Have you ever seen a bald eagle fly by? When you were a kid were you told they were almost extinct and you would probably never see one in the wild?
Back in third grade, I was told just that when we learned about the bald eagle at school, and they were definitely heading toward extinction. Luckily for all of us a lot has changed since third grade. On a trip to Galena, Il. years ago, a friend and I were just driving around looking for old barns full of antiques for sale. As we were crossing the Mississippi River on a very low bridge, I noticed a big bird in a tree and slowed down to see what it was. We were both shocked when we realized it was a Bald Eagle! We paid better attention to our surroundings the rest of the trip and saw quite a few bald eagles. Many were resting in trees, but the most beautiful were those up in the sky, soaring above us with their white heads and tails in sharp contrast to their mahogany bodies and the blue sky that day.
A few years ago, we were telling a friend that we had seen several that trip, and she suggested that we all go back to Galena again in January and track how many we saw. She did all sorts of research and discovered that eagles follow the Mississippi south as the river freezes. From there, she mapped out our journey from Galena south toward Burlington, Ia. We spent 3 very cold days in January 2009 zigzagging across the Mississippi River, stopping at the locks and dams along the way, tallying up all the eagles we saw. Our grand total was 236. We have gone on what we now call Eagle Trip every year since. In 2014, we hit a record high of 1812. So we went from possibly never seeing an eagle in the wild to seeing 1812 about 30 years later. That’s the impact the human race can have on the world. My friends and I have had no role in their recovery, but we certainly celebrate their majesty and tenacity every January. We log just about everything we see each year. From the exact number of eagles down to a dog running down the road with a Chinese food container on his snout. We have seen golden eye ducks and a donkey on the roof of a shed. We spend our nights at hotels attached to casinos in Iowa so we can get our Mild on.