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Arts and Amusements December 20, 2002  RSS feed

Shepaug Bald Eagle Observation Area

From December 28 through March 19, Shepaug Bald Eagle Observation Area, located near the Shepaug Hydroelectric Station on the Housatonic River in Southbury, will be open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; the observation area will be closed on New Year's Day. Admission is free, and reservations are required.

The Shepaug Hydroelectric Facility is managed and operated by Northeast Generation Services Company (NGS) and owned by Northeast Generation Company, both unregulated subsidiaries of Berlin-based Northeast Utilities (NU). The bald eagle program is also managed by NGS, with volunteers from the Connecticut Audubon Society, under the guidance of the CT Department of Environmental Protection. The 2002-03 season marks the 18th consecutive year that residents have been invited to view the eagles in their natural habitat. Since the observation area opened in 1985, more than 97,000 people have visited the site to view the wintering birds.

The Shepaug Dam area is especially appealing to eagles when the station is in operation in winter months, because the turbulence below the dam keeps the water from freezing over and the fish provide a reliable food source for the hungry eagles. On average, about nine eagles feed at the dam daily; however, as with any wildlife observation, there is no guarantee eagles will be visible at any given time.

The viewing area is located about 1,000 feet away from the dam, which is enough distance to give the public the opportunity to experience the eagles without disrupting their habitat. "Bald eagles are easily upset, and any disturbances during winter feeding can pose threatening situations for them. We're delighted that we can protect these magnificent birds and at the same time provide a first-rate viewing opportunity for the public," said Gary K. Smolen, NGS engineer and coordinator of the eagle observation program.

Reservations for individuals and groups can be made by calling 800-368-8954, Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (excluding holidays). In order to serve as many visitors as possible, only one reservation is permitted per family per viewing season. The shelter area is unheated, and visitors are advised to dress warmly. Given the limited number of viewing scopes available, visitors should also bring binoculars if possible.