Courier Staff Writer
Cold weather doesn’t worry eagle watchers. It’s warm weather they fear.
“Because when it gets really cold, they’re looking for places where there is ‘open’ water so they can fish,” said Kim Hellige of the Wapello County Trails Council.
The council will host its annual Eagle Watch starting at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 12 at the Bridge View Center.
For some participants, it’s the annual winter hike that is the centerpiece of the event.
The eagle walk leaves from the Bridge View lobby at 9 a.m.
“The hike has two purposes,” said Hellige. “One is to promote the trails, of course, but two is to see eagles outdoors. [And] they will see eagles. So far we’ve never had a year where there were no eagles flying. The last few years have been exceptional.”
It’s warmer inside Bridge View Center. There will be high-power viewing scopes set on tripods throughout the day. Hellige said there is a capsized boat in the river which, a lot of times, eagles perch upon. That boat is directly in front of the huge windows at Bridge View.
“Now that the weather has turned cold, we hope people will view a lot of birds over the Des Moines River,” Hellige said.
If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many eagles in Ottumwa, you can credit the hydro dam as part of the reason. The moving water keeps ice from forming on parts of the river. Other parts of the river where they normally hunt and fish may be completely covered in ice.
With exhibitors inside focused on nature, there’s a third way to see an eagle: A raptor rescue organization is scheduled to bring a live eagle into Bridge View Center.
All event activities are free to the public. For more information, call 641-682-8626.
The eighth annual photo competition, sponsored by The Photo Shop and Hy-Vee Drug Store, will be on display.
Area residents are competing for prizes in five categories, including eagles, barns, black and white, open division and youth division.
Winners will be announced at noon.