A press release from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism:
An outdoor buffet in winter may not sound tempting to most of us, but to our national bird, the regal American bald eagle, it is a rare treat.
When fishing grounds in their homes further north freeze over, these graceful birds make an annual journey to the Shepaug Dam on the Housatonic River in Southbury, in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills. They favor this spot because the turbulent waters of the dam not only prevent freezing, but push fish to the surface, easy pickings for eagles who can swoop down and feast on their favorite dish.
Thrilling to see in full flight, the majestic bald eagle can measure 34 to 43 inches in length with a wingspan of six to seven and a half feet. Their flight speed is between 36 to 44 miles per hour.
Everyone is invited to view these fascinating winter guests at the Eagle Observation Area near the Shepaug Housatonic Hydroelectric Station. An organized eagle watch takes place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through March 5.
Admission is free but since space is limited, reservations are required. This year for the first time reservations can be made on-line at www.gdfsuezna.com/forms/eagleviewreservations as well as by phoning: 800-368-8954 Tuesdays through Fridays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The shelter, maintained by FirstLight Power Resources, is located 1,000 feet from the river, affording safety for the eagles while providing an excellent vantage point.
High-powered telescopes are set up on tripods for visitors, and knowledgeable Audubon volunteers are on hand to assist in spotting and answer questions about the birds. The volunteers maintain a helpful website, www.shepaugeagles.info, with information about eagles and recent visitor statistics. Reservations can be made at this site, as well.
Nearly 140,000 people have visited the observation area since it was opened to the public in 1986.
On an average day in past years, six or seven eagles were sighted, but lucky viewers on the best days in the past have spotted as many as 15 to 21 eagles in action. Chances are best on cold clear days when the surfaces of most other rivers and ponds have frozen. Visitors are advised to dress warmly in layers and to allow plenty of time to wait for the eagle action to begin.
For more information about winter activities in the area and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in Fairfield County and the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitwesternct.com