They flocked here for Bald Eagle Day; the viewers, that is. The eagles were here too, scrounging around the Great Salt Lake's snow and mud flats, but they were outnumbered by watchers at a ratio of at least 100-to-1.
Saturday was a pretty great day for eagle watching, with warm temperatures and almost no breeze. A long line of cars parked along the frontage road east of the resort, and dozens of viewers at a time peered through telescopes, binoculars and long telephoto lenses.Sure enough, a mile or two out toward the lake, hulking on brush so they showed up boldly against the light haze, were bald eagles and golden eagles among thousands of gulls and ducks. Their size was amazing, seen through a pair of binoculars. At least nine of the great birds were visible.This was only one of six sites that experts from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources staffed throughout the state.
"There's one out there on the ground. He's eating something," said Leonard Bowne, a Bennion resident. "He's working it over, picking it. He's probably caught a sea gull, 'cause that's what they do."
As Bowne pointed out, the eagle was right in the middle of thousands of gulls roosting on the flats.
Jenny Rosqvist, 9, squinted through a telescope that she braced on the shoulder of her father, Bill Rosqvist, of Bountiful, who was bent over to serve as a tripod. "I think it was like really cool, because I've never seen eagles before," she said.
Her dad had seen baldies before from a river near Jackson, Wyo. He agreed it was a thrill to see them now. "They're a real majestic bird," he said.
"Well, I've seen three eagles out here," said Betty Tippetts, of Orem. "One looks like he's standing in the water, and the others look like they're roosting on the branches." She thought a moment, and decided the first bird was probably perched on brush, "but he's down there close to water. I don't think they do that much."
"They were turning their heads," said an excited Shannon Madsen, 9, of Salt Lake City.
John Ibach, a ranger for Great Salt Lake State Park, said sponsors counted more than 350 cars at the event. Based on that, he estimated 1,000 Utahns had come throughout the day.
According to Bob Walters, non-game biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife resources, the daylong event started on a hazy note. Until 10 a.m., the fog was so dense he couldn't see the inlet of the C-7 canal, where the group gathered. After that, he said, the sun burned away the fog.