View bald eagles, falcons on free trips

(Phil Douglass/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
Seeing bald eaglets is the focus of free field trips to be held Thursday...
Story by Standard-Examiner staff
June 13, 2012
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It’s that time of year when birds are raising their young, and Utah wildlife officials are inviting the public to see two of the area’s most famous avian families.

Wildlife enthusiasts can see two adult bald eagles and two eaglets that recently hatched during free field trips on Thursday and Saturday as part of the Division of Wildlife Resources’ Watchable Wildlife program.

Then, at 6 p.m. next Thursday (June 21), the public is invited to a viewing event featuring the well-known peregrine falcons that nest every year in downtown Salt Lake City.

The eagle-viewing trips provide a rare opportunity to see bald eagles nesting in Northern Utah. Before the current pair, which has nested at the same site near Great Salt Lake since 1996, the last time biologists documented nesting bald eagles in the northern part of the state was in 1928.

However, because the pair didn’t produce any young in 2009 or 2010, one of the adult eagles might be a new bird, said Bob Walters, Watchable Wildlife coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The two eaglets are preparing to make their first flights. Walters said the eaglets should be dancing on the nest, beating their wings and making short “touch-and-go” flights between their nest and branches on their man-made nest structure.

“All of these antics are part of the build-up to that magic moment when the eaglets leave their nest for the first time,” he said.

Since 1996, a total of 36 eaglets have been raised at the nest site.

The eagle-viewing trips will leave from the Department of Natural Resources building in Salt Lake City each evening at 6 p.m. The DNR building is at 1594 W. North Temple. The trips are free, but reservations are required. To reserve a spot, call Walters at 801-209-5326.

Those who sign up will follow Walters in their vehicles, traveling on mostly paved roads to the viewing site near the southeastern shore of Great Salt Lake. Walters will have some spotting scopes and binoculars, but those who have their own are encouraged to bring them.

The Salt Lake City peregrine falcons nest high on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at Temple Square. To participate, meet just east of the building.

The famous falcon pair deposited four eggs this spring in a nest box on the northeast side of the building, and three of them hatched. Participants in the June 21 event should see the adult peregrines perched on the edge of the nest box or on the side of the building. They may be seen flying to and from the box.

Walters expects the young falcons will start flying in about two weeks. When the falcons take those harrowing first flights, Walters and a team of volunteers will be on hand to rescue the birds.

“The idea is to rescue and release each young bird until the birds develop the confidence and competence to sustain themselves in flight,” he said.

On the same evening the field trip is held, Walters will train anyone who wants to become a member of his volunteer falcon watch and rescue team.


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