It’s a Bird! A Plane! Or… A Flock of Eagles?
I’d like to think that our love for them has something to do with wishing we too could take flight. Flap our wings, take off, rise above the cities we live in, looking down at all we love and at once feeling both large and small. Or perhaps it’s just as simple as wishing we were also migratory creatures; unapologetically heading South before the cold of winter permeates our bones. Or maybe it’s just this: they are undeniably cool looking! Eagles, hawks, and other large birds of prey consistently demand the attention of hikers, bikers, photographers, or anyone who happens upon them. Luckily for us: it’s migration season! Bald Eagles are currently en route South, and Winkler/Morden make for perfect pitstops on their voyage to the States.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the frigidity of winter that drives these large birds south. It’s their diet. Rivers and lakes house the majority of Bald Eagle’s food sources, so as the Northern water sources begin to freeze, the eagles head for open water. There are confirmed breeding grounds across the entirety of Manitoba, as far as the northernmost border of the province. So as migration season begins in Mid-October, the birds head our way first.
Where to See Them
The obvious answer: rivers, lakes, and farmland! Things Winkler and Morden have in droves. The writing of this blog was inspired by my own experience as I took a morning walk around Lake Minnewasta in Morden. Many of the leaves of the season have fallen from the trees, and as I walked, my feet crunching along the trail, grasses swaying in the breeze around me, I saw an enormous bird overhead. Its body was large, cloaked in dark brown feathers, head and tail so white they blended into the sun behind it. The eagle’s yellow eyes and beak turned this way and that with rapid precision, it’s talons grasping at the top branches of the tree. Without my camera, I scrambled for my phone, clumsily knocking around in my pockets before dropping it to the ground.
The eagle took flight, disrupted from its morning solitude by my graceless rummaging, and I cursed myself both for not enjoying the moment, and not being prepared to snap a picture. Fortunately for me, I am not the only one who’s been attempting to capture these creatures on camera, and there’s plenty of time yet to do it, as they continue migrating through the second week of November. Many trees along our lakes and river hold not just one or two eagles during this season, but 3, 4, or 5. They’ll sit high in the trees, overlooking the water or grassland on high alert for prey, as the snow begins to fall around them.
But Really, Where Can I See Them?
For your visit, choose any of the water features in the Winkler/Morden area, or any trail that takes you through farmland, where mice and other small prey can be found scurrying through the grass. Think The Lake Minnewasta Trail, The Great Trail, or any of the walking or biking paths in the Pembina Valley. Eagles are most active in the morning, doing much of their hunting between 6 and 11, so go early for a more guaranteed sighting.
Winter is Coming
… And don’t worry, there’s still so much to do! But while the weather begins to turn, I like to reflect on the abundance of activities provided by our seasonal fluctuations. The air is colder now, but an influx of wildlife crossing Winkler/Morden provide more reminders to get outside and enjoy what makes us unique.
To get more information on the migration patterns of these birds, I recommend the Manitoba Bird Atlas.
For more information on trails of the area, refer to our other blogs, which include more specifics on the amazing trails of our area.