I had come to Horseshoe Lake, near Olive Branch, Illinois, looking for bald eagles. Most of the time, though, I was watching geese. Lots and lots of geese.
One large flock of geese swirled above the ground, creating the illusion of a dust devil -- or even a tornado.
Tornadoes, as we commonly hear from witnesses, sound like freight trains. Here I was greeted to something more annoying: honking. And more honking. And even more honking.
The geese were honking in every direction. Overhead:
Over the water:
And shuffling across the field:
Beside the honking, the geese presented another annoyance: little clumps of green left along the access road. And we're not talking about grass or weeds, if you know what I mean.
Nevertheless, the geese weren't the only birds I found at Horseshoe Lake.
I spotted a bald eagle perched in a tree overlooking a field. I approached the eagle slowly (not so much to avoid spooking it, but to avoid stepping in something). But the eagle flew away before I could get much closer than a quarter mile.
The Mississippi River near St. Louis, especially at Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, is a popular destination for watching bald eagles in January. However, it's not necessary to drive to St. Louis and fight the crowds to see eagles. Horseshoe Lake is an excellent choice only 18 miles from Cape Girardeau.
Just be sure to watch where you step.
From Cape Girardeau, cross the Emerson Bridge and take Highway 146 to the intersection with Highway 3. Turn right (south) on Highway 3 and continue 12 miles to Olive Branch. Turn right on Miller City Road and go 1.2 miles. Make a left on Island Road (look for the big "Start here" sign) and drive to the parking area.
Walk past the gate and follow the gravel lane across a causeway, surrounded on both sides by the lake. The road eventually leads to Horseshoe Lake Island and forks in two to create a loop. From here you can decide how far you want to walk before turning back.