Recently I traveled to Bettendorf, Iowa to see my daughter. Bettendorf is in the Quad Cities area on the border between Iowa and Illinois, and sits right on the west side of Mississippi River. It is a quiet, charming little community. Perhaps it was partially so quite because I was there during the winter season.
One of the things I found very interesting is that bald eagles, as many as 2500 of them, come there during the winter months to fish along the lock and dam (#15) on the Mississippi River. These dams were completed in March 1934 by the United States Army Corp of Engineers, and their use by passing ships during the winter months keeps the heavy ice on the Mississippi River broken up. This is turn makes the eagles happy, because the turbulence below the dams allows them to feast on the fish in the open water. There is a historic clock tower near the lock & dam where the eagles can easily be viewed fishing in larger groups.
Bald eagles mate for life, and many stay in this area on into the spring, roosting in the wooded bluffs and building gigantic nests in the hardwood trees lining the river. Eaglets typically hatch in mid to late March.
I also learned that the local Alcoa Davenport Works company is the largest employer in the area. In 2009 a pair of eagles, now named Liberty and Justice, took up residence in a large cottonwood tree on the company grounds, building a tremendous nest 85 feet high off the ground. The folks at Alcoa installed a fantastic live eagle cam, that takes both close-up and long shots of the eagle nest. Since its installation over 25 million people have viewed these American icons in their nest. It is definitely worth checking out now as this pair of eagles have already started “feathering” their nest in preparation for new chicks. I was able to hear the eagles and catch this juvenile eagle in the nest, but I am sure they will be there far more often now as nesting season progresses. Such an amazing site to see! Check out the live eagle cam.