Thursday, February 5, 2015

Goodbye and Good Luck!


One of the fun parts of my job is to represent Eagle Optics at Eagle Watching Days in Sauk City, Wisconsin in mid-January. I get to set up a table of binoculars at the observation area overlooking the Wisconsin River. The point of having binoculars there is to help people get a closer look at the Bald Eagles. Many folks come without binoculars of their own, so I loan them ours. Snow, cold, whatever January dishes out, it's Bino Nina to the rescue!


Last year it snowed so hard, I pulled the binocs into the back of my car, flipped up the tailgate, and handed out binoculars to bewildered but grateful passers-by. In doing so, we have a chance to share a smile, chat about optics, and enjoy the eagles together.


Youngsters also appreciate using binoculars of an appropriate size for their small faces. Some have never looked through binoculars before! It's an Aha! moment I never tire of witnessing.

In the afternoon, it's good to head over to Veteran's Memorial Park for one of the highlights of the weekend: when the staff members of Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) release rehabbed Bald Eagles. This year, 3 eagles were launched from human arms to freedom in their new habitat along the Wisconsin River.

Below, Marge Gibson, co-founder (in 1990 with her husband Don) of REGI, holds an immature eagle ready to be released. Eagles are brought to REGI to receive medical attention and a safe place to recover from a number of injuries--including bone breaks, gunshot, and lead poisoning.

[caption id="attachment_5734" align="aligncenter" width="194" caption="Photo by Tom Andrews"]Photo by Tom Ashford[/caption]

I remember when I was a little girl, it was extremely rare to see Bald Eagles in southern Wisconsin. Once it was determined that DDT was one of the culprits in eagles' population decline, Wisconsin was the first state to ban DDT in 1969. It took many years of federal protection for their numbers to sufficiently recover, and in 1997, the Bald Eagle was removed from the Endangered Species list. Now, we can expect to see eagles almost any time we go looking. I love that.

Today, REGI handles at least 100 injured or sick eagles a year. The work they do is truly miraculous. Below, Marge releases the eagle in front of a crowd of onlookers.


We watched each eagle fly off over the river to its new life of freedom--and I thought about the caring citizens that found these injured and sick birds in the wild, and how important that person's initial awareness was. Their initiative to help a Bald Eagle led to contact with REGI--and to that bird receiving the help it needed to live.


How lucky we are to have such a facility in Wisconsin. Before they loaded up for the 3-hour drive back home to Antigo, I snapped a photo of the talented and dedicated REGI staff.


You can follow the work these people do daily on REGI's Facebook page. It's fascinating stuff--the everyday tasks of enabling sick and injured birds to regain health and independence. It's not only eagles that are rehabilitated. According to the REGI website, "While specializing in large raptors and swans, all avian species are accepted for rehabilitation at the center."

It's a monumental job. You can help by becoming a member, by making a tax-deductable donation, or by checking the Wish List for needed items. Educational programs and volunteer opportunities are available, too.  Thank you!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.


  1. Nina,

    What a very nice story!

    Glad to hear the EO is still doing the Eagle Watching days in Sauk. Glad that I invited EO to participate a few years back when I was the coordinator for the event.

    I thought then as I do now that EO is such a great resource for birders and for WI.

    Thanks for sharing this story. I'm going to post on my FB page as well.

    Have a great winter and great birding.

    Sharon Reilly

  2. Thank you, Sharon! Thanks for all you did as coordinator. It's such a fun event. ~Nina


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