, Newburyport, MA


February 6, 2014

Winged wonders

Eagle Festival celebrates Merrimack River's winter visitors


Though she said there will be plenty of wide-open, plowed spaces to view eagles, she encourages visitors to wear sturdy shoes, as there are some spots that will be snowy and more difficult to navigate, such as Deer Island in Amesbury.

In addition to this being a great year to see the bald eagles, which seek out the Merrimack River because it always has the open water they need to feed on fish and ducks, the festival is an opportune time to spot snowy owls.

“Since they’re going to be in Newburyport, they can go out to Salisbury or anywhere on Plum Island to see a snowy owl,” Vokey said. “They can really do eagles and owls in one day trip this year.

“Last year, we didn’t have any until the end of winter,” Vokey said of the owls. “We’ve got more than 10. They are all over.”

Returning to offer an up-close look at raptors in two programs on Saturday is Tom Ricardi of the Massachusetts Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Facility in Conway.

Ricardi won’t have an eagle this year, but he said he will have seven or eight birds, including owls, hawks, falcons and a turkey vulture. He will talk about wildlife conservation and what people can do to help in their own backyards and will show a 10-minute slide presentation on the captive breeding of bald eagles.

“This has just been my whole life,” he said. “I’m a retired game warden, and I’ve been doing raptor rehab and captive breeding for over 35 years.”

Though one of the festival’s regular “hot spots,” the Spring Lane pumping station in Newburyport, is closed due to construction, a new location has been secured directly across the river in Amesbury, at the former Andrews Boat Shop.

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