Groups of magnificent fishing experts have returned to the Kansas River in Lawrence.
An increasing number of American bald eagles has been seen fishing at the river near the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets, Sixth and New Hampshire.
"It's such a neat deal," said David Longhurst, general manager of the mall. "It so exciting to see the eagles so close. If you watch them long enough, you will see them pluck fish out of the river."
The eagles have returned to the river near the mall to fish for each of the last several years. They typically stay until March, Longhurst said.
The birds prefer the area near the Bowersock Dam for fishing because the water rarely freezes over.
"When the lakes freeze over, then they'll really come here," Longhurst said. "Then you'll see anywhere from 10 to 25 or 30 eagles out here."
The mall closes its outside promenade to the public during January and February, as part of an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Officials don't want people on the promenade spooking the birds. However, visitors are encouraged to watch them from large windows inside the mall.
Dave Rhoades, park manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Clinton Lake, said many of the eagles migrate to the area from northern states, as cold weather settles in.
They find nesting sites along the river and near Clinton and Perry lakes, he said. They stay overnight in the nests and fish during the day.
"The eagle has very powerful eyesight," he said. "They are able to see fish in the water from a pretty good distance away."
Rhoades said bald eagles will eat rabbits and other small game but prefer fishing in this area.
Bald eagles had been an endangered species for decades until they were taken off the list about a year ago, Rhoades said. The birds, however, remain on the threatened species list.
People who want to know more about the eagles can come to the mall on Jan. 23, when its annual "Eagle Day" will be held.
-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.