimpse of a golden eagle. The watch will take place at 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 13. Registration for the event is required, but the event is free.

“We are at the point where we are encouraging people that call in to consider (coming to) the February watches because we’ll be on the crowded side this Saturday,” said Teresa Rody, the interpretive manager at the DNR.

The event has grown significantly this year. Last year around 80 people attended.

The event is entering its 13th year and has continued to grow each January.

One reason Rody said more people are expected to come this year is because more people have learned how great the Mississinewa Lake area is for eagle watching.

Another reason is the warmer January temperatures have likely convinced more people to come out this year, Rody added.

On Saturday, the high for the Mississinewa Lake area is forecasted to be 34 degrees.

Rody also feels an improved DNR calendar system has proved useful in getting the word out.

For those looking to avoid the big crowd, the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services Center will host another eagle watch on Feb. 9-10.

“(Events like this) are very very important (for conservation awareness),” said Cassie Kennedy, an interpretive naturalist with the DNR. “You can’t have a conversation about conservation without education.”

The event is also drawing in attendees from out of the area. As it’s expected out of town guests will stay the night before in a hotel, there is a short talk at the Interpretive Center on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m.

During the talk, Eagle Watch leaders will share their experiences with Indiana eagles.

The official eagle watch event will begin at Mississinewa’s Miami SRA Boat Ramp at 6:30 a.m.

“Almost all the eagles you see will be bald eagles,” said Rody. “It’s not unheard of to see a golden eagle during winter time here, but it’s still unusual.”

Attendees are likely to see both mature bald eagles, which feature a white head and tail feathers, and immature bald eagles, which often feature darker feathers, according to Rody.

Rody said what makes the area such a great spot for observing eagles is the flowing water leaving the dam of the reservoir, which is ideal for eagles to fish.

The eagles come from northern areas, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, where the water is more likely to be frozen. The eagles fly north come spring.

The event consists of light walking, so attendees are encouraged to dress warm and not for strenuous hiking.

Attendees are also encouraged to bring binoculars and cameras.

At 8:30 a.m. a breakfast will be held by the Friends of the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services.

Attendees can enjoy pancakes and sausage in exchange for a donation, which helps support the Friends group and the Salamonie Raptor Center.