By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
STELLA, Mo. —
Bird enthusiasts and nature lovers descended Saturday on Stella to view bald eagles during the fourth annual Festival of Eagles.
Effectively doubling the town’s population of 158, the event is put on by the town’s residents, the Missouri Master Naturalists and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Area resident Chuck Dalbom, who has been instrumental in encouraging the festival’s growth, said the idea to make an event for the annual migration came from his wife, Doris.
“We wanted the town to really get behind this,” Dalbom said. “We are really lucky to be where we are and to have something so beautiful literally in our backyards.”
Stella benefits from having several small streams nearby and a relatively undisturbed high tree line that attracts bald eagles to the area. The Missouri Master Naturalist group uses the festival to draw attention to the bald eagle population in Missouri, said Val Frankoski. Frankoski is a member of the group and has been on hand for all four festivals.
“There are over 150 nest sites throughout Missouri, and several of those are here,” Frankoski said. “On a warm day like today, people are in for a treat.”
Most of the festival-goers lined Route A, south of Stella, near an open field that was surrounded by a high tree line. People wanting to catch a glimpse manned cameras, telescopes and binoculars. Frankoski said that she hopes that by seeing one up close, some myths about the bird could be dispelled.
“Many people have this misconception that the bird is dangerous to people and pets,” Frankoski said. “We like to take the time to educate people as they come through — to let them know how they can help keep these birds in the area and how they really live.”
Kevin Badgley, a communication outreach specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, helped spot eagles with the crowd during the afternoon. He said that it was important for people to realize the positive and negative impact that humans can have on local wildlife.
“This is an American symbol living here in Missouri because they have access to clean waterways,” Badgley said. “Despite being pushed toward extinction during the ’70s, the actions of the people brought them back. Those actions will keep them alive.”
You can still look for eagles through early February perched in large trees along the water’s edge, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. View early in the morning to see the eagles flying and fishing.