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Idaho Back Roads: Boise River Eagles

Bald eagles return to Boise
Posted at 3:36 PM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 18:30:29-05

As we go about our busy days in the City of Trees, many of us forget that running through this growing metropolis is a sanctuary for many of the creatures that make Idaho the wild place we love. And this time of year, a very special creature, the North American bald eagle, comes to the Treasure Valley to perch in the cottonwoods over the Boise River, often just yards away from the thousands of cars driving past.

For green belt enthusiasts like Corey Surber, it's a great reason to get out and take photos. "This time of year it's harder to motivate yourself to get out," said Surber. "But I saw that the eagles had come back to town, there was a pair that I was following last year, and so it brought me back down here to find them."

The cottonwood ecosystem and the flowing water that never freezes over provide the perfect place for eagles to forage for their favorite food; fish. During a typical year ten to thirteen eagles spend their winters on the Boise between Lucky Peak and Glenwood.

Avian ecologist Colleen Moulton, who has spent hours helping count the eagles during January says two years ago, the population quadrupled. "During that snowmaggedon or snowpocalypse of 2017 there were forty three birds counted, said Moulton. "That's the most since we started the survey in the mid eighties. Most of the water in the region was frozen and this was one of the only places for them to come and forage."

Moulton says the eagles are un-phased by nearby traffic, because they don't perceive cars and trucks as predators. And the eagles that winter here are generally undisturbed by people on foot. "If they're perched over the greenbelt feel free to walk under them and take pictures," said Moulton. "If they are sitting there they are comfortable with you being around them. If they are off the trail don't follow them. But in general, this time of year they don't seem to be too phased by people."

And many of those people are un-phased by the eagles, because they don't even realize the birds are there.

"I'll be out here taking pictures and it's not until somebody sees somebody with a camera pointing at something that they stop and kind of look to see 'what are they taking pictures of?' and then they're really excited,'" said Surber.

And as many photos as she has of eagles and other wildlife here, Surber also gets excited, especially when one of the majestic birds flies overhead. And sometimes she sees something that comes as a complete surprise, like a fearless squirrel moving in for a closer look. Those moments are why Surber says any time of year is a good time to explore this treasure of the treasure valley.

"Right in the middle of town we have kind of this nature sanctuary and i literally came from work, and fifteen minutes later you're along the river and you can see eagles, said Surber. There aren't a lot of places you can do that."