Pella Chronicle

Community News Network

January 14, 2013

Eagles take to the wing

Crowd drawn to 2013 Eagle Watch

OTTUMWA — The 2013 Eagle Watch started cold and early.

“We were out of hot chocolate by 10 a.m.,” said Joe Roe, a dad and volunteer with Boy Scouts of America Troop 11. “They had a good turnout. This is our fifth year of volunteering [and] this is the most people I’ve seen.”

He and some of the scouts were stationed at the railroad bridge where hikers and bird watchers gathered to view American bald eagles on the Des Moines River.

The Wapello County Trails Council hosts the eagle event every year, said one of the organizers, Kim Hellige. She said this year saw the greatest participation from the public. The walk itself had more than 80 people.

“Nearly 100 people, but the [smallest] number of eagles we’ve seen!” she said.

But there were eagles. Visitors told the Courier they were having a great time at the event. The eagles that were over the river did “perform” for their fans.

The first part of the bridge over the river has a type of “bird blind” with slits in the steel allowing visitors to watch the eagles without disturbing them.

“Earlier, I did see an eagle just standing there on the rocks,” said one boy scout, Tylor Durbin, 12. “It was pretty cool.”

It’s the closest he’s been to one of the hunters.

“It was a first experience kind of thing,” he said. “I’ve never really [looked at] a bald eagle before.”

Others saw the birds fishing.

“We walked several years ago, when the trail was gravel,” said Brenda Gillihan of Ottumwa. “It’s paved now — very nice. It leads closer to the river.”

She said there were eagles over the water, as well as in trees. The majestic birds did not, however, want company, and most departed when humans came to close.

“We walked all the way to Highway 34,” Gillihan said.

But even the ones they saw from a distance were impressive, said friend Tina Pearson of Eldon.

“Isn’t it amazing how they just float — float forever?” she asked.

They were reading facts to each other as one or the other found an interesting tidbit.

“It takes almost five years for their heads to turn completely white,” said Pearson.

Between that and the color of the tail, one can determine the approximate age of a bald eagle, they discovered.

The ladies had gotten some literature from one of the vendors set up inside Bridge View Center.

There were vendors there directly related to eagles and other raptors, like SOAR (see sidebar), which talked about protecting the birds and had some live ones there to greet the public.

Others involved the simple love of getting outdoors: A bicycle shop, a tennis racket creator and an artisan who makes and sells bird feeders shared space in the large, warm hall.

Some adults would venture out into the cold occasionally to snap a quick photo before rushing back inside.

Hellige had recently said when it comes to eagles, the colder it is, the better. When it gets really cold, she explained, eagles seek out places where there is “open” water so they can fish.

Stephen Blaine didn’t comment on the cold. Nor would he agree to put on gloves. The five-year-old went outside every chance he got. He used his binoculars to spot eagles, or, on one occasion, a pair of ducks.

And when people did spot a bald eagle, they’d point them out to each other. Bob Meyers of Ottumwa was over looking at the live bald eagle brought in by the SOAR raptor rescue group. He recalled a time when spotting an American bald eagle would have been nearly impossible in Ottumwa. So the area was very lucky to have so many American bald eagles. Because while there may have been more in past years when people were celebrating the Wapello County Trails Council eagle event, Meyers just finished reading that the Des Moines River still had more eagles along it than the Mississippi this year.

Pearson also feels a sense of pride when she sees American bald eagles in Wapello County. She said one of the guys in her family asked her why she’d bother going to an eagle watch.

“He said they’re just birds, that it’s no big deal,” she said. “Well, it is a big deal. To me, they represent freedom. They’re just amazing.”

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • 20140424-AMX-COFFEE24.jpg Coffee growers' prayers for rain met with threat of deluge

    Brazil's drought made arabica coffee this year's best-performing commodity. Now, farmers are facing a downpour that is once more threatening crops.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Celebrity quack moms are a terrible influence on everyday parents

    On April 15, the actress Alicia Silverstone released a book called "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning." It's chock-full of attachment parenting lessons and dangerous misinformation.

    April 24, 2014

  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 23, 2014

  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014