URBAN AIRSHOW: Eagles Swarm Des Moines River

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What is it that could tear us away from a holiday at home?

Make us choose cold fingers over a warm couch?

“Well, a friend of ours called to say that there was a lot of action down here so we came down to check it out,” said Arlette Dawson of Des Moines.

Check what out? Geese on the water? The Des Moines River shivering its way underneath?

“Usually on holidays," said Steve Hidder, while parked alongside the SE 6th Street bridge in Des Moines, "we just go out for a drive and look for wildlife of some kind."

They didn’t have to go far, Tuesday.  Maybe a half-mile from downtown…as the eagle flies.

“I counted on the first two or three trees and there were over twenty, just there,” said Sue Crook, who's been watching eagles here for the last week.

“I’ve never seen this many eagles in one spot at one time,” Dawson said.

“I had to work earlier today," said Lisa Wilgenbusch of Des Moines, "but I came out here as soon as I got off work because I knew the eagles were down here, so...oh, you just missed one catching a fish!” 

Not everybody missed it. There was so much action that you didn’t even need a big lens…a cell phone would do…

According to the DNR, the eagles like this spot because the water here is still running fast enough to stay open. You can see the ice creeping in from the sides, and eventually it, too, will freeze over—and the eagles will have to move on.

“You just don’t see this every day,” Wilgenbusch said.

“Gotta be what?" Hidder asked, "Forty or fifty of them, probably.”

It wasn’t long ago that the pesticide DDT had them on the endangered species list and viewings like this were unthinkable…but here they are...putting on a New Year’s Day airshow on Des Moines' south side.

“Great way to start a new year. What better way?” Crook laughed.