Last weekend, my wife and I traveled downstream to visit Wabasha, which touts itself as the place where the movie Grumpy Old Men was filmed. (In fact, February 24-26 is this year’s Grumpy Old Men Festival, and my wife suggested I enter.) But there’s something even more exciting in Bluff Country – the National Eagle Center.
The Center displays four bald eagles and one golden eagle who, for reasons of injury or illness, cannot return to the wild, but are well cared for. The raptors are the center of attention during indoor programs that educate the public. Saturday, families packed the presentation room to see two of the eagles up close.
The amazement of children in the audience was worth the price of admission. Donald’s and Angel’s majesty riveted them. Admiring their six-foot-plus wingspan and learning about the diet, courtship and migration of the raptors, these kids and their parents were also entertained.
Although not presented in a heavy-handed way, the story of the eagles’ comeback after the banning of DDT in 1972 scored with the audience. Ending use of the chemical, which led to eggshell thinning and a steep drop in eagle reproduction, almost immediately led to a rebound in eagle numbers. Minnesota’s DNR says our state has the third largest bald eagle breeding population among the 50 states, following Alaska and Florida. Sometimes you can view the wild birds fishing for dinner on the Mississippi River just outside the Center.
This good news is the antidote to cynicism and despair. It will encourage the next generation of citizen advocates to keep up the fight, and believe in the possibility of change.
Poet Lucy Larcum said, “He who plants a tree/Plants a hope.” The National Eagle Center plants trees that will bear fruit in coming decades.
A visit to the National Eagle Center won’t fail to entertain a family. You won’t leave grumpy.