ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — “Good morning and welcome aboard RiverQuest,” Captain Dan Thompson said as folks board the boat at the Connecticut River Museum.

The sun was shining, the water, sparkling, and it was the perfect day to bundle-up for an adventure.

“We will be heading north today,” Thompson said when the horn sounded and the vessel left the dock.

The mission? To spy wildlife, especially bald eagles.

While some live in the state, others have traveled from the north to fish in warmer waters. Almost right away, we spotted an immature eagle. The boat was quiet and nimble, perfect for this sort of excursion.

“RiverQuest was designed for this purpose to the out here and share this natural beauty with the public,” Thompson said.

Then, a mature eagle put on a show, soaring through the sky.

“We saw it swooping around, a great view of it, really got to see the white on the head, it was awesome,” passenger Jennifer Kawecki of Old Saybrook said.

The eagle then settled into a tree to bask in the sun.

“The sheer size of it is astounding, a seven foot wingspan,” Thompson said.

These cruises go out Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in February. Wednesdays are added to the mix in March. The cruises run through the end of March.

“This year it’s clear, it’s warm, it’s beautiful, it’s a great time to be on the water,” Elizabeth Kaeser, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum, said.

Winter is a unique time when the river is free of boat traffic, quiet and serene.

“We really want people to appreciate the river, to become stewards of the river and being out here is a wonderful way to do it,” Kaeser said.

It’s a way to experience nature at it’s finest by seeing a bird, a symbol — both powerful and majestic.

“Just an amazing thing to see up-close,” Thompson said.

RiverQuest is a busy boat – it will be running tours out on river now through the fall.

Click here for much more information about the Winter Wildlife Cruises.