This past week, I took a trip to the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, CT. The museum was wonderful with everything I expected. There was a very large model train display set up on the third floor. The bonus to the trip was seeing eagles roosting in trees across the river! The ‘train man’ on the third floor loaned his binoculars to my two nephews and they were thrilled. The boys showed me where to look in the trees and how to focus for my eyes. Just outside of the building on the river dock were people, bird watchers, lined up with cameras and telescopes for the avian show. Back inside the museum on the first floor was an informative exhibit on the eagles.
You don’t have to visit the museum to see the eagles, just the river. There are state and town parks along the Connecticut River with free parking and viewing areas. Bring binoculars and warm clothing and maybe a thermos of hot cocoa. Bald eagles and golden eagles visit the warmer waters of the river to feed. They migrate south from much farther north and Canada, sort of like New Englanders going to Florida for the winter! The eagles come to the mouth of the river where it meets the ocean waters of Long Island Sound. The water is warmer here and full of fish for them to eat. The towns of Essex, Chester, Deep River, East Haddam, Old Saybrook, and Old Lyme have the largest concentration of winter nesting eagles in the northeast. All of these river towns have much more to offer in addition to the eagles. Quaint restaurants and shops can make the trip a day long adventure.
The American Bald Eagle was chosen as our National bird in 1782. The same year, the eagle became the central figure in the official national seal. At the time, Benjamin Franklin disagreed with the choice. He said the turkey is a much more respectable bird stating the eagle is a bird of bad moral character ! The population of eagles during the 1700′s were estimated at 300,000 to 500,00. During the 1950′s the numbers dropped exponentially due to pollution and use of DDT that caused weak shells of the eggs, kill the incubating babies inside. By the 1960′s, less than 500 pairs remained placing them on the endangered species list. Thanks to federal protection and captive breeding programs and the suspension of the use of DDT, the population has recovered enough by 1995 to be removed from the endangered list.