Missouri is one of the leading bald eagle states in the US. Hundreds of the stately birds make their permanent home in my state, due to an abundance of lakes, rivers and wetlands. However, from November until late February, thousands of eagles winter in Missouri, arriving from Canada and the Great Lakes region. Twice in the last three years, I’ve come upon bald eagles unexpectedly, both times in open fields or roosting in trees. Today, Greg and I decided to visit several areas in the regions known for frequent eagle sightings.
Today was another gorgeous day, truly a gift to be opened and leisurely enjoyed on this last day of January. With the temperature reaching the mid 60’s, and a bright sun in a blue sky, it was the perfect day to surrender to an adventure, even one with an uncertain outcome.
We first traveled to the tiny town of Stella, MO. Many have spotted the magnificent birds along the creeks and rivers near this sleepy little farm community. With binoculars ready, we slowly cruised paved and unpaved roads alike. We encountered other people searching as well, and comically, we all often ended up following each other around, up and down dirt roads. Greg perhaps spotted an eagle in the distance, wheeling high above a field. By the time he peered through the binoculars, the bird had disappeared from sight. I didn’t see any eagles, but I snapped a pic of this perplexing sign:
We left Stella, winding through Cassville, MO, down into the valley where Roaring River gushes from its spring. This ice cold river is home to many trout. It seemed a strong possibility that eagles would gather near this excellent food source. I didn’t see one bald eagle, however, a surprising number of fly fishermen of all ages were casting into the river.
Onward we drove, dipping into Arkansas. Perhaps we needed to visit a larger body of water. Beaver Lake is located just east of Rogers, AR. That was our new destination. I was on alert as Greg drove, my eyes searching the sky, scanning fields, peering among tree tops along rivers. I saw crows, hawks and an abundance of buzzards, but no eagles.
We drove through the beautiful Mark Twain Forest and eventually arrived at Hobbs State Park & Conservation Area, near Beaver Lake. I didn’t spot any bald eagles in the area, but the Nature Center was amazing. I’ve never visited this center before. I didn’t know it even existed. We toured the building.
I found a helpful chart to identify bird silhouettes:
We spoke to a very kind and helpful woman minding the information desk in the center. She suggested several locations on the lake where eagles have been sighted, and gave us a free map. Off we went, into the bright day, armed with our map, binoculars and determination.
We did not spot a single eagle, however, at our first stop, we parked the car near an arm of the lake, turned off the engine and rolled down the windows. The sound of waves rolling into shore was soothing. The sun reflected brilliantly off of the water, and it was so beautiful and peaceful. Our last two stops didn’t yield any sightings either. But people were out enjoying the gift of the warm weather also, launching their boats, strolling with their dogs, playing with their kids.
All the way home, as the sun was setting, and clouds began to overtake the sky, we watched for eagles. Greg took an alternate route back into Joplin, that allowed us to drive along a river that flows south of the city. We arrived in Joplin without spotting the elusive symbol of America. However, we agreed it had been a fun day, full of charm and beauty.
I learned today that sometimes what we are searching for arrives unexpectedly, when we least expect it. It’s good to stay alert, and open, and let go of outcomes. And, I don’t always get the day I intend to have, but I always get the day that’s intended for me. Joy truly is in the journey, and in seeing and accepting the gifts offered along the way.
I did get one photo of an eagle today. It was a wonderful statue at the Hobbs Nature Center. It was the perfect picture of an eagle in flight, captured during a perfect day.