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February 6, 2014

Winged wonders

Eagle Festival celebrates Merrimack River's winter visitors


“It’s just a beautiful boat shop building with space on either side of it,” Vokey said.

Started in 2006 to celebrate the resurgence of bald eagles in the area and the lower Merrimack Valley’s first known nesting pair, the festival has always been a popular draw for birders and non-birders alike eager to spot the emblem of America, Vokey said.

“Eagles are called charismatic megafauna,” she said. “They’re like tigers or elephants. People really find they connect to these creatures that live in the wild, because they look at them and associate human characteristics with them, like courage and strength and nobility.

“It symbolizes the things that we honor about being American, so they want to see them out in the wild,” she said. “They just get such a kick of it, and it’s so wonderful to help them do that.”

The festival is sponsored by The Daily News and the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank.

If you go

What: Merrimack River Eagle Festival

When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Joppa Flats Education Center, 1 Plum Island Turnpike, and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, as well as other locations in Newburyport and Amesbury

How much: Free

More information: 978-462-9998 or

Schedule of events

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Visit eagle hot spots along the Merrimack River. Locations include Andrews Boat Shop and Lowell’s Boat Shop on Main Street in Amesbury, Deer Island in Amesbury, the Mersen building on Merrimac Street in Newburyport, and Cashman Park in Newburyport.

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Van tours depart every half-hour from Chamber of Commerce (full).

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Family activities at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and Joppa Flats Education Center. Live owls and hawks from Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm.

10 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. — Raptor demonstrations with Tom Ricardi of the Massachusetts Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Facility, Newburyport City Hall. For ages 6 and up; first-come, first-served.

11:15 to 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 to 1 p.m. — Pose for a photo with a raptor, Newburyport City Hall. $10 donation; reservations recommended at 978-462-9998.

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