Despite the fact that there was still snow on the ground around Milford Lake Saturday morning, people nonetheless came out to Eagle Day in the hopes of spotting bald eagles in the wild.
Milford Nature Center puts the event on yearly as an open house/educational event.
According to Nature Center Director Pat Silvosky, about 500 people showed up to the 2020 event, which she said is typical.
“That’s about normal,” she said, of the headcount. “Some years, we’ve had a few more — in the 600s - 700s.”
This year, the nature center added some things to Eagle Day, including a concession stand. Miss Kansas Annika Wooten attended this year’s event, where she created a painting of a bald eagle. Wooten donated the paintings to the nature center to do with what they wished. According to Silvosky, nature center officials don’t have immediate plans for the painting, but has discussed the possibility of holding a drawing in the future.
Geary County Extension Agent Chuck Otte served as a tour guide during Eagle Day, rattling off facts about eagles and answering the questions of people who chose to take bus tours up to the lake’s edge to see nesting eagles.
“I thought it was good,” he said of the program. “(It’s) always nice to see that big of a turnout. A lot of people, it was their first time out to Eagle Day. So that’s always encouraging that there’s more people coming into the area, coming in from out of town … It draws from a long ways away, so that’s always good.”
For the most part, the weather cooperated Saturday, he said. It has been a mild winter and so, according to Otte, fewer birds had migrated down from the north.
“The eagles weren’t concentrated like they are some years,” he said. “So it made it a little bit harder to get to see very many eagles. But just about all the bus tours got to see some birds and enjoyed it.”
While the eagles weren’t out in force this year, Otte said the overall eagle population has increased over the past few years.
“They came off the endangered species list quite a number of years ago,” he said. “The numbers continue to increase. We were up to (more than) 150 nests documented last year in the state of Kansas and we know that they raised at least 140 young. So they’re continuing to increase nesting population in the state and that’s a good thing.”
According to Otte, Milford Lake has roughly eight eagles who have chosen to nest in the area on a permanent basis.