CELINA, Tenn. — American Bald Eagles soared high overhead Jan. 29, 2012, canvassed against clear blue skies. Far below bird watchers cruised onboard a barge around Dale Hollow Lake in awe of America's majestic symbol.
Dale Hollow Lake park rangers assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville district
provided several free eagle watch tours to the public to showcase the eagles that make the lake their home every winter.
According to Stephen Beason, Dale Hollow Lake Natural Resources manager, the tours have been ongoing for more than 20 years to highlight the Corps of Engineers' efforts to attract eagles to the lake.
More than 30 years ago, the American Bald Eagle nearly fell extinct, and the Nashville district partnered with the Tennessee Technological University
in Cookeville, Tenn., and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency in an effort to remove the species from the endangered list.
These organizations partnered to start a "hacking" program at Dale Hollow Lake to preserve and nurture eagles during the winter months. Eaglets were transported from nests in northern states and placed in hacking nests and monitored to increase their population.
The Nashville district sponsors free cruises annually on the third and fourth weekends in January to educate the public about the hacking program's history, to raise awareness of continued efforts to preserve them, and to give citizens an opportunity to see and enjoy the eagles.
During the tour, Susie Dixon of Livingston, Tenn., said she grew up around Dale Hollow Lake, yet this was her first-ever eagle watch tour.
Dixon said she cherished the chance of bringing her children on the tour to see the eagles and for her kids to build a new memory. But she especially liked it that the cruise brought back old memories of being at the lake when she was a kid.
The Eagle is considered an American wildlife success story and in 1782, the Continental Congress named the American Bald Eagle the United States national bird. When the Eagle Watch Program began, the eagle was nearly extinct because of hunting, habitat loss and the effects of poisoning from pesticides and disease.
Girl Scout Troop 1060 from Monroe, Tenn., joined the tour because the eagle is the nation's symbol, and for the girls to learn about the importance of protecting the environment and wildlife.
Jocelyn Lee of Monroe and Cheyenne Geist of Byrdstown, Tenn., both talked about how fun it was to be out on a barge on the lake and bird watching. "I really liked seeing the eagles," Geist said.
At the conclusion of the event, Park Ranger Brad Potts thanked everyone for coming and for taking an interest in seeing the American Bald Eagle.
When there are clear skies the eagles often fly at higher altitudes and are hard to see, but they were not too high and the group even saw one perched on a tree, Potts said.
The Friends of Dale Hollow Lake provided hot chocolate and refreshments during the Eagle Watch tour.
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