Queen of Raptors Focus of French Azilum Event
Elizabeth has been living on or near an island in the Susquehanna River for nearly 10 years. Like many river residents, she built her home high above the waterline and was not adversely affected by months of light to moderate flooding. It is possible, however, that her home incurred some damage from recent windstorms, as one of Elizabeth’s most ardent fans believes that it appears to be a bit smaller this year. Nonetheless, Elizabeth appears to be preoccupied with raising her children while her current suitor helps to provide protection and an occasional meal.
Elizabeth is the bald eagle in-residence at the French Azilum Historic Site, and organizers of the second annual Bald Eagle Festival slated for noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, hope that visitors will be able to get a close-up look at the majestic winged predator, as well as other birds and wildlife in the area.
“It’s a good time of the year to hold the festival because we can see them,” said French Azilum site manager Marguerite Fox Picou of Elizabeth, her mate, and her treetop nest. “When the foliage becomes too full, the nest is hard to see.”
Bald eagles, once nearly extinct, but now making a successful comeback along the entire Susquehanna River, generally do not migrate very far during winter months, especially in the lower 48 states. Picou noted that Elizabeth was seen several times during the winter months, swooping across the water from her island abode to prey on mice, moles, and other vermin in the meadows that surround the old LaPorte House at the French Azilum site.
She generally raises from three to five chicks per year. Nobody knows yet how big her brood is this year, as they are still deep in the nest. Elizabeth, who was named last year, has had several mates over the past decade, noted Picou.
“Sadly, we know that she will not last forever,” she said of the female eagle, the average lifespan of which is about 20 years. “What’s unique about Elizabeth is that her nest is on an island and well protected.”
On May 28, Bradford County Conservation District education specialist Dan Rhodes will guide tours of the site, taking patrons from the LaPorte House to the river via a nature trail that abuts the river and returns through the grassy meadows to the pavilion where a telescope will be set up to provide guests with a close-up view of the nest, if not Elizabeth and her family.
Guests are invited to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the pavilion or elsewhere on the grounds. Cold soft drinks will be available for purchase. In addition to pointing out many other species of birds that call French Azilum home, Rhodes will bring preserved samples of other raptors common to the area.
The Bald Eagle Festival is the first big event of the season, which begins with the reopening of the site to the public on Friday, May 20. Gates to the historic site will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Mondays through Monday, Oct. 17. The cost of admission to the site is reduced for teens and waived for children under 12.
Additional activities at French Azilum this year will include outdoor movie nights on June 15, July 15, and Aug. 13. In the event of rain, the movies will be shown inside the Welles Cabin or the LaPorte House. Titles will be released closer to the date of each screening and can be found online at www.frenchazilum.com. Ticket costs will include snacks and a soft drink.
On Sunday, Aug. 7, history buffs are invited to retrace the steps of the French ex-patriots who arrived at French Azilum via the Susquehanna River and climbed its banks to behold their new home.
“We advise participants to wear sturdy shoes and sun protection and to bring a notepad and lightweight camera for this expedition,” Picou advised. “Life was not easy for anyone in 1793 and, as participants will see, everyone had to look out for him or herself.” Guests who participate in the activity will be rewarded with apples and bottled water as part of their adventure, she added.
Descendants of the original settlers will be among the special speakers on Saturday, Sept. 24, when the French Azilum staff celebrates the beginning of fall and honors the contributions of the individuals and families who settled the village before spreading out across the county and state. The special admission cost for Deep-Down French Azilum History Day will include a luncheon prepared by the French Asylum United Methodist Church women.
French Azilum is accessible via French Azilum Road off Route 187 between Wyalusing/Terry Township and Wysox at Durell. A bridge replacement project at Durell will require patrons coming from Wysox to take a 15-minute, marked detour. Route 187 is open, however, from Terry Township to French Azilum Road. For more information, readers may call Picou at 570-265-3376.