My daughter and I enjoyed a thrilling spectacle during a recent walk along the river. We saw a bald eagle swoop down, capture its prey and pause regally mid-river as rapids swirled around. Meanwhile, the eagle’s partner waited in a nearby tree and a third eagle lounged in a giant nest on the other side of the river, no doubt expecting to be called to dinner.
Bald eagles have made our section of the Fox River home and we regular river rats get to watch them swoop and preen every day. I always thrill to see them perched on a high branch or soaring majestically overhead.
We didn’t always have eagles along our river. In fact, it took a lot of collaborative effort to lure them back. In a year rife with bad news, we Wisconsinites might have missed an important and very positive announcement. After a 17- year effort by federal, state, local and tribal governments working with private businesses, the EPA, in conjunction with all of those entities, announced the completion of the Fox River Cleanup Project on Sept. 2, 2020.
The $1 billion project to remove PCBs from the river restored 10 billion gallons of river water in one of the world’s largest sediment cleanups, according to this DNR website.
It also brought life in the form of pelicans, fish and eagles back to the Fox River. While I love to see them all, I am especially fond of the bald eagles. Eagles hunt wisely, they dive in a specific way that blocks the sun, which temporarily blinds their prey. They have large eyes, excellent vision and a fascinating ability to rotate their heads 210 degrees. You can watch them survey their surroundings using all these tools in a prudent, thoughtful way.
Gifted with power and a natural grace, Eagles move with economic precision, they don’t flail. They’re loyal to their cause, mate for life, take parental responsibilities seriously, share them equally, work hard and conduct themselves with dignity.
Every time I see a bald eagle I think about all it represents to this powerful but still fledgling nation of ours. I find it especially profound during these troubling times that a collaborative governmental effort brought them back to us.