19th annual Eagle Watch

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Aquila, a blind golden eagle, was featured at last year's Eagle Watch.Now in its 19th year, Eagle Watch, will be back this weekend Feb. 22-23, at the PGE Round Butte Overlook Park.

The popular Jefferson County event that draws hundreds of visitors each year gets underway at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, and runs until 4 p.m. each day, at the park, located a little over 10 miles southwest of Madras. Take Belmont Lane west from Madras, and then follow the signs.

According to longtime organizer Paul Patton, of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the event was originally put together nearly two decades ago by three primary partners — Portland General Electric, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and ORPD — to celebrate and learn about the area's eagles and other raptors.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Viewers use spotting scopes to locate eagles on cliffs and overhangs above Lake Billy Chinook at the 2013 Eagle Watch.Since then, the list of partners and sponsors has grown to include at least 26 organizations. Many set up shop in the dozen or so yurts at the park, where they provide information to visitors.

The area surrounding the Round Butte Dam has 10 pairs of bald eagles and 10 pairs of golden eagles that nest in the area.

"That's one of the unique things about Eagle Watch; you can observe both species of eagles at one location, and sometimes coming into contact with each other," said Patton.

In late February, when the event is held, migrating bald eagles are also arriving from the north.

"The resident birds are there all year round," he said. "The migratory bald eagles come down and spend the winter at Lake Billy Chinook. They don't nest here; they just feed here."

If it's cold or rainy, Patton said that visitors shouldn't be deterred from attending. "The rule of thumb is, the worse the weather, the better the eagle watching. We've had 60 degree weekends, but a little overcast, with some wind and clouds is better eagle watching," he said.

The park's temporary "Eagle Village," which will include 14 yurts this year, opens its doors at 10 a.m., with eagle-spotting sessions and activities for all ages scheduled throughout the day.

The Audubon Society will conduct short bird walks, leaving from the park, with times to be announced at the park.

At noon, Telecom Pioneers will provide a free hotdog lunch to visitors, and shortly thereafter, Patton names the winner of the 2014 Order of the Eagle Award.

On Sunday, the schedule also includes a raptor identification contest and at 2 p.m., a cultural program featuring Native American drumming and dancing by the Quartz Creek Drummers and Dancers, sponsored by Warm Springs Power and Water Enterprises.

Throughout the day, a kids' tent offers games, puzzles, activities and interactive games, and a coloring contest for young visitors.

"The number of families with kids coming to Eagle Watch has noticeably increased over the years, so it's truly an event for all ages," said Patton.

"If you want to see eagles, you can hardly do better than Lake Billy Chinook," he said. "It's one of the best places in the state to observe eagles."

For more information, contact Patton at 541-923-7551.

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