Best Place to Bird-Watch - 2004
Riverland Environmental Demonstration Area
On its Web site (www.stlaudubon.org), the St. Louis Audubon Society lists fifteen places in the Metro area that are excellent for bird-watching. Among them are the obvious (Forest Park's Kennedy Forest, the Powder Valley Nature Center) and the unexpected (Tower Grove Park -- who knew it was a high-quality migrant trap?). But even these dedicated fowlers admit that of the fifteen locations, the Riverland Environmental Demonstration Area, along the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois, stands out. These wetlands are home to dozens of varieties of waterfowl and shore birds, as well as many seasonal visitors. But it is during the winter months that this site earns its wings, so to speak; when the Mississippi freezes, bald eagles prowl the banks below the Melvin Price lock and dam, putting on a spectacular show for the crowds gathered at the Alton Visitors Center (200 Piasa Street, at Broadway just off Riverfront Drive). There's nothing more exhilarating than watching our national symbol stoop over the water, hooking fish out of the drink with deft stabs of its mighty talons. During prime viewing weekends, experts from the World Bird Sanctuary are on hand to provide educational background and give close-up views of these majestic birds with their "demonstration eagles." Yep, for drama and action, this is the place serious birders (wait for it!) flock to.