If you want to fly like an eagle in the Columbia River Gorge, this isn’t your year. But, at 6 p.m. today, you will be able to Zoom like an eagle.
Every February for the past decade, a group of Gorge agency partners led by the Army Corps of Engineers has hosted “Eagle Watch” events at The Dalles Lock and Dam Visitor Center. While many bird species are hibernating or hanging out in warmer climes during the height of winter, January and February are when migrating bald eagles occupy a secluded, wind-screened greenspace beside the dam to roost in the trees and fish the Columbia River.
“It’s a perfect spot for them and it’s right across from our visitor center,” said Dalles Dam park ranger Amber Tilton. “We usually get 40 to 60 eagles every year.”
That’s normally the recipe for an annual eagle outing at The Dalles Dam, Tilton said, but not during this pandemic year. While you’re still welcome to stop by the visitor center (at Exit 87 off Interstate 84) and take a look, there’ll be no organized eagle events this year.
Fortunately, you can still soar with the eagles in the Gorge this evening by attending a Zoom webinar and Q&A. Named after that irresistible Steve Miller song, the webinar will explore eagle winter migration, behavior and biology; the history of the Eagle Watch program; local efforts to protect migrant and resident eagle populations; and eagle viewing opportunities in the Gorge.
Speaking will be raptor educator Morgan Olson of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center; wildlife biologist Matthew Stuber of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; park ranger Tilton of the The Dalles Lock and Dam; and outdoor programs and communications specialist Melissa Gonzalez of Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
The comeback of the bald eagle, our national bird, is a conservation success story, according to the Friends organization. Nearly wiped out by hunters, habitat loss and pesticides, fewer than 500 bald eagle pairs were left in the lower 48 states by the early 1960s. Laws protecting endangered species and banning the pesticide DDT are credited with helping the bald eagle make a remarkable turnaround in some areas. The bird is no longer on the endangered species list.
Today’s event won’t just teach you about eagles. You’ll also be able to fly like one, thanks to an eye-popping new eagle film co-produced by the Friends and Story Gorge, a Hood River, Ore., multimedia company.
To attend the Fly Like an Eagle webinar, register ahead of time at the Friends of the Gorge website, gorgefriends.org. You’ll receive a confirmation email with information about joining the Zoom meeting.
More Eagle Watch 2021 information, including a photo contest and new eagle videos shot from the top of the dam and at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, can be found at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center website: www.gorgediscovery.org/eaglewatch2021.
“Since we didn’t want to host an in-person event, we tried to do a little bit of everything,” Tilton said.