Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Eagles return to Kaw

Sightings signal season’s change

December 20, 2000


San Juan Capistrano has nothing on Lawrence.

Swallows return to the California town every March 19 just before the first day of spring. In Lawrence, the Kansas River provides its own sign of winter the arrival of bald eagles.

And this year, they've returned in bunches.

"Last year we saw one or two there's four already," said Sprint PCS employee Melvin Lewis as he looked out onto the river from the Riverfront Plaza. "The lake must be frozen over already. I'm amazed."

Some observers have counted as many as 16 of the majestic birds below the Bowersock Dam.

Delores Beers, an administrative assistant at the plaza manager's office, was delighted by the eagles. She's been watching them every winter since she started work in 1990.

"They are just grand to watch," she said. "Usually, somebody stops by to say, 'The eagles are here,' and I just fly out to the window."

A small group of Sprint employees gathered at a window looking over the river to watch the eagles as they skimmed the surface of the water, chased other birds and tried to catch a fish or two.

"They're so long and graceful," said Jennifer Casebier, also a Sprint employee.

Michelle Hooper agreed.

"I've never seen one out in the wild," she said.

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Dan Gish, a birding tour guide from Topeka, said there should be more opportunities to see the eagles. The birds have rebuilt their population from endangered status in recent years.

"We're seeing more eagles now, because their numbers have increased, and they're expanding their territory," he said. "As the waters freeze up, they move on to open water.

"Every major lake in Kansas has bald eagles during the winter," Gish said. "It's not a rarity any longer."

But they are still protected. Under orders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the plaza will close its promenade overlooking the river in January and February so eagles can perch without human interference.

Beers said some eagles choose to perch in a tree right next to a big window at the plaza.

"You can't get any closer to the eagles than that," she said.

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