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Mooseheart’s eaglets return to the wild

Dawn Keller with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitatireleases one two eagles thhad fallen out tree Mooseheart's campus earlier this year. Starved

Dawn Keller with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation releases one of two eagles that had fallen out of a tree on Mooseheart's campus earlier this year. Starved Rock will be the eagles new home starting on Saturday, November 12, 2011. | Brian Powers~Sun-Ti

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Updated: December 14, 2011 8:37AM

Staring toward a sandy shore at Starved Rock State Park Saturday morning, dozens of spectators braced themselves for magic to happen — but there would be no card tricks involved.

Instead of a magic wand, employees of the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation center used love, compassion and care to nurse two baby eaglets back to health.

Fox Valley residents fell in love with the feathered siblings over Memorial Day weekend this year when a storm ripped apart the eagles’ nest on the campus of Mooseheart, a home for children run by the Loyal Order of Moose near Batavia.

Surviving an 85-foot drop, the birds were found alive in their nest at the base of the tree. A manmade nest was erected in a nearby tree for the family of eagles, but proved to be an unsuccessful tactic. The eaglet’s parents were neglecting to feed to siblings, and they were starving as a result.

After being found hungry and dehydrated, the birds ended up at Flint Creek in Barrington, where they would be nursed back to life.

It took many long months of rehabilitation, but on Saturday the eaglets finally were ready for flight — and they had an audience anxiously waiting for that to happen.

“You’ll be able to see something amazing,” said Mark Miller, director of the Department of Natural Resources.“The pair will be let out into their new home shortly.”

The birds will have good company throughout the winter, as Starved Rock is a thriving home to many birds of prey, Miller said.

“Starved Rock has a big population of winter eagles,” he said. “It will make their first winter a lot easier.”

As they were shuttled in cages to Plum Island for their release, the eagles were blind to what was in store. The audience, however, knew exactly what was about to happen.

Spectators peered through binoculars and held their breath as the first eagle prepared for flight.

“Go! Fly! Go!,” a woman shouted as the eagle spread its wings and soared toward freedom. He swooped down toward the elated crowd as if he was showing off his return to the wild.

The second eagle was much more timid. When released, it flew straight toward the trees, where he found a branch to perch on. It was a moment Flint Creek employees and an entire community had been waiting for — and on a sunny fall morning, it finally happened.

“I’m glad you are all here to enjoy this majestic beauty with us all,” Miller said.

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