By Pamela Selbert Post-dispatch special
“An eagle doesn’t make a winter.” This is not exactly what Aristotle wrote 24 centuries ago, but it is close.
Several times over the years, usually in the dead of winter, we set out before dawn in freezing cold to ascend from St. Louis along the Mississippi River in search of migrating bald eagles.
At that point, as temperatures dip in Minnesota, Iowa and elsewhere north of here and rivers freeze, the magnificent birds move south for open water and winter. They can be seen, sometimes in large numbers, around the locks and dams of the river, perched in the trees along the banks, or fishing on the pack ice in the water. (Trip over a dam stuns fish, making them easier targets for birds.)
But of course for all of this to happen it has to be really cold for a while, which usually doesn’t happen until the end of December or January. Still, we were here in early December, on a one-day odyssey through Missouri and Illinois, hoping for some sightings. (If you don’t have a full day to spend there, Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, south of Interstate 270 on Riverview Drive can also be a good place to see wintering eagles.)
Pleasantly, as things turned out, eagles or no eagles, the route we had chosen was wonderfully scenic – wooded hills, serene countryside, quaint towns, lovely river views, as well as a lovely Audubon center, the National Museum of Large Rivers, three sets of locks and dams and two ferry rides.