Tornado-damaged park provides perfect perch for bald eagles: ‘It’s got all the things they like’

Tornado damage at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark has created a unique opportunity to watch bald eagles.

Orv and Willa, Carillon Park’s resident bald eagles, and less well-known “nomadic” eagles, are flocking to the park, according to Jim Weller, founder of the Eastwood Eagle Watchers.

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The Memorial Day tornadoes snapped off hundreds of tree tops, providing a stretch of perches north of the park’s main building between the Stillwater River and Jay Lake.

The broken tree branches and open spaces between the river and lake are attractive to eagles who navigate in with 6- to 7-foot-wide wing spans.

“They love to perch where they can see what’s going on,” Weller said. “It’s a high perch, it’s open visibility and it’s near the water. It’s got all the things they like.”

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Weller said Orv and Willa have recently been seen in the park almost daily. The behavior is typical for eagles keeping an eye on their territory which can span 13 miles in radius from their nest.

“As far as they are concerned, they own the rivers, the fish in the rivers and the trees around the river. They think they own it all within their territory.”

Weller and other eagle enthusiasts often see a handful of juvenile bald eagles but aren’t sure if any of them are Aero and Prairie, the offspring of Orv and Willa.

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“On any given day you may see four to five unknown eagles in the park,” Weller said.

Among the nomadic visitors are a 3-year-old eagle with distinctive coloration and another dubbed “Broken Feather” because of one odd feather sticking up.

Weller said the young eagles like to socialize and play a game he calls “fish flipping.” One eagle picks a dead fish out of the water and flips it into the air for another eagle to grab and do the same. “They make up their own games, they are just juveniles hanging out.”

There is a good chance for eagle watching at the park until mid-January, said Weller, who has also written a children’s book, “Orv and Willa Find A Home.”

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The multiple rivers flowing through Dayton are a draw for the eagles and provide more opportunities to see them.

“Each year we see more and more activity,” Weller said. “As those younger birds grow older they will be looking for a place to call home. I fully expect that in a few years in the upper stretch of the river we’ll have another nest pop up.”

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