To the editor:

On February 17, the Merrimack River Eagle Festival brought close to 2,000 people to Newburyport and Amesbury to see and learn about the charismatic birds that live among us year-round. Presenters Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge have many people to thank for helping with this free, all-day event.

First are the festival’s 100-plus volunteers, who help people spot eagles in the wild, play eagle games with children, keep eagle tours organized, and much more. It is thanks to them that everyone who attends has such a great time.

Next are the festival’s sponsors. Although the Eagle Festival is free to the public, it does cost money, and we couldn’t do it without financial support. As in all previous years, we have Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank to thank as our founding sponsor. And thanks to Hunt’s Photo & Video, raptor fans could be photographed with a raptor, and wildlife photographers could participate in a special photo tour led by wildlife guides from Joppa Flats and by photo instructors from Hunt’s. Both opportunities helped significantly to support our expenses.

We must also thank Lauren Husson and the staff at the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, who provide their downtown location as a headquarters site on the day of the festival. Thanks as well to the many individuals and local establishments who signed on as friends of the Eagle Festival this year: Angie’s Diner, Angie’s Service, Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift, Black Duck Market, Bob Lobster, Brick & Ash, Carry Out Café, Director’s Cut Hair Studio, Essex Street Inn, Essex County Greenbelt, G & M Building Company, Joppa Fine Foods, Middle Street Foods, Michael’s Harborside, The Natural Grocer, Newburyport Lighting, and Plum Island Coffee Roasters.

If you were delighted with the eagles and other wildlife you saw outdoors at Eagle Festival, please join me in thanking Mersen and Kane Management, Newburyport Boat Basin, Len and Chris Johnson, and the cities of Newburyport and Amesbury, all of whom gave us permission to use their riverside properties as viewing spots.

There were birds in the sky, but we also had birds right up close: rehabilitated animals who can no longer live in the wild but can teach us about who they are. Many thanks to raptor demonstrators from Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm and from Horizon Wings of Ashford, Connecticut. 

Our friends at The Daily News also did a spectacular job of covering the Eagle Festival. Thank you!

Finally, we thank all of you who came to the Merrimack River Eagle Festival, because we love sharing the marvels of the world of wildlife. Hope to see you again next year on Feb. 16 – and bring your friends!

Melissa Vokey

Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center

Coordinator of the 2018 Merrimack River Eagle Festival

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