I helped with an Eagle Days event for our nature center yesterday. We host this event every year and the extravaganza lasts 5 days. Wednesday through Friday are devoted to school groups and the event is open to the public on the weekend.
Eagle Days is held out at the Chain of Rocks Bridge
, an old narrow bridge that spans across the Mississippi River. The bridge is a historic landmark and a great place to view Missouri's wintering population of Bald Eagles.
Last year I participated in the weekend portion of Eagle Days but this year was the first year that I helped with the school groups and this event was well organized. A different school group came out every hour and their stay lasted about 45 minutes. The incoming students were treated to a presentation that included a live bald eagle before the kids were divided into 2 groups. One group played an Eagle Jeopardy game and the other group came across the bridge to look for eagles through the spotting scopes manned by the volunteers. I was one of the volunteers manning the spotting scopes.
The weather and the kids provided an unforgettable experience. The weatherman was predicting strong winds but mild temperatures. (Well, mild for this time of the year) I knew that there was always a bit of wind on that bridge and that temperatures tend to run a bit cooler by the river so I dressed up. I put on long underwear, wool socks, a turtle neck with my warmest sweater before I piled on 3 coats and my neck gaiter
. I could not turn my head and could barely move my arms, but I was warm! Other volunteers came equally prepared. Many wore varying degrees of coats, overalls and hats. One volunteer went so far as to gear up in her ski suit and ski mittens.
And it was windy. Very, very, VERY windy. I was not prepared for the intensity of the wind. I think many people were surprised at the strength of the wind. It was nonstop and so gusty at times that you had to hold on to the spotting scopes and brace yourself to keep everything (and yourself) from blowing over. We laughed and moaned over the cool, windy weather and joked that we needed T-shirts or buttons that said "I survived Eagle Days 2007".
The kids that came to the event appeared to be middle to lower class and were also an eye-opening experience. Some of the students had threadbare jackets and wore no hats or gloves and ill-fitting clothes. And while standing up on the step stools to look through the spotting scopes, the kids would open their mouths in concentration, providing a revealing glimpse at their teeth. I was surprised at the number of kids that had broken teeth, yellowed teeth, gingivitis or severe plaque buildup.
The eagles were sparse but mostly reliable. We had one eagle standing on a sandbar and another eagle perched on a wood drift, each hoping to snag a passing fish. There was only one period of time when all of our eagles flew off, leaving us volunteers to find creative ways for the kids to get excited about standing on top of a bridge amidst the howling wind and cold temperatures with no eagles in sight. I was fortunate enough to find a Great Blue Heron standing at the edge of the river. One of the other volunteers focused on a a paddleboat and had the kids try to read the name of the boat through the spotting scope and yet another volunteer had the kids look for eagles with the spotting scope.
The event ended at lunchtime and the nature center fed us BBQ sammiches, pork and beans, coleslaw, mac n cheese and cookies. They also gave us a little backpack in appreciation for our hardwork.
My friend and co-volunteer took that picture of me on the bridge. She posted the picture on our volunteer website and typed the caption "Could be worse. I could be in Anarctica"
cold and windy.
Labels: Volunteer Work