ESSEX, Conn. - Some 30 years after the bald eagle was declared a federal endangered species, this magnificent raptor is back from the brink of extinction. One of the best opportunities to see bald eagles in the wild is during the Connecticut Audubon Society's ninth annual Eagle Festival next weekend in the riverfront town of Essex.
Starting in November, as northern lakes and rivers begin to freeze, up to 100 bald and golden eagles wend their way south to the banks of the Connecticut River to feast on the catfish, white perch, and herring in its still-unfrozen waters, said Mara Neville, the society's marketing director. The result, she said, is the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the Northeast. During the festival spectators can choose from a number of land-based viewing sites, which are free, or take one of eight 90-minute boat tours.
The Audubon Society's Riverside Tent (on the grounds of the Connecticut River Museum) and other venues in downtown Essex will offer free programs, such as carving demonstrations, nature exhibits, storytelling, music, and "Live Birds of Prey" shows.
Connecticut Audubon Society's Eagle Festival, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., downtown Essex, 203-259-6305, ext. 103, ctaudubon.org. Most activities are free. Boat tours: adults $35, children $20 at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., $40 for all at 10 a.m. and noon. Children age 4 and younger free. Directions: Essex is 127 miles, or a little more than two hours, from Boston. Take Interstate 90 (the Mass. Pike) west to exit 10. Follow signs for I-290 and I-395. Merge onto I-395 south, which becomes I-95 south. Take exit 69 to Route 9 north. Take exit 3 and turn right onto Route 154. Look for signs to Eagle Festival parking lots, which offer free shuttle bus service.