Back for its 18th year, Mass Audubon’s annual Merrimack River Eagle Festival will celebrate the return of the bald eagle to the area with a day of activities, education, and outings from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on February 17. Indoor and outdoor events are scheduled throughout the day, allowing visitors to learn about the majestic bird and its habitat, and hopefully catch a glimpse of a bald eagle in the wild.
Family activities, arts and crafts, and information on bald eagles and other raptors will be available throughout the day at the Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport. More family activities will be ongoing at the nearby Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
Families with children may want to check out the Everything Eagle classes, outdoor offerings that take place at likely eagle-viewing sites and include activities to educate and keep you warm. Older kids can register for Bald Eagle Behaviors for Teens and use binoculars and field scopes to spot eagles in flight, observe their behaviors, and learn how to identify their different stages of life.
For the most in-depth eagle experience, book the Golden Eagle package, a semi-private van tour that visits multiple eagle-viewing hotspots guided by trained naturalists. Mass Audubon expects these packages to sell out and encourages early booking.
Bald eagles disappeared from Massachusetts in the early 1900s, due to intentional hunting, habitat loss, and the widespread use of the insecticide DDT, which disrupted their ability to breed. Starting in 1982, young eagles were relocated from Canada to Massachusetts and began breeding here. By 2012, the population was strong enough to remove bald eagles from the state endangered species list. Today, there ae a reported 80 pairs of the eagles in the state, according to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
The full festival schedule is available online.