Roaring River State Park employees completed their annual bird count on Jan. 11. During tours of the park, staff members counted 500 fewer birds living around the trout stream this year.
"Roaring River is still a great place to view birds because of all of the natural land," said Tim Smith, park naturalist. "We have the free flowing water that doesn't freeze anytime during the year and offers birds unlimited access to fresh water.
"The park also offers open and closed wooded areas and grasslands, which covers most of the habitat types that native birds need," said Smith.
This year, park employees counted seven eagles, which is one less than the number counted in 2011. In the past, staff members have counted up to a dozen eagles in the park, and many believe there are at least a dozen more eagles living in Roaring River's wild area during the winter months.
In addition to the seven Bald Eagles, park staff members counted 352 birds from 27 different species in the park. Last year, 854 birds from 33 different species were counted.
"I really have no idea why the count was down so much this year," said Smith. "We counted the same area as in the past."
Park staff members collect annual bird count data by traveling from the park hatchery to Glade Shoot Ridge on Highway F. It takes several hours to complete the bird count.
The top five species counted in the park this year included: the Dark-eyed Junco; the American Crow; the Carolina Chickadee; Mallards; and Gold Finches.
Park staff members encourage visitors to be aware of the many different species of birds living in the park. Individuals interested in learning more about the birds can plan to attend a beginning birding class offered at the park each summer.
"We also have two more eagle viewing events this year," said Smith. "We had a good turnout for the first winter eagle viewing program held in December of 2011.
"Around 25 people came out for the program, and they saw three to five eagles," said Smith. "The weather was wonderful for the program."
Eagle viewing events will be held on Saturday, Jan. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 18. Both programs will be held at the Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center on Highway F in Roaring River beginning at 3 p.m.
Individuals planning to attend the eagle viewing program should wear appropriate winter clothing to the event.
"Bring cameras and binoculars, and plan on having a good time," said Smith.
Eagle viewing events are often held in the rain or snow. In the event of inclement weather, staff members will put up a canopy near the nature center to allow attendees to view eagles from a dry area.
The eagle viewing program usually lasts around one hour, but attendees are encouraged to view eagles for as long as they want. Nature center staff members will be available to answer questions during the viewing.
For more information on bird viewing in the park or the annual bird count, call the Roaring River State Park Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center at 847-3742.