For two decades, the Lake Fork Chamber has lured birding enthusiasts out to East Texas on a crisp winter Saturday with bus and boat tours focused on glimpsing the majesty of eagles in flight during their nesting season. This year, the 22nd Annual Eagle Fest is upping the ante by partnering with the Tawakoni Regional Chamber and the Rains Chamber to expand the event’s offerings and reach.
The 2017 Eagle Fest tours take place both Saturday and Sunday, with a Lake Fork route January 28 and a Lake Tawakoni route January 29.
Rains High School in Emory serves as the event hub, hosting a slew of activities and music plus Native American dance performances, bird and reptile shows, kids crafts and a photography contest. Several celebrity presentations are scheduled as well, with appearances by Mary O. Parker, author of Explore Texas Naturally, and Sunday’s headliner David Klevens — a colleague of Jack Hanna’s who bears the nickname "Critterman."
Morning boat tours start early, with 6:30, 8:15 and 9:30 a.m. launch times, while bus tours leave at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Noting that Wood County alone has 72 lakes, event spokesperson Tracy Hatton says, "There are a lot of places for eagles to hide in our area." Fortunately, she explains, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducts an annual eagle count in the area, sending out experts who track eagle nesting areas and share their data with the Eagle Fest organizers.
"Eagles return to their nests each year," Hatton adds, "so we have a pretty good idea where to find them and our tours give people a really good chance of spying some eagles. Some of the lakes are on private property, so people wouldn’t have a chance to go there on their own, which makes the bus tours a great opportunity. Plus, there are a lot of other birds like osprey, egrets, cranes and migratory ducks around.
"For the boat tours, they leave early and you have to bundle up because it’s pretty cold out on the lake," she adds. "But it’s worth it. The views are wonderful."
For Eagle Fest information and tickets, call the Lake Fork Area Chamber of Commerce at 800.846.1859 (ext 803) or visit the RainsEagleFest facebook page.