Cold weather means great bird-watching opportunities

CREATED Jan. 22, 2014 - UPDATED: Jan. 22, 2014

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KANSASVILLE - Not everyone is cursing this cold.  Photographers and bird lovers are bundling up to brave the elements to take advantage of a rare opportunity.

“They play in the air and it's just amazing,” Michael Matusinec tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka.  Matusinec uses his free time in retirement to take pictures of nature, eagles are one of his favorites.  "He's probably about 2 or 3 years old.. you can tell the juvenile because he doesn't have the white head," Michael explains as he shows Ritka one of the hundreds of eagle pictures he’s taken.

Pictures made much easier to capture in his lens this winter because of the bitterly cold temperatures.  “It is pretty probably the best in the last 5 years because when you have your ponds and rivers and lakes frozen, that drives em to the river,” Matusinec explains.

Since most of the fishing spots are frozen over, photographers don’t have to search as much for that spectacular shot, "The population has gotten so big and so popular for us photographers... small birds are okay, big birds are fun," Matusinec says.  Though he admits he has several pictures of just heads or tails, patience, experience and education have helped him perfect the science of the perfect nature shot.

Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Marty Johnson says it’s not just the cold that is making eagles more visible in Wisconsin.  Once on the Endangered Species list, our nation’s bird is making a come-back, "What we've seen recently is that there have been more eagle sightings in southeastern Wisconsin, we still haven't had a lot of birds nesting but we're starting to see that grow and birds are hanging around longer," Johnson explains.

Even when the temperatures are negative, the growth in population is a positive sign, and not just for bird lovers.  "It's been a long time since they've been around and so seeing birds pop up here and there is encouraging we know that the environment is getting cleaner," Johnson says.

Johnson gives a lot of credit to laws and programs protecting eagles as well as the ban of the herbicide DDT, which caused eagle egg shells to be weak and ultimately hurt the population growth, “It just shows that a lot of those laws that were passed do help to protect the animals and just encouraging that we can actually help out.”

Matusinec is thankful for the increase in the eagle population, enabling him to not only catch the Bald Eagle’s action on camera, but to experience nature himself, “There's nothing like it when it passes you 10 or 15 feet above your head or they're diving in the water or they're playing in the air.”  But he does have some advice for those wanting to witness their wings in flight, "Watch your feet, watch so you don't get frostbite, move around a little bit and dressing in layers is really the key.”