The weather might not have been the best, but viewing opportunities were excellent over the weekend at the 22nd annual Eagle Watch at Round Butte Overlook Park.
"They're pairing up this time of year," said Erin Bennett, event coordinator and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department park ranger, noting that there were numerous eagle sightings during the two-day event, which attracted about 750 people from around the region.
Wilder and Marisol Escobar, who recently moved to Madras from Portland, brought their two children, Jacob, 5, and Leylanni, 4, to the family friendly event for the first time.
"It's great for the kids," said Wilder Escobar. "They're loving it."
Escobar, who was helping his son in one of the children's activities, almost immediately spotted first one, and then two golden eagles soaring overhead, which added to their enjoyment of the event.
"My wife and I agree that our favorite part of this experience was seeing the two eagles flying side by side," he said afterward.
If participants didn't get a chance to see an eagle nesting in the Deschutes Canyon, or flying overhead, they had the opportunity to see Aquila, a 35-year-old blind female golden eagle in the Sunriver Nature Center's tent.
Chris Emet, a naturalist with the center, said that Aquila, who was probably born in 1981, was hit by a semitruck in 1981 or 1982 in the Christmas Valley area, and taken to the center for rehabilitation. After her rehab, she was sent to the Raptors of the Rockies in Montana, which closed in 2008, when she was returned to Sunriver, where she has remained.
"In captivity, they can live to be over 50," said Emet, who also had a 2-year-old male great horned owl — Great Horned Owl No. 2 — on display for visitors.
"He was hit by a car, and as a result, has some issues with his left eye," said Emet, noting that the owl can't be returned to the wild, because "he has a problem with depth perception."
Mandi Oelrich, of Madras, took her four young sons to the event on Sunday — the third year she has attended. "I'm excited to see the dancers," she said.
Bennett has been pleased to see so many new participants at Eagle Watch. "We were able to reach out to the Latino community, which we haven't been able to in the past."
The event is also becoming more philanthropic, according to Bennett.
"The Oregon Eagle Foundation gets 100 percent of the auction and souvenir proceeds," she said.
On Saturday, David Vick, retired Madras High School science teacher, was awarded the 2017 Order of the Eagle Award, for outstanding contribution to work with raptors.
"People who come here not only get to learn about raptors, but they also get to support so many great organizations," said Bennett.
Winners of the art contest were also announced on Saturday. The winners included Skylar Jarine, of Redmond High School, judges' favorite; McKaylie Capps, Redmond High, best drawing; Javier Ruiz, Skyview Middle School, best drawing; Fernando Saldana, Madras Elementary, fourth grade, best drawing; Mady Dove, Culver Middle School, best water color; and Trenton (no last name given), Edwin Brown Learning Center, in Redmond, best mixed media.
Culver Middle School staff prepare and serve the hotdog lunch, with donations primarily from Portland General Electric and Earth2O.
"Culver Middle School gets all the food donations and that goes to their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program," she said. "They're currently working on fire restoration at the Cove Palisades State Park."
This year, the Begay family of Warm Springs, served up Indian frybread, in one of the tents donated by the Crooked River Grassland.
Mackie Begay, of Warm Springs, said that the proceeds from the sales would support Simnasho Youth Rodeo.
The event is sponsored by PGE, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Crooked River National Grassland.
Quartz Creek Drummers and Dancers provided entertainment on Sunday.