The annual bald eagle watch was held at Saylorville Lake last Sunday, and my wife and I observed more that 100 bald eagles below the dam.
Most of the eagles were perched in the trees above the Des Moines River, looking down into the fast-flowing stream for fish. We also saw a dozen or more of them standing on the ice-covered lake. They were trying to scratch though the ice to get at the dead fish.
In the late afternoon, the eagles rode the warm, rising air currents and began to soar above the river. Some of them appeared to be doing a courting flight. The soaring birds against the clear, blue sky gave an opportunity for some good photographs.
Many other species of birds were feeding in the water. White pelicans, trumpeter swans, green-headed mallard ducks and three species of geese: white-fronted geese, snow geese and Canada geese — all made very interesting color patterns on the water.
At the Cottonwood Recreation Area further downstream, Mike Havlik, Chris Adkins and Erica Northwick, naturalists from the Dallas County Conservation Department, were posted at the river’s edge with spotting telescopes and binoculars. There they assisted the public in viewing these fascinating birds and answered questions about their avian behavior.
It was a good day for seeing eagles, but we also saw many other birds, a total of 28 species that day. The most interesting ones were a pair of golden-eye ducks, a pileated woodpecker, a merlin and a pair of eastern blue birds that seemed to be looking for a nesting site.