The biting cold of winter is just around the corner for Missouri, and that means the Show-Me State soon will be mobbed by bald eagles, creating spectacular opportunities to view the national symbol. Eagle Day events sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation help make the most of those opportunities.
Eagles prey on fish and waterfowl, and that means they need open water. When lakes and rivers in the upper Midwest freeze over, the magnificent predatory birds come south from as far away as Alaska. They congregate around Missouri's large reservoirs and rivers, sometimes by the hundreds.
To make eagle viewing as easy as possible, the Conservation Department sets up telescopes at strategic locations. Nearby buildings allow visitors to warm up between eagle-watching stints. Also indoors are naturalist programs featuring live eagles. This year's Eagle Day events are scheduled for:
* Dec. 2 and 3 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City.
* Jan. 6 and 7 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Wilmore Lodge at Lake of the Ozarks.
* Jan. 13 and 14 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Little Platte Park Course Complex, Smithville.
* Jan. 13 and 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis.
* Jan. 20 and 21 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, Springfield.
* Jan. 27 and 28 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Apple Shed Theater and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Lock and Dam 24, Clarksville, and Ted Shanks Conservation Area near Louisiana, Mo.
* Feb. 3 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge near Puxico.
For more information about Eagle Day events, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, 573-522-4115, ext. 3289, or visit www.mdc.mo.gov/events/eagledays/.
Missourians who just can't get enough of spectacular birds of prey will have a last chance at the Vulture Venture from noon until 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery Visitor Center southwest of Branson.
This is a carbon copy of Eagle Days, but with the equally fascinating undertakers of the feathered world.