Eagle-eyed observers can watch dozens of bald eagles soar around Peche Island
Big birds might even stay if they find the right tree to nest in
Dozens of bald eagles have descended on Peche Island and are putting on a wild display for watchers at Sandpoint Beach.
Phil Roberts, a member of the Essex County Field Naturalists Club, said counts have ranged from 20-45 birds soaring around the Detroit River so far this season.
"You'll see them chiselling stuff out of ice, you'll see them on ice floes, you'll see them on the trees in areas overlooking areas of open water," he said. "There's a very good chance you'll see them fishing, which is an awesome sight."
The eagles are most likely from northern areas and have been pushed down south by extreme cold, explained Roberts.
"It's not completely unusual. This happens periodically," he added. "As long as we continue to have these sub-zero kids of temperatures, these birds will be around for quite a while this winter."
Peche Island draws the predators for several reasons, according to the naturalist.
"All of that ice that is coming out of Lake St. Clair, the natural conveyor, gets broken up by Peche Island, so there's very often open water which is critical," Roberts said. "Bald eagles will feed both on live fish that they pluck off the surface, but they're also big carrion eaters … and in ice is often trapped carcasses of aquatic animals that don't survive the winter."
Bald eagles have become a more common sight in Windsor-Essex in recent years, after numbers in Ontario plummeted to a single mating pair.
"This bird has really come back from the brink of real disaster in North America," said Roberts. "We're at a point now where we're having trouble keeping track."
There's a possibility some of the birds sheltering at Peche Island will make the area their permanent home, he added, but first they'll need to find the right tree.
"An ideal tree for an eagle is a big, upright tree with limbs somewhat overhanging, usually like to be around water, at least 65-75 feet up and the higher the better," said Roberts, who recently helped build a nesting platform on the island.
In the meantime, the migration has given nature enthusiasts with a good set of binoculars a great opportunity to watch the graceful birds in flight.
"Our very urbane climate here has been invaded by a very large natural predator."