Earlier this week, on Wednesday, as I noted on my biking blog, I rode my bicycle down to Cedar Lake.
As it turned out, many eagles were congregating, along with other birds, at open water where a creek runs into the lake. Today was breezy and cool in Iowa, but I still suggested to my wife as we left work at Mount Mercy University late in the afternoon that we could stroll on the trail by the lake.
She wasn’t hot on the idea. She doesn’t like cold. But, she agreed, if we could go home first so she could put on warmer clothes.
It was probably getting close to 5 by the time we made it to the little city park on the east shore of the lake. The eagle-used water was several hundred yards away—maybe a ¼ mile hike or so to the north end of the lake.
We started walking. “I don’t see any eagles,” my wife observed.
Me, I was more confident. I am more used to watching eagles lately, and spotted across the lake the telltale white heads and tails on some of the birds flying over the lake. As we began to get closer to the north end, we spotted a tall old cottonwood nearby on the shores of the lake. The tree had four or five bald eagles sitting in it.
Most of them took to the air as we neared, but not all of them. Some of the eagles allowed us to get quite close to the tree in which they roosted.
For a while, the chill was forgotten. I’ve seen eagles up close recently, but I don’t think my wife has. The first time you do get close to bald eagles, if it’s been a while, it’s startling how huge these birds, which look like normal bird-sized creatures at a distance, are. The adults stand about 3 feet tall, with wing spans that top 6 feet. Although they can call, they are usually silent, and just look totally made up—leaping powerfully, but quietly, into the air.
They call, now and then, an odd, high call, but are relatively quiet compared to the crows, ducks, geese and crows with whom they share this patch of open water.
Another mature couple passed us, headed the other way. “Who needs to go to Guttenberg?” the man asked, naming an Iowa Mississippi River town famed for eagle viewing.
After the couple had passed, my wife noted that clearly we were on an old person date. That was fine with me.
After hanging around for a bit, and after I snapped a few photos, we headed back to the van and off to a restaurant to finish our old person date with a restaurant feast.
The wife noted that our grandchildren would really enjoy seeing these birds. I think so, too—although it would require a warmer afternoon. When the weather gets really nice, the eagles will fly away—but perhaps there will be a warm weekend in March where the ice on the rivers hasn’t yet broken up and the eagles are still in town. Then it will be nice to bring the kids to the lake.
If you have not been down to Cedar Lake for a walk on any of these winter afternoons, you should go. The trail is cleared of snow. It’s fun to go just to watch the geese and ducks.
But it’s super cool to see the eagles.