Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of (other) Eagles

Cold weather may not be a motorcyclist’s friend. It may keep some Heartland members from riding their motorcycles, but it does not keep us from getting together for other activities. One of the activities we considered doing during non-riding weather was eagle watching along the Great River Road in southwestern Illinois. (Cold weather, especially with ice on the river, is the best time to see eagles.) Every Saturday, during the month of January, there is an eagle ‘meet and greet’ at the Alton or Grafton Visitors Centers, where one can see a live bald eagle up close and personal.

Marie researched this activity, shared the info with us, and planned our meet-up. Six of us met at the Alton Visitors Center on Saturday, 14 Jan 2023, transferred to one vehicle (Jenean’s) so that Marie could act as our “unpaid” eagle-watching tour guide, and then we headed to the Grafton Visitors Center. From 10am to 2pm there is a live bald eagle and the bird’s handler. You can learn about the American bald eagle, ask questions, and take pictures.

Featured at the Grafton location was Liberty, a 32-year-old, male bald eagle. His handler shared info about him and eagles, in general.

Liberty and his handler. Photo credit: from the website

We learned Liberty was originally from St. Augustine, FL, and was injured when he was hit by a car. He was treated for his broken collar bone and then released. Unfortunately, two weeks later he was hit by a car again. This time he suffered neurological damage and was sent to live at the World Bird Sanctuary in Fenton/Valley Park, MO. He has been there since the age of 2. His handler, pictured above, has been with Liberty for 19 years.

As a “southern” bald eagle, Liberty is smaller than those who live more north. He weighs 8 pounds, and has a 6 foot wingspan. We learned that eagles are solitary and mate for life. They eat mostly fish. Female birds of prey are larger and heavier than the males, and have a 7’ to 8’ wingspan.

If you want more info regarding eagles, you may start here:

There were six of us who participated in this activity—Heartland members Marie, Jenean, Glow, and I, and my daughter Adrienne and her son Paul. We sat in on Liberty’s presentation, walked through the Grafton Museum, tried to see the screeching owl that we were told was nearby in a tree (it chose to duck inside as we approached, so we were unsuccessful), took pictures, then headed to Hardin, IL. Marie directed us to an eagle’s nest she had seen earlier this month. Along the way, we saw trumpet swans, hawks, but no other eagles, besides Liberty.

Lunch was at Mel’s Illinois Riverdock Restaurant. They are known for their BIG portions of food and home-made pies. I ordered my favorite pie, Bumbleberry Pie, before my entrée so that I was assured I’d have a slice for dessert. Others did the same thing. If you are ever in the area, I suggest you go by and check it out and be sure to get something to eat. Their website is,

The only “other” eagle we saw–this eagle statue in front of Mel’s Illinois Riverdock Restaurant in Hardin, Illinois.

As we were about to leave the restaurant, two gentlemen were arriving. One stopped to talk to us, while the other returned to his vehicle. Once he returned, we found out he had a wooden toy he built that he wanted to present to Paul, my 5-year-old grandson.

I didn’t get a picture when the wooden toy was first received, so got photos once we got home.

I took many photos/videos, but no one thought to take a group photo of us. Although we were not riding, I believe we all had a great time together.

By Alice

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