Insiders’ guide to finding and viewing bald eagles in Dayton

Orv and Willa are the Miami Valley’s most famous raptors, but they’re not the only show in town.

With the trees to blooming and the warm weather, this is a perfect time to catch a glimpse at these majestic birds. And the multiple rivers flowing through the region deliver tasty dinners to the bald eagles. Those factors combine to create a timely opportunity this time of year to find and view these amazing birds.

There’s a lot of eagle activity currently at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, according to Jim Weller, founder of the Eastwood Eagle Watchers.

“Those broken-off branches from when the tornadoes came through a couple years ago provide a lot of wonderful perches where the eagles like to sit,” Weller said.

Nomadic eagles — as well as Orv and Willa, Carillon Historical Park’s resident bald eagles — can sometimes be seen there overlooking the Stillwater River.

Keep an eye out along the river corridor through downtown, too. Eagles have been known to swoop past the windshields of automobiles on the Stewart and Washington Street bridges.

They have also been spotted in the trees along the river near Temple Israel on Riverside Drive, and further north as well, toward Island MetroPark.

“That’s a great place, especially in the wintertime,” Weller said. “The Stillwater River dumps in by Helena Street and the Mad River dumps in just south of there so that keeps the water opened up from ice, and consequently, the eagles like to fish in the open water there.”

Credit: Jim Weller

Credit: Jim Weller

But the best place to watch bald eagles is at Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., where Orv and Willa have nested since 2018. There is an admission fee to enter the park.

Almost daily, photographers set up along Patterson Blvd. near the park to photograph the pair as they fly from their nest to the Great Miami River for food.

Be prepared to get up early. Eagles are most active during the hour before and after sunrise.

“The best time is always early in the morning when the eagles wake up and head out to find breakfast,” Weller said.

Orv and Willa have been sticking closer to home lately because they are on the cusp of nesting, Weller said. Egg-laying typically happens within a week of Valentine’s Day in this part of country.

This will be the fourth year the lifelong mates, who are 8-years-old, have nested in a sycamore tree above Wright Hall inside the park.

Bald eagles have made a dramatic comeback in Ohio. Last year, a nest census indicated the state had 712 active eagle nests, a 153% increase from the previous census completed in 2012, when 281 nests were recorded, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Eagles can breed until they are 25 years old, with an average of two offspring a year, Weller said.

“There is a possibility for an exponential explosion of numbers” of eagles in Ohio, he said.

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