IMAGE: BALD EAGLES
Douglas C. Pizac  /  AP
Bald eagles take in the sunset at Utah's Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area.
updated 2/14/2006 10:03:14 AM ET 2006-02-14T15:03:14

The bitter wind and cold were tough on people, but the dozens of bald eagles at Farmington Bay looked like they were enjoying a balmy winter's day in Utah.

For the 17th year, birders came to the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area to watch the state's over-wintering eagles perch, eat, and soar through the clear morning skies.

"This is just fascinating. I've lived in Utah for 17 years, and I had no idea eagles gathered here," said William Wright, of Ogden. He and his wife, Gale, joined their seventh-grade granddaughter, Alix Wilson, on her weekend field trip from Syracuse Junior High.

Wildlife officials say the park's annual Eagle Day, held Saturday, helps raise awareness about the birds of prey and the park's mission.

Utah is prime viewing state
Eagles winter in Utah from November to March, eating carp and other fish in the bay, on the Great Salt Lake. The population peaks during mid-February, and the birds begin to return in March to their nests as far north as Canada for the summer.

Utah is ranked among the top five bald eagle viewing areas in the lower 48 states, according to Phil Douglass, DWR's northern region conservation outreach manager.

The division is halfway to its goal for moving its learning center from the main entrance to an area north of Goose Egg Island, with a $150,000 grant from EnergySolutions Environmental Foundation. A Shoshone ground blessing by Leland Pubigee, a member of the northwestern band of Shoshone, marked the occasion.

"As Indian people, we are happy to see you people preserving and taking care of mother nature and educating yourselves about it," said Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, a member of the same Shoshone band.

$8 million nature center planned
Bob Hasenyager, DWR northern region supervisor, said he hopes to get the rest of the money for the learning center from the state Legislature. He also wants to construct a separate nature center north of Goose Egg Island. It would cost about $8 million and could take about four years to complete.

For now, the more than 200,000 visitors who come to Farmington Bay annually will have to stay on the main dirt road to view wildlife.

That's fine with Carrie Roberts. She lives in Farmington, but had never realized that eagles wintered so close to her home. She plans to return to the park when fewer people are there.

"I'll definitely come back," she said. "This is just awesome."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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