Weather Could Impact Number of Eagles During Sauk Prairie's Celebration

By: Dana Brueck Email
By: Dana Brueck Email

Weather conditions will affect whether people see plenty of bald eagles during Sauk Prairie's Bald Eagle Watching Days. Supporters hope for a cold snap before the annual celebration.

Locals say ice on the river makes for easier viewing, of course, because it forces eagles to pockets of open water.

But, they expect milder conditions to bring out more people, who can expect to see eagles -- but possibly fewer of them.

"We see them every day, we really do," Leslie McFarlane of the Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce says.

We saw no bald eagles in Sauk Prairie Monday afternoon, but experts say not to worry.

"As soon as it gets cold, in a day or two, they can be right back here," Jeb Barzen says.

Here is Prairie du Sac -- home to everything eagle!

Bald Eagle Watching Days is just days away, but will the celebration still fly with warmer temperatures, which give eagles more open water to roam?

"When it's warm like this, there's no snow and water is open, they'll go further North," Barzen says.

Barzen is a wildlife biologist affiliated with the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council.
He says warmer conditions cause eagles either to head North or to disperse throughout the area, which makes counting them more difficult.

"The roosts where they sleep at night, communal roosts, don't get used as much," he says.

Barzen still expects people to catch a glimpse of the majestic birds, but they might find fewer in one place. He says a roost count in early December, after a cold snap, showed nearly 200 birds. A count at the end of the month showed far fewer, but a combination of factors still makes Sauk Prairie a popular spot.

"It's the combination of open water, nighttime roosts that are nearby, agricultural areas and underdeveloped shoreline. It's important to understand that juxtaposition because the Wisconsin River has a lot of dams on it that create open water," he says.

"It was very mild last year in January. They didn't get a chance to see a lot of eagles, although everyone saw eagles, but they didn't see the 10, 12, 20 all at one time," McFarlane says.

And this marks the 20th year for Bald Eagle Watching Days. The celebration officially starts the weekend of January 20th, but you can catch a bus tour beginning this weekend.

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