Each January, Roaring River State Park employees take time to tour the park and count the number of eagles and other birds living around the trout stream.
Although park employees usually count around a dozen eagles, many believe there are probably dozen more living in or around Roaring River during the winter months.
This year, park employees counted eight Bald Eagles in Roaring River, which is one more than the number spotted in 2007, but several less than the number spotted most years.
"We haven't seen as many eagles in the park this year," said Tim Smith, park naturalist. "I'm not exactly sure why that is. When it is cold, we usually see more eagles, but this year we haven't seen that many."
Park staff members take the job of counting eagles and other bird species in the park very seriously. Employees count birds from the park hatchery to Glade Shoot Ridge on Highway F. It takes several hours to complete the bird count.
This year, in addition to the eight Bald Eagles that were counted in the park, staff members counted 745 birds from 40 different species.
"We picked up a few ducks and geese, which we haven't seen in a few years," said Smith. "I think that is because the temperatures have been colder than average this year."
Roaring River State Park offers bird watchers a variety of activities to view feathered fowl in the park. Eagle viewing programs are offered each winter. Last year, the nature center also added a beginning birding class.
"We offered the class in late summer," said Smith. "It was well attended. We talked about the identifying characteristics of birds, such as eyeline, wing color and breast color. We also talked about how to use binoculars in the field to view birds."
Smith hopes to offer the beginning birding program again this summer. A date for the program will be determined later this year.
"Birds are one of the animals in the park that are easy to view," said Smith. "They might fly away if you get to close to them, but if you are quiet they will fly back.
"They are also easier for people to learn to look at and identify without much trouble," said Smith. "This makes people really enjoy seeing them in the park."
According to Smith, birds are also one of the first indicators of the healthiness of a habitat.
"If the habitat is right, you will see the right birds," said Smith. "If the habitat changes too much, you won't. They are a very good indicator of how the environment is doing."
For more information on bird viewing and other programs offered through the Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center at Roaring River State Park, call 847-3742.