The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








People watch for eagles at a previous eagle watching event. Courtesy photo.

Eagle watch and excursion

Where: Amoskeag Fishways, 4 Fletcher St., Manchester
When: Eagle watch on Friday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m. to noon. Eagle excursion on Saturday, Feb. 28, 9 a.m. to noon.
Cost: Eagle watch is free. Eagle excursion is $10 per family or individual. 

Eyes on eagles
Amoskeag Fishways hosts annual eagle watch

By Angie Sykeny

Bundle up and look to the skies for two eagle watching events at Amoskeag Fishways Learning & Visitors Center Friday, Feb. 27, and Saturday, Feb. 28. 

On Friday, drop by the center between 10 a.m. and noon for a free guided eagle watch on the Merrimack River. For a more extensive eagle watch plus a presentation and activities for the whole family, attend the eagle excursion day on Saturday at 9 a.m. 
“With February vacation week, everyone is out trying to find things to do and activities their kids will be engaged with,” said Rebecca Gates, Fishways center program naturalist. “The drop-in [eagle watch] on Friday is a casual fun event where kids can come and go. The eagle excursion on Saturday is for people who want to get more in-depth information about bald eagles, but it will be fun for all ages.”
The eagle watching day will take place a short walk from the Center on the Merrimack River. There will be binoculars and spotting scopes set up, and instructors will be there to help point out the eagles and answer any questions.
The excursion will include a presentation and lecture, followed by a time for questions and a craft activity where kids can make their own eagle puppets. Then, participants will carpool to various locations on the Merrimack River to do some eagle watching.
“Everyone thinks Manchester is just an urban environment, but there are actually some fantastic spots to enjoy wildlife right within our city,” said Gates. “We print out directions [for the excursion sites] so people can go back and access those sites, which is what people enjoy. We show them resources, get them info and show them how to use it.”
Previously, the eagle count has been low in this area due to the chemical pesticide DDT, which was banned in the 1970s. Eagles lay one to three eggs a year, and only one to two eagles will survive their first year, so the repopulation of eagles has been very slow.
This year, the eagle population is at a record high, with 90 sightings during the New Hampshire Audubon’s annual eagle count.
Gates says the Merrimack River is an ideal habitat for eagles all year round.
“We live in an environment that can still sustain them, even in the winter,” she said. “Part of it is the river. Eagles love fish, and fish are still near to the surface during winter. Also, along the river are great white pines, which are perfect for roosting, nesting and hunting. We are lucky they can still meet their resource needs.”
February is one of the best months to see eagles in Manchester. Eagles lay their eggs in the spring, and once the babies hatch, the majority of the food goes to them. In the winter, males focus on building up their own fat reserves so they can support their young in the spring, so they’re often out hunting.
“People always want to know what percentage their chance is of seeing an eagle,” Gates said. “You can never guarantee to see wildlife, you can only go to their optimal habitat, which is what we will be doing. I will say that we did an [eagle watching] program last month and we did see eagles, so hopefully we will have the same luck.”
Why should people care about eagles? The prosperity of eagles is important, says Helen Dalbeck, executive director of Fishways, because it indicates the health of our surrounding environment.
“Eagles are top predators,” said Dalbeck, “and when you have a predator that’s at the top of the food web that is established and healthy, then we have a healthy ecosystem and river. [The eagles] wouldn’t be there unless the prey species supported them.”
Dalbeck hopes that these events will inspire people to take advantage of the wildlife along the Merrimack River and not underestimate the animals that can be seen, even in the city. 
“I saw a bald eagle today on my way to work,” she said. “If people just look up, it’ll broaden their world. ... People think ‘I live in the city, there’s no wildlife,’ but people just have to stop and pay attention to the world around them.”  
As seen in the February 26, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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