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Rain, wind and snow cause low turnout for two-day Eagle Watch event at Round Butte Overlook Park.

HOLLY M. GILL - Norrin Heath, who is almost 2, tries out binoculars at Eagle Watch Sunday, at Round Butte Overlook Park. Behind him are Aiyana Ohngren, 4, and Brody Ohngren, 9.Last weekend's rain, wind and snow put a damper on attendance at the 23rd annual Eagle Watch, but didn't stop an estimated 300 people from enjoying the festivities.

"Eagle Watch is an opportunity to remind us of these beautiful birds of prey and why protecting them is a necessity not a choice," said Erin Bennett, interpretive park ranger for the Cove Palisades State Park.

Bennett estimated that about 200 people braved the weather on Saturday, Feb. 24, and another 100 or so on Sunday, Feb. 24. On Saturday, visitors saw a couple pairs of bald and golden eagles, immature eagles, prairie falcons, and both a kestrel and a peregrine falcon. Sunday's wind seemed to keep the eagles close to their nests.

HOLLY M. GILL - Sherrie Reynolds, of Redmond, shows her son, Jacob  Serrano, nearly 7, where to focus his binoculars to see an eagle nest.
"For many years this event has been an educational and fun event for families of all ages to enjoy," she said. "Between building a bird house, being part of a Native American Eel dance, sitting in a life sized eagle's nest, meeting JR Beaver and Smokey Bear, seeing Aquila, a golden eagle up close or a wild bald eagle soar overhead, it was a memorable weekend for those who braved the winter weather."

Ginger Naramore, of Portland, volunteered at the event for the first time. "I've been to Central Oregon, but never stopped to look; it has a different look than Portland," she said on Sunday. "I like it here. I saw a red-tailed hawk this morning."

BILL VOLLMER FOR THE MADRAS PIONEER - Paul Patton, of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, congratulates Thad Fitzhenry, wildlife biologist for Portland General Electric, the winner of the Order of the Eagle plaque for 2018.The Serrano family, of Redmond, were also first-time visitors. "We've lived here for about six years, and never made it up," said Sherrie Reynolds, accompanied by her husband, Alex Serrano, and son, Jacob, 6 1/2. "We thought the weather was going to be awful, but it turned out nice."

On Saturday, Thad Fitzhenry, a wildlife biologist for Portland General Electric, was awarded the Order of the Eagle plaque for his work with raptors, and Stan Edwards, of Redmond, a volunteer for OPRD, was recognized for more than 4,000 volunteer hours.

Saturday was also the final public appearance for Aquila, a 35-year-old blind, female golden eagle, who makes her home at the Sunriver Nature Center.

"She's very healthy, but they don't need to travel at that age," said Kody Osborne, a biologist for the Sunriver Nature Center. However, Great Horned Owl No. 2 will return next year.

This year, for the first time, the Madras High School JROTC served the free hotdog lunches to visitors, collecting $219 in donations over the two days, according to retired Capt. Kip Briggs, Madras High School JROTC instructor.

HOLLY M. GILL - Fourteen cadets from the Madras High School JROTC program served a free lunch to visitors at Eagle Watch."A total of 14 student cadets participated," he said. "The kids really enjoyed the event. As a matter of fact, I think it ranked in the top three events we have done thus far."

Briggs hopes to return with the cadets next year. "It isn't about the money for us; it is about being out in the community and building cohesion within our program."

On Sunday afternoon, just before it began to rain, the Quartz Creek Drummers and Dancers, of Warm Springs, performed a variety of traditional, Native American songs and dances. Jermayne Tuckta narrated and told stories.

The Chiou family, of Bend, arrived in time for the free lunch, participated in children's activities in the yurts, where they sheltered while watching and listening to the Quartz Creek group.

HOLLY M. GILL - Julian Stwyer, left, and his youngest brother, Asher, 3, perform the boys' Fancy Dance on Sunday at Eagle Watch, much to the delight of visitors. The boys' brother, JoeRay, 6, also took part in the dance, at members of the Quartz Creek Drummers and Dancers.Emily Chiou enjoyed the entire event. "It's great. I like the dancing and the stories," she said, adding that they didn't see any eagles, but they did see a hawk.

Sunday, OPRD announced the results of the fourth annual Eagle Watch Art Contest, judged by Jill Nishball, of OPRD, Thad Fitzhenry, and Stacy Lacey, of the U.S. Forest Service.

First-place winners included: Jeyshon Cruz, Culver Elementary; Emily Bourdage, Black Butte Elementary School; Abby Powers, home-schooled, Bend; Culver Middle School, Lauren Berkey, Tegan Macy and Uriel Mejia; Culver High School, Dusty Thorton; Redmond High School, Madison Dove and Sara Waller; Mountain View High School, and Grace Weible.

In the new category of Best in Show, Redmond High School students Katie Le, Katy Olivera and McKaylie Capps won for a golden eagle pastel, Western screech owl pastel, and eagle drawing, respectively.

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