Eagle Viewing Trip to Reelfoot Lake, TN

Last Friday, I drove to Reelfoot Lake State Park in the northwest corner of Tennessee. It was an 80 mile drive from home and took about an hour and forty-five minutes. The lake was frozen all around the edges and one of the park rangers said that a few days earlier, about two-thirds of it had been frozen over.

Reelfoot Lake, TN - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Reelfoot Lake, TN – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Reelfoot was created in 1811-1812 by a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid fault which caused the land to sag. This actually caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short time as the subsided areas filled with water to form a 15,000 acre lake. It is a shallow swampy lake with lots of submerged tree stumps. Good for fishing but not water skiing.

Reelfoot Lake, TN - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Reelfoot Lake, TN – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

I took a walk around the Boardwalk trail behind the Visitor Center which led out to the edge of the lake. Lots of Cypress trees surround the lake’s shores.

Reelfoot Lake, TN - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Reelfoot Lake, TN – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

At 10am, I got on the state park’s Bald Eagle viewing bus tour (only $5 for 2 hours). We first went to the spillway area on the south end of the lake where the eagles apparently like to hang out. Again, you could see lots of ice around the border of the lake. I could also see what looked like more ice farther out but our bus guide pointed out that what looked like ice was really thousands of Snow Geese on the lake.

Snow Geese on Reelfoot Lake - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Snow Geese on Reelfoot Lake – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

At the spillway we saw saw an adult and a juvenile Bald Eagle (later joined by others) eating a Snow Goose on the ice. Maybe that is what startled the Snow Geese flock into what happened next.

Bald Eagles at Reelfoot Lake, TN - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Bald Eagles at Reelfoot Lake, TN – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

While we were watching the eagles, the entire flock of Snow Geese took flight with lots of boisterous honking and flapping of wings. I got a short (and pretty amateurish) video of it below.

Next, we drove to Tiptonville and up Highway 78 to the north. When we got on the back roads we started spotting more and more eagles, some closer and some farther away. They were mostly perched in trees but some were in flight. We also saw several eagle nests, the largest of which, the guide said, was about seven feet across and probably weighted a ton or more. Eventually we got on the Mississippi River Levee Road and crossed over into Kentucky. We spotted the adult I photographed below in a tree just next to the road. It was the closest I got to a wild eagle on the trip.

Bald Eagle at Reelfoot Lake, TN - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Bald Eagle at Reelfoot Lake, TN – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

In addition to Bald Eagles and Snow Geese, we saw several Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and American Kestrels. (On my way back home, I saw two more American Kestrels perched on power lines beside the road.) At our urging, the driver had taken us on a longer than usual tour and it was around 12:45pm by the time we got back to the Visitor Center. The picture below was the last eagle we saw on the tour. We had counted 80 in total, including many that were just spots in the distant trees a mile away.

Bald Eagle at Reelfoot Lake, TN - Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Bald Eagle at Reelfoot Lake, TN – Copyright (c) 2015 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Category(s): Other Nature Studies

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