The 15th annual Eagles and Agriculture, Carson Valley’s celebration of ranching and wildlife, is set to take flight.
The event offers a behind-the-scenes peek into ranching in the 21st century and opportunities for nature lovers to get up close to eagles, owls, raptors and other wildlife.
“The thing that makes this event different than any other major birding event is this one occurs on private land,” said Bill Chernock, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce. “This one really is designed to bring home the importance of keeping private land in the agricultural business.”
The event is set for Jan. 26-29, about three weeks earlier than in years past. The earlier date is set to coincide with peak viewing opportunities, which have come earlier in the past several years, Chernock said.
This year’s eagle count seems about average, said wildlife photographer John Humphrey, organizer of the event’s opening reception, photography exhibit and photography workshops.
“It’s still early,” he said. “We start getting them in numbers in January. We get our maximum numbers in late January, then they start fizzling off.”
Humphrey said he serves as a scout, tracking eagles throughout the valley so tours know which ranches to visit.
“I find where the eagles are and let our tours know where to go,” he said. “(The event) shows people the wildlife we have here in the valley. It’s a great event to showcase local photographers and the wildlife.”
The idea for Eagles and Agriculture came about as a way to show the contribution local ranches make to preserving wildlife habitat while also satiating people’s interest in viewing raptors.
Eagles hang around livestock during calving season for the afterbirth, an easy source of food, Chernock said.
“The afterbirth is like a nutrient-filled buffet,” he said.
Drivers would notice the birds and stop in roads to watch them, sometimes trespassing onto property to get better views, Chernock said.
“Eagles go where the food is,” Humphrey said. “They come here for that and then they move on. We can have 30, 40, 50 eagles here at one time because of calving season.”
Thus, Eagles and Agriculture was launched as a one-day event to allow people opportunities to view the birds. It has grown to feature events including birding and ranch tours, photography workshops and guided hikes spread over four days.
“The heart and soul of the event is the ranch and eagle tour,” Chernock said. “That’s the one that really gives you the chance to meet some of the ranchers.” The event has a capacity of about 210 participants.
Participating ranches this year include Park Cattle; Dangberg Home; Settelmeyer; River Fork; Uhart; and Mack.
To help participants get closer to birds, several falconers will bring live birds to Thursday night’s opening reception and photography exhibit.
“People just like seeing the birds up close, so we’re making that an opportunity,” Chernock said. “Our bottom line as the Chamber of Commerce is to expose people to the Carson Valley. This is a terrific way to do it.”
After expenses the event raises about $3,000 to $4,000 annually, Chernock said. The money is spent on various projects such as restoration of woodland duck habitat, constructing raptor roosts along Highway 395 and expansion of a traveling bird exhibit.
Eagles and Agriculture is a joint project between the chamber, the Lahontan Audubon Society, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Western Nevada Resource Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. For reservations and more information, visit carsonvalleynv.org or call 782-8144.