Eagles don't flock, you have to find them one at a time. ~ H. Ross Perot
Inspiration came early this morning (Syd was up at 5:30 ... instead of her normal 7), "Why - it's January! And we live along the Missouri River. Let's visit the bald eagles in Alton!" I figured, this might be a bust for a 2 year-old, or quite cool and so we got ourselves bundled up, grabbed a camera, and headed for Alton, IL and the Great River Road to see what we could see.
We started at the Alton Visitor's Center, where a quick online search had revealed we could get up close to one of the great birds as part of the Center's January Eagle Meet and Greet program. The tiny brick house in central Alton was absolutely packed with grandmas and papas, little ones and bored looking adolescent ones. And just hanging out in bold incongruity in the front office was a petite trainer with an absolutely huge bald eagle on her arm. I've certainly never seen anything like it, and obviously neither had Syd, who became immediately slacked jawed and just whispered "big bird." We angled through the crowd to get as close as we could, and watched. (And yes, the bird (that seems too undignified a word, actually) turned and looked right at Miss Syd.)
We picked out a small stuffy for Syd's "treasure box" and - tiny eagle in hand - headed out to the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary for a drive. We oohed and ahhed our way past dozens and dozens of migratory white swans, and turned a corner to see perhaps 2 dozens bald eagles fishing in the river to our left. It was amazing. Syd thought they looked like "big dogs" standing out in the water like they were - and they soared and were simply doing their majestic thing while we gaped at them from the cozy comfort of the car.
Following this excitement, we headed back into Alton to eat at a place called My Just Desserts (guess what the best part of lunch was? And the Tollhouse Brownie is worth the applause it receives on their Web site). Then it was time for a slower drive through Orchard Farm and home for naps.
Sydney hasn't stopped enjoying her bald eagle stuffy - and I couldn't be happier that she loved our adventure today. The idea of introducing her to "America's pet", which was the only way I could think to explain all of the wow-factor and such an early age will lead to a deeper appreciation for the power of independence, the beauty of freedom, the beauty of the view when you're soaring ... eh, too poetic? At any rate, today's lesson, toddlers and eagles are a super fit.
Onward and Upward!