We're fortunate to have opportunities to discover nature right around us. Less than an hour drive from Jackson and Cape Girardeau is Duck Creek Conservation Area (CA) and Mingo National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) where mallards, snow geese, herons, bald eagles and other fascinating wildlife abound.
Over 1,000 students on Friday and more than 600 visitors on Saturday took part in the 2013 Eagle Days event at Duck Creek CA and Mingo NWR. My family was among the 600 on Saturday. The events were spread out throughout the day, so it didn't feel like discovering nature with 600 other people.
Scopes were fixed on nests at Mingo, where we saw a parent bald eagle patiently incubating an unknown number of eggs. Bald eagles lay two to three eggs each year, but usually not until March or April. However, it's not impossible for them to lay eggs this early and the way this one sat securely inside the nest implied it was protecting something. With bald eagles, both parents are responsible for egg incubation duties. By 10 to 11 weeks of age, the young eagles are feathered, nearly full grown and able to fly from the nest.
Most of our bald eagle sightings in Missouri right now happen near or over open water, like the one we viewed at Duck Creek CA on Saturday. They congregate near open water in tall trees looking for prey. The eagle at Duck Creek perches regularly high on the tops of bald cypress trees in Pool one and watches over his realm with an air of superiority. We watched him fly from one side of the pool to perch on the other side. This action sent an alarm through the flock of thousands of snow geese on that side of the pool, which projected the flock into a swirling tornado of panicked geese. It was an overwhelming sight with an impressive soundtrack.
The great thing about this view of the eagle surrounded by snow geese is that it's not unique to the Eagle Days event. You can go out to Duck Creek CA and Mingo NWR any time from December through February and see a very similar display. Bald eagle populations in our area triple in the winter months, but we have many individuals that reside here. So, although Eagle Days happens every other year, our wild eagles and geese don't know that. They're on their own schedule. Visiting snow geese are available for viewing at least through February, and our resident wild eagles fish the area year round.