HARRISBURG -- There was a time not that many years ago when seeing a bald eagle in Saline County was a rarity.
In 2000, when this reporter first worked for the paper and cellphones were not nearly as prevalent, a reader called the paper because an eagle was spotted west of Harrisburg along Illinois 13 in the area known as the "goose pond."
They immediately were transferred back to the newsroom.
There was debate between the reporters and editor whether anyone had enough time to race out with the new Olympus digital camera in the hope of capturing an image.
Unfortunately, a tight deadline meant no spare reporters.
By contrast, the number of eagles in Saline County and surrounding counties in southern Illinois has increased substantially in the 20 years since that incident.
The population has grown to the point that Monday afternoon, while leaving the office, this mature bald eagle pictured flew low over the Harrisburg Register's parking lot.
It flew between 20 and 30 feet over the asphalt surface before turning to the northwest and flying slightly higher.
There are at least six active eagle nests in the county, likely more.
Eagles frequently are observed at or near Harrisburg Lake, Glen O. Jones Lake and Sahara Woods.
Those wishing to photograph or observe eagles are encouraged to keep their distance, particularly when observing nests.
Disturbing eagles on a nest can cause them to abandon the nest, and is a violation of both the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.