Reading the newspaper this past week, I was surprised to see an advertisement for a nearby boat tour designed to ferry passengers around a local lake to search for bald eagles and other migratory wildlife. I honestly did not know that much about bald eagles besides the fact they are the national bird and were an endangered species in the recent past. However, I was definitely enlightened during this tour about their migratory patterns and distinctive characteristics. Since lakes freeze in the colder climates of northern states, Arkansas provides a suitable environment where these birds are able to live, hunt, and survive.
Upon arrival at the Jolly Roger Marina, I was greeted by the tour guide and wandered around the facility before boarding the boat. I had been warned of the cold temperatures while on the lake, so I came prepared and was sufficiently layered. Since the cost of the tour was only $15, I guess I was not surprised the tour boat was of modest proportions. Our group of eight situated themselves onboard, and we proceeded with the tour under the direction of the guide.
Initially, the main waterfowl we observed were loons. Named for their clumsy nature, these birds will dive underneath the water in search of food. If you squint a little bit, one is visible in the picture below this paragraph. Other birds observed included gulls, crows, vultures, and ducks.
And then we saw what we had all been waiting to see… a bald eagle. This bald eagle was flying in its distinctive pattern of soaring and gliding, but it was tough to differentiate the bald eagle and vultures because they are both large birds. According to the guide, there are four or five bald eagles inhabiting Lake Maumelle year-round while the rest migrate from northern locations. During the course of the tour we actually spotted two or three more of these bald eagles flying. If you squint a little, there is a black speck in the middle of the picture below this paragraph…I believe that was a bald eagle. (One of the negative aspects of photography with an IPhone is the inability to zoom.)
There were a few other points of interest on the lake to include the Little Rock Yacht Club. The song “Redneck Yacht Club” comes to mind, but I’m not sure if this description fits.
We also viewed a strip of land recently damaged by a tornado in the local area. Again, photograph is below this paragraph.
Overall, the Eagle River Cruise was definitely a unique and enjoyable experience, and I am slowly starting to realize “The Natural State” is an appropriate designation for Arkansas. I’m not sure if I would be technically be considered a bird-watcher now, but I guess there are worse hobbies.