"Golden eagles are definitely here. They’re out.”
If Scott Mehus knows what he is talking about – and he does – his words bode well for the annual golden eagle survey Saturday in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest.
Mehus is education director at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. He started the survey 14 years ago.
Another robust group of almost 200 volunteer, trained observers will be out this weekend. Mehus led his usual training sessions for new participants, something he relishes. "[The survey] really is trying to get people helping add to the knowledge of the golden eagle," Mehus said.
The count in Minnesota takes place at various sites near the metro (Stillwater, Marine on St. Croix) but also extends to bluff country sites in the southeast and near the Iowa border where the golden eagles are known to winter. Spotters will be out at Whitewater State Park, and visitors will be allowed to take part with survey veterans, according to naturalist Sara Holger.
The count also happens in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The Lincoln State is a new location this year, Mehus said, with a goal of adding more states to help learn more about the birds and their territory. “It’s definitely a bigger population that has been overlooked.”
Owing to a decent weather forecast, Mehus is confident of solid results this year after the 2017 count was hampered by fog in Minnesota. Counters saw a good number of bald eagles (893) but only 44 golden eagles. The raptors arrive in mid- to late October from extreme northern Canada, and stay in the region until late February or early March.
Golden eagles are also known to spend winters in central Minnesota, including the woods of Camp Ripley, where the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources banded a female in March 2015. Spotters will be there Saturday, too, Mehus said.