CELINA, Tenn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District rangers and staff at Dale Hollow Lake hosted a free Eagle Watch tour here Jan. 15 where bird enthusiasts witnessed the majestic, beautiful and elegance of the nation’s symbol.
For the past 20 years in the middle of January, Kentucky and Tennessee citizens have been boarding the Corps barge at Dale Hollow Lake to cruise and watch the American Bald Eagles as they spread their wings and fly overhead.
Stephen Beason, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Resource Center manager at Dale Hollow Lake, said the staff enjoys hosting folks who travel from far and near to catch views of the eagles that call Dale Hollow lake home during the winter.
According to Beason, the program began nearly 30 years ago when the Corps took on a project after the Eagle was declared an endangered species. The Corps partnered with the Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn., and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to start a "hacking" program at Dale Hollow Lake to nurture eagles during the winter months and help increase public awareness about the bald eagle and the importance of preserving them.
When the program began, eaglet’s were transported from nests in northern states and placed in hacking nests, nurtured and frequently monitored to increase their population. And according to Beason, once eaglet’s learn to fly, they head north and normally return during the winter months from within 75 miles.
“This program is a success,” said Beason. “It was designed to increase awareness and alert the public of the beauty of eagles and it’s done just that. This is one of the many highlights of our winter season here at Dale Hollow Lake and we enjoy it,” he added.
The Eagle is considered an American wildlife success story, and in 1782, the Continental Congress named the American Bald Eagle the United States national bird. When the Eagle Watch Program began, the eagle was nearly extinct because of hunting, habitat loss and the effects of poisoning from pesticides and disease.
Beason said the Corps sponsors this free event, so adults and children from Tennessee and Kentucky can have opportunity to continue to see the eagles, get educated and take pictures and enjoy a day with family and friends.
Beason said eagles come to Dale Hollow Lake during the winter when a better food supply is available, and food and water sources farther north in Canada are frozen. Warmer winter temperatures may mean fewer eagles have elected to abandon their summer homes and head south to Tennessee and Kentucky.
“It’s fun to just see how many people are interested in eagles and love them as much as we do,” said Beason.
An avid eagle watcher and tour participant since the mid, Mary Jane Pride of Cookeville said she has made it an annual event, and often invites her family and friends to make the tour.
“I love coming here every year and seeing the eagles,” said Pride. “Dale Hollow Lake is such a special place to me.”
Every year tourist of all ages can enjoy the free tour, view the eagles and learn the history of the nation’s symbol in the environment of an outside moving classroom.
“Having the barge is a plus, and we seemed to have another great turnout this year, and it seems to get better,” said Beason.
Beason said this year’s tour seemed to have more first timers on the tour than usual.
Mary Beth Taubert and her 10-year-old daughter Raven Trew enjoyed their first eagle watch tour, and are glad they were invited by friends.
“I’m an avid photographer, and its fun to take pictures and see the lake from a view that I normally don’t get to see,” Taubert said.
Beason said there were a good number of new folks on the tour, and that can mean at least one good thing.
“We’ll have experienced sightseers on next year’s tour, said Beason, and I’m sure they’ll all have a great time.
The 2012 date for the Eagle watch tour is set for the third and fourth Saturday in January. To reserve a spot, visit the Nashville District website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/op/DAL/rec/events-activities-news.htm or call the Dale Hollow Resource office at (931) 243-3136 anytime after Nov. 15, 2011.