Eagles soar in Tri-Cities

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:19 PM

Up to five of the large birds together have been seen along the Grand River, Spring Lake, Pigeon Lake and Lake Macatawa, according to Ottawa County Parks naturalist Curtis Dykstra.

“I personally saw three at one time this past Sunday on a hike I lead at Connor Bayou Park,” Dykstra said.

Grand Haven Township resident Rick Hathaway said he saw 31 eagles on Feb. 24 and 15 the next day from his Gidley Bayou deck overlooking the Grand River. He said the birds stood out that day because the sun was shining for the first time in awhile.

The eagles are also seen roosting in trees around Spring Lake. Six of them were sitting on the ice in the middle of the lake about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Dykstra said it’s not uncommon to see the eagles this time of year because they winter wherever there is open water and abundant fish.

“Winter seems to be the time they may be seen the most, but that may be because northern birds winter here, increasing the local population,” the parks nature expert said. “They leave come early spring as the ice opens up farther north.”

Dykstra said there are eagles who stay in Ottawa County year-round. There are several active nests and the birds should already be starting nesting activities, he said.

Several other birds of interest are in the area as well, because migration is starting to kick into gear, Dykstra said.

“Waterfowl are already on the move north,” he explained. “There also have been a number of sandhill crane sightings in the area. Song sparrows are singing and red-winged blackbirds are starting to show up as well.”

Below are some bird-related programs being offered this spring by Ottawa County Parks. You can also sign up for program alerts and the parks newsletter by going to miottawa.org/Parks/newsletters.htm.

Bird Feeding 101: March 30, 2 p.m., Hemlock Crossing's Nature Education Center.  Learn the basics of attracting birds to your backyard feeders, plus contending with ingenious squirrels.

Wednesday Morning Bird Walks

Spring is a great time to see birds and to learn about birding. These two-hour walks for adults and older children will focus on finding and identifying a variety of birds at each park location. They're canceled if raining. Bring binoculars (if you have them), insect repellent and dress for the weather. 

April 10, 9 am, Hemlock Crossing

April 17, 9 am, Upper Macatawa Natural Area - 76th Avenue lot

April 24, 9 am, Grand River Park

May 1, 9 am, Kirk Park

May 8, 9 am, Riverside Park

May 15, 9 am, Crockery Creek

May 22, 9 am, Rosy Mound Natural Area

International Migratory Bird Weekend

Birding Hike: May 11, 9 am, Pigeon Creek Park

Birding Basics for Kids:  May 11, 2 pm, Hemlock Crossing's Nature Education Center. Kids (ages 8+) will be introduced to the basics of bird identification, using binoculars and how to use the most important tool they have — their ears! We will also spend time at the feeders and outdoors. 

Birding Hike: May 12, 9 am, Hemlock Crossing 

Wonders of Migration: May 12, 1 pm, Hemlock Crossing's Nature Education Center.  How do birds travel thousands of miles without a map? Why do they do it? What perils do they encounter? Be amazed by the wonders of bird migration! A short bird hike will follow. 

Big Day” Bird Trip:  May 17, 7 am to 4 pm, various locations. How many bird species can we find in Ottawa County in one day? Several county parks, as well as other locations in Ottawa County, will be searched for water birds, raptors, songbirds and more. There is no fee; however, pre-registration is required. A state park vehicle permit may be required. A letter with details and meeting location will be sent in advance to those registered.

Birding Hike: May 25, 9 am, Riverside Park.  Did you miss the International Migratory Bird weekend? While spring migration may be winding down, many species emerge in the final act! Search for these late migrants and practice your birding skills.

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