Good Times with Friends of All Species at Shepaug Dam

Seeing a Bald Eagle Up Close is a Gift of a Lifetime

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The most rewarding part of birdwatching during brutally cold, frigid weather is seeing wintering Bald Eagles in their natural habitat at the Shepaug Dam and sharing it with friends of all species.

Our friends extend beyond the human kind as our bird friends rate high on our list of favorite “people” to see.

The naturist John Burroughs said, “If you want to see birds, you must have birds in your heart.” And we do. They feel like an extended family to us. 

Seeing Birds of Prey and Friends

So IntoBirds made its annual pilgrimage to Shepaug Dam at the FirstLight Power hydroelectric facility in Southbury, Connecticut, to see the wintering Bald Eagles as our backdrop to the Christine’s Critters Birds of Prey shows.

Let us introduce you if you’ve never heard of Christine’s Critters. They’re a nonprofit birds of prey rehabilitator and educator in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

As if seeing these majestic birds soaring in the background isn’t enough, Christine and her Mom, Betsy, share several bird ambassadors and their personal stories with the adoring crowd.

Christine of Christine’s Critters introduces Higgins, a male Northern Saw-whet Owl to the audience

Even if you’ve seen one of Christine’s Critters’ shows before, each is unlike the others. The personal anecdotes they share balance delicately with some learning moments. The crowd feels a kinship with the birds and their handlers. It’s an excellent way to advocate for preserving our birds of prey.

For some, it’s just a show to pass the time. And for others, it’s a good time spent with friends and family. But no matter how long since the last visit, it seems like old times.

Show is Filled with Learning Moments and Humor

One of our favorite personal anecdotes is about their male American Kestrel named Chip. He was raised in captivity in a cage by a person who found him as a chick. That means Chip is an imprint and thinks he’s a human.

So Betsy shares a story about Chip’s fondness for Christine and how he shows her the dark corners of his aviary perfect for nest making when she brings him his food. Chip thinks Christine is his gal, and he’s jealous of Christine’s boyfriend, Chris. And Chip makes it known he can make Christine a better nest than her human boyfriend can.

Betsy of Christine’s Critters introduces Salsa, a female American Kestrel, to the crowd

The story is lighthearted humor and a learning moment to teach others the importance of calling a licensed wildlife rehabilitator when they find a baby bird. Don’t attempt to raise a wild bird. Leave that to the wildlife rehabilitators to figure out. The bird needs to be raised by its parents to learn to survive in the wild. In Chip’s case, now he thinks he’s a human and was robbed of nature’s gift of being wild and free.

Bird Friends and Education Ambassadors

Everyone has a favorite bird ambassador, and people remember their names. We see the responses when we post a photo over social media and fans comment, “We love Magma.” “Mr. Higgins is the cutest.” “Aurora is the queen!”

The crowd loves Magma, a tiny red-phase eastern Screech Owl with the attitude of a Great Horned Owl

This Birds of Prey Show was special for us because all the bird ambassadors profiled, except for Aurora, their show-stopping American Bald Eagle, are the birds of prey we sponsor.

Our bird friends include:

  • Magma, a male red-phase Eastern Screech Owl
  • Higgins, a male Northern Saw-whet Owl
  • Salsa, a female American Kestrel
  • Chip, a male American Kestrel
  • Equinox, a female Peregrine Falcon 
Equinox is a female Peregrine Falcon, and her species is renowned for its plunging speed during flight, reaching more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour, making it the world’s fastest bird

IntoBirds donates a percentage of all sales from our Etsy shop to support Christine’s Critters and pay the food bills for these five birds of prey. At first thought, it might not seem like a lot. But birds of prey don’t survive on bird seed. So even the costs for what they eat, like mice, rats, quail, chicks, and fish – the same foods they eat in the wild – are pretty costly.

The birds we sponsor allow Christine’s Critters to care for rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing more birds of prey. So seeing our human and bird friends together on this frigid March day made for a great afternoon.

Chip is a male American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America. Kestrels weigh 3-6 ounces, and a small kestrel weighs the same as 34 pennies

Coachella for Eagles

Why do eagles spend their winter at a hydroelectric facility? Why not. FirstLight offers wintering Bald Eagles everything they need to survive a harsh winter in the northeast. It’s like the Coachella for wintering eagles. A great place to meet up and thrive.

The Housatonic and Shepaug River provide hydroelectric power for the dam. Eagles are attracted to the spot because the water churning through the dam’s hydroelectric turbine keeps the surface from icing over, allowing the birds to fish.

During this two-hour visit, we saw eight Bald Eagles soaring high above, with several gulls, crows, and ravens mixed in.

We enjoy seeing Bald Eagles year-round at the Ashokan Reservoir in Olivebridge, New York, but there’s something special about seeing so many eagles in one place. You never get bored of seeing Bald Eagles.

Seeing a Bald Eagle Up Close

During Christine’s Critters Birds of Prey Shows, it’s evident who the crowd is there to see. So when the headliner, Aurora, the adult Bald Eagle, emerges from her travel box, steps on Christine’s glove, and spreads her wings, there is first silence as the audience is in awe. Then a collective ahhh grows louder as the crowd is mesmerized at seeing this majestic bird, our national symbol, before their eyes. It’s not a sight you’ll soon forget and something you never take for granted.

You can see why Aurora, a female adult Bald Eagle, is the headliner of Christine’s Critters Birds of Prey shows

This season’s Bald Eagles at Shepaug Dam has come to a close, but if you live in the Connecticut area, or are planning a trip to visit next winter, add the dam to your itinerary for next season that runs December through March. It’s a great way to expose your kids to nature and wildlife. And be sure to make a reservation on the Shepaug Dam site because the shows fill up quickly. The show is free, but reservations are required.

Seeing eagles in their native habitat is an experience you and your family will never forget. If you attend a Christine’s Critters Birds of Prey Show, you’ll experience seeing a Bald Eagle up close. And that’s a gift of a lifetime.

If you enjoy this story, please subscribe to our site and follow our YouTube channel to enjoy our bird videos. And please check out our Etsy shop. It’s filled with handmade gifts inspired by birds and nature. We donate to bird and wildlife organizations for every item sold.


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