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Salt Plains NWR - Eagle Watches 2006
Southwest Region, January 14, 2006
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The 2006 Eagle Watches at Salt Plains NWR attracted immense visitor attention. What attracted, a few years back, a small birding group has expanded to include 2 weekends and, in 2006, approximately 280 guests. The first weekend, January 7th, saw about 100 visitors. These people were given a natural history lesson about bald and golden eagles before being shuttled down to the eagle viewing area.

The January 7th group saw approximately 8 eagles - one of which was a golden. The weather was strangely warm until the sun went down. Melynda Hickman of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation participated in the event on the 7th. The local state Watchable Wildlife Area annually does a Winter Bird workshop prior to the SP eagle watch. With rising interest and their own double in visitation this year, Hickman indicated that they may expand their workshop to two weekends in 2007.

The next weekend, January 14th, was expected to have slightly fewer guests, but went far beyond the expected. About 180 people arrived for the eagle watch. After a bit of natural history, they were shuttled down to the viewing area. The day was much cooler, but eagles were still seen. A larger number of eagles were viewed once about 100 of those people starting hiking back to their cars.

Both days had a scheduled start date of 3pm, but guests arrived at the visitors center between 1 and 2pm. A nature video about bald eagle reintroductions was shown during that time, questions were answered and the Salt Plains videos played in another area of the visitor's center. The live camera feed was able to capture mallards out of on the lake for visitor enjoyment.

It was certainly a success and goes to show how Salt Plains has increased in public attention. All reports on both days were positive - visitors seemed pleased with what they saw and many were repeat visitors either on both days this year or from previous years. Some additional planning will be done to increase the quality of the event for the public in upcoming years. 

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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