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Originally published January 10, 2013 at 11:24 AM | Page modified January 10, 2013 at 2:05 PM

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Skagit Eagle Festival celebrates America’s big bird

Viewing stations and special events spotlight bald eagles gathered on the upper Skagit River to feed on spawning salmon.

Seattle Times staff

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Wintering bald eagles and the quiet beauty of the North Cascades are the main events at the Skagit Eagle Festival in the Skagit County communities of Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount through January.

The eagles come to the upper Skagit River each winter to feast on one of their favorite foods, salmon, abundant this time of year as the fish swim upriver to spawn.

“Don’t let bad weather discourage you. Eagles feed more and are on the ground in the rain. If it’s sunny and clear, they’re flying high up in the air,” advises Cheryl Werda of the Concrete Chamber of Commerce. Telescopes and binoculars are the best way to see eagles; unless you’re an experienced birder, they’re usually hard to spot without assistance. The Chamber, one of several information centers for the festival, provides maps, brochures, directions and coffee to visitors.

Howard Miller Steelhead Park is another good place to start, with Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center displays, information, guided walks and speakers Saturdays and Sundays. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest hosts a viewing station at the park with volunteers, spotting scopes, binoculars and information Saturdays and Sundays. The Forest Service also has viewing stations at Sutter Creek Rest Area and Marblemount Fish Hatchery weekends through January. Guided river-raft tours are another popular option for eagle-viewing and operate daily, some through mid-February.

Festival events include Native American dancing, drumming, vendors and speakers 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday at Marblemount Community Hall and guided and self-guided tours of Marblemount Hatchery 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through month’s end. The community of Concrete hosts events including a presentation by Sarvey Wildlife Care Center Saturday, and a class on photographing wildlife and a 5K/10K Fun Run/Walk Jan. 19.

Other winter attractions for wildlife watchers include wintering trumpeter swans and snow geese at Fir Island, near Conway, Skagit County. Snowy owls have been spotted around the region, including in Seattle, and another unusual avian visitor, a brown pelican, has been spotted several times in West Seattle the last few weeks, monitored by the Seattle Times community news partner West Seattle Blog.

The details

Concrete Chamber and Visitor Information Center: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 45770 Main St., Concrete; 360-853-8784 or concrete-wa.com.

Skagit Bald Eagle Interpretive Center: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through January, Howard Miller Steelhead Park, 52809 Rockport Park Road, State Route 20, Rockport; free, donations appreciated.

More information: 360-853-7626 or www.skagiteagle.org or

www.skagiteaglefestival.com

Forest Service viewing stations: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through January, at three locations along Highway 20: Sutter Creek Rest Area, Milepost 20, Concrete; Howard Miller Steelhead Park, 52809 Rockport Park Road, Rockport; Marblemount Fish Hatchery, 8319 Fish Hatchery Road, Marblemount, free.

More information: 360-856-5700 or www.fs.usda.gov/mbs.

Madeline McKenzie: mmckenzie@seattletimes.com

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