By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist
Grab your binoculars along with your camera and join the bald eagle watches going on this weekend in Oklahoma at a location near you.
The number of occupied bald eagle nests in Oklahoma has risen dramatically from just a few in 1990 to over 100 recorded in 2009.
According to the Sutton Avian Research Center located near Bartlesville, the nest site selection and building can start as early as late September in Oklahoma.
Nests are typically located in one of the taller trees in an area, just below the crown, about 3/4 of the way up the tree, against the trunk or in a sturdy fork of the tree.
Different interwoven sticks of up to an inch or more in diameter make up the bulk of the nest. The nest is then lined with soft materials such as grass or moss. The same roost trees are used year after year.
A clutch of one to three eggs is laid per year. Incubation begins sometime in December or January and lasts for 33 1/2 days.
Eagles may travel up to 50 miles one way between its feeding area and night roost. Usually eagles feed early in the morning on fish. They detect their prey by soaring or from a high perch.
At Sequoyah State Park, east of Wagoner, meet at the Three Forks Nature Center for a tour to view eagles in their natural habitat. This eagle tour, which highlights the Fort Gibson and Hulbert area, begins with an overview of this majestic winged creature.
The program is followed by an educational eagle video and a chance to meet the nature center's live eagle. Enjoy doughnuts, coffee and hot chocolate before the caravan trip over to the Fort Gibson Dam to search for the bald eagles that winter there.
Besides watching eagles soar over the lake and viewing them in their nesting areas, other bird species can be seen, including loons and cormorants. Tours will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 and on Sunday, Jan. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For further information, call (918) 772-2108 or (918)772-2046.
Other eagle watches upcoming over the next few weeks, including some occurring at Tenkiller State Park and the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge near Vian can be found at www.travelok.com.
Explore Greenleaf Lake and the Arkansas Waterway to search for wintering waterfowl and eagles. This guided tour will leave from the Nature Hut at Greenleaf State Park. Everyone will need to supply their own transportation and caravan. This will take place at 8 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. on Saturday. For more information on the viewing expedition, call (918) 487-5196, (918) 487-7125, email firstname.lastname@example.org or checkout their Facebook page.
Now for some eagle-viewing etiquette:
Stay in or near your vehicle at roadside viewing areas
Move quickly and quietly to observation blinds, where you will be safely hidden from the birds' view
Avoid making loud noises such as yelling, slamming doors or honking car horns.
Never attempt to make an eagle fly.
Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots, warm layered clothing, ear muffs or warm headgear and gloves. Bring a camera and binoculars.
If you don't have an “eagle eye” or weather/physical conditions don't permit you to go this weekend, you can view an eagle's nest online via the “eagle cam” in Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge and another located at Sooner Lake, north of Stillwater. Go to http://www.suttoncenter.org/pages/live_eagle_camera to see what's happening live or go to www.youtube.com to see a short video segment entitled “Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge 12-11-12” and view our national symbols inspecting the eggs in their nest.
John Kilgore's outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at (918) 348-9431 or at email@example.com.