The Eagles of Iowa City

When I relocated to Iowa City, one of my major fears was missing out on the outdoors activities that make the winters bearable (and the make the spring, summer falls even more enjoyable). There’s no downhill skiing, not much ice skating, and the snowcover is usually in a perpetual cycle of melting and freezing, not the best for sledding or snowball fights.

But, I’ve been surprised. The City Park pond is a great place for skating (when its been groomed), and even more surprisingly, winter in Iowa City is a great time for birdwatching (something I never thought I’d find enjoyable).

The cardinals and blue jays find their home in my backyard, but the big treat is the aerie of bald eagles that feed on the Iowa River when the water start to freeze. This week I’ve counted over a dozen eagles perched in the branches overlooking Crandic park on Rocky Shore Dr. The frozen streams in much of Iowa limit the eagles’ fishing territory in the winter, but there’s no ice at the spillway near the Iowa River Power restaurant and around the bend towards City Park.

These beautiful white crested birds sit high in the trees at the bend in the Iowa River, watching the water below for the signs that a meal is close to the surface. It isn’t more than a few minutes before one of these, uh…eagle-eyed predators spots a fish loitering too close to the air and takes off in pursuit.

It’s a National Geographic special playing out where the NatGeo cameras rarely go: the middle of Iowa. Just another of the pleasant surprises that the Iowa City area has for those who go looking. And look you should. Spotting one bald eagle can be a thrill for many, but a dozen eagles within 100 yards? That’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

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