Got a case of the post-holiday doldrums? The eagles are here to perk things up.
January and February are prime months for bald eagle watching in Illinois, with some 3,000 of the raptors hanging out in the state during the winter. According to state wildlife officials, this is the largest population of wintering bald eagles in the continental U.S.
On Saturday, the Forest Preserve District of Will County is hosting its popular Eagle Watch at Four Rivers Environmental Center, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center is something of an eagle hot spot, thanks to its location at the junction of multiple rivers. Activities during the free event include guided hikes, informational Talon Talks and a scavenger hunt.
Starved Rock State Park is another popular place for eagle watching. The park's lodge offers bald eagle trolley tours throughout January and February, featuring a trolley ride to an eagle observation point plus an educational program. The cost of the tour — $34 for adults and $29 for children 10 and under — includes lunch at the lodge. Upcoming dates are Jan. 16, 20, 23, 27 and 30; register online.
For those who have time to venture further afield, eagle watching events are also scheduled at Illinois natural areas along the Mississippi River and in southern Illinois.
Prefer to plan your own adventure? Here are some tips and recommendations:
— The open waters of the DuPage River and Fox River offer great lookout spots in northeast Illinois, including Moraine Hills State Park.
— The Des Plaines River near Channahon State Park is another excellent vantage point.
— If you're sensing a theme, it would be water. Sites along the Illinois and Michigan Canal are also attractive to bald eagles, and the raptors have even been spotted along the Chicago River.