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Bird watching opportunities abound at Lake Shelbyville

December 31, 2010 at 01:04 PM

LAKE SHELBYVILLE - Winter is for the birds! Lake Shelbyville offers great opportunities to watch several different species of birds that migrate through this time of year.  There are many places at Lake Shelbyville to enjoy bird watching including, the main dam basin located between Dam West and Dam East Recreation Areas, General Dacey Trail located in Dam West Recreation Area, Okaw Bluff Wildlife Viewing Area and Camp Camfield Ecological Study Area south of Sullivan, Wilborn Creek Recreation Area, and Kaskaskia and West Okaw Wildlife Management Areas on the northern end of the
lake near Bethany and Sullivan.  An excellent place to view migrating birds within the main dam basin that is easy to access is at the new Lake Shelbyville Visitor Center that offers a wrap around walkway and two observation decks.  After spending some time outside enjoying what Lake Shelbyville has to offer come inside the visitor center to warm up by the main lobby fireplace.

Bald Eagles, whooping cranes, mergansers, canvasback, and other waterfowl have all been seen at Lake Shelbyville. Bald Eagles are being seen year round at Lake Shelbyville.  Many are seen this time of year at Lake Shelbyville than any other time of the year.  They migrate south to lakes and rivers for food, especially fish.  Adult Bald Eagles are unmistakable, with a seven foot wing span.  Their brilliant white heads and white tails contrast with their black wings and bodies.  You could possibly also see other Bald Eagles with dark heads and tails, those are the immature birds.  A Bald Eagle
does not their adult plumage, with characteristic white head and tail, until age 4 or 5.  If you don’t immediately see any eagles, study the tops of the tallest trees on both sides of the lake, in coves, and over the open water near the main dam.

Whooping Cranes are the tallest and only one of two cranes species found in North America. It is a rare sight to see them at Lake Shelbyville but they have been seen recently near the Lithia Springs Recreation Area. The Whooping Cranes spends its summers in Northwest Territories of Canada. During the fall season, they migrate 2,500 miles south to Texas where they spend the winter and early spring.

Canvasback is a large North American duck that feeds mainly by diving, sometimes dabbling, mostly eating seeds, bud, and wild celery.  They breed from Alaska south and east to Nebraska and Minnesota and spend winters in coastal regions and south to the Gulf coast and in the Mississippi Valley. Canvasbacks and other waterfowl can be seen in several areas around Lake
Shelbyville including the main dam basin, Okaw Bluff Wildlife Viewing Area, and Kaskaskia and West Okaw Wildlife Management Areas.

While enjoying Lake Shelbyville bird watching be sure to dress warm and always let a friend or family member know your plans. Bird watching has become increasingly popular in the United States over the past decade and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would like to encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to view the birds that are migrating this time of year. Bring your binoculars, a friend, and get out and enjoy Lake Shelbyville.

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