To get a bird's-eye view of eagles in and around Lawrence this winter, Clinton and Perry lakes not the Kansas River are probably the best places to be.
Unseasonably mild winter weather this season has kept most of the eagles from turning to the Kaw as a food source, said Jayhawk Audubon Society and Eagles Day Committee member Ed Shaw.
"They usually obtain their food by fishing," Shaw said. "When the lakes are frozen, they usually go to the river. Since the lakes aren't frozen over now, they tend to stay at the lakes."
But area residents can get an up-close look at both a bald and golden eagle in town and without binoculars at the 2002 Kaw Valley Eagles Day on Sunday.
Both birds will be on display from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Building 21 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 21st and Harper streets. More than 20 wildlife and environmental groups will distribute educational materials and provide hands-on activities for families, and experts will give presentations on various aspects of the natural world. It's the sixth year for the event.
"The benefit of attending is to get an up-close view of our wildlife friends and learn more about nature and our surroundings," said Bunnie Watkins, park manager at Perry Lake for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Between 1,000 and 1,400 eagles spend their winters in Kansas.
"Winter months are the peak months for eagles to come into this area because they come from the north when the waters freeze over and it becomes very difficult for them to gain a living from the environment," Shaw said.
For those who wish to see eagles in their natural habitat, Corps park rangers will conduct two eagle-viewing field trips at Clinton Lake on Sunday one at 10 a.m., the other at 2 p.m.
Mike Watkins, wildlife biologist with the Corps, will give a program on bald eagles nesting in Kansas. Bunnie Watkins said she and her husband had been receiving calls about the program for several weeks.
"People are always surprised to hear that we have bald eagles in Kansas," she said. "When they find out that we have nesting pairs at Clinton and Perry lakes, then they get really excited and want to view them."
Kansas currently has 12 nesting pairs of bald eagles, Mike Watkins said. Two of those pairs reside at Clinton Lake, and two others nest at Perry Lake. Since 1989, 123 eaglets have been born throughout the state.
Though they're the main attraction, eagles won't be the day's only focus.
"We do this because we feel it's necessary to encourage people to appreciate and understand this environment we all live in," Shaw said. "Because if we make it uninhabitable, not even people will be able to live here."