Majestic bald eagles return to Reelfoot; lake tours planned
Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 9:09 pm
Winter’s arrival in northwest Tennessee means it’s prime time to visit Reelfoot Lake.
For those brave enough to venture out into the chilly conditions, the lake’s landscape has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
Autumn browns and yellows have given way to vistas of silver and gray.
Even with the impact this year’s drought has had on the lake, it is still a popular tourist destination.
In the winter, Reelfoot Lake traditionally attracts visitors from across the region interested in catching a glimpse of America’s national symbol — the American Bald Eagle.
Eagles began arriving at Reelfoot Lake in the fall and their numbers have increased with the onset of winter up north.
Reelfoot Lake is situated along the Mississippi River Flyway, which means migratory birds heading south for the winter pass through the area. The lake is an ideal rest stop for migrating birds, providing them with both food and shelter.
David Haggard, a regional naturalist for the Tennessee State Parks, said he is seeing between 20 and 30 eagles every morning at the lake.
He estimated there are 70 to 100 bald eagles wintering at Reelfoot Lake this season.
Since bald eagles were downgraded from the endangered species list, there is no longer an official count taken at the lake.
Because of the lake’s wintering bald eagles, the number of visitors to the lake has grown.
That makes it a busy time of year for the Reelfoot Lake staff, which has scheduled a series of special programs focusing on the bald eagles and other wildlife at the lake.
Beginning in early January and continuing through February, there will be guided eagle tours as well as a series of Saturday night programs.
Weekend wildlife programs and eagle tours at Reelfoot Lake have been going on since the early 1970s, according to Haggard.
They are designed to be both educational and entertaining.
The first in a series of Saturday programs will begin at 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Visitors Center. The program will include a brief history of Reelfoot Lake and an overview of the lake’s wildlife.
The Saturday night programs will last about an hour and each will feature several birds of prey, including an eagle, hawk and owl, according to Haggard.
He and other members of the Reelfoot Lake staff will conduct most of the programs.
Organizers of the 7th Annual Eagle Festival at Reelfoot Lake, set for Feb. 4-6, have scheduled a live birds of prey program featuring John Stokes.
He is recognized as one of the most knowledgable experts in the country when it comes to birds of prey. His Feb. 5 program is expected to draw a large crowd, according to Haggard.
A Saturday night program featuring Knox Martin is expected to draw a large crowd, too. His program is expected to be held in late February.
Martin is a recognized expert in raptor rehabilitation and works with the raptor rehabilitation at the Memphis Zoo and operates his own rehab center. He also works closely with the SOAR (Save Our American Raptors) program.
The Reelfoot Lake guided bus tours will leave at 10 a.m. daily from the Reelfoot Lake State Park Visitors Center, located west of Samburg off Highway 22. The tours will run seven days a week beginning Jan. 8 through February.
There is a $5 charge per person and reservations are recommended.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Saturday night programs or to sign up for the eagle tours can contact the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center at (731) 253-9652.
Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.28.10