PACIFIC JUNCTION - It’s a spectacle of nature not seen before in Mills County.
Not in recent memory, anyway.
Bald eagles - dozens of them - have been flocking to a rural area west of Interstate 29 near Pacific Junction since late last week.
Friday afternoon, rural Pacific Junction resident Bill Sargent and his son counted more than 60 of the birds perched in the trees surrounding one of the lakes along I-29 near mile marker 33, approximately two miles south of the Glenwood - Highway 34 exit. By Monday, counts of more than 100 eagles were reported by Glenwood photographer Jim Deitchler.
“It happens every now and then, but we don’t see it a lot around here,” Naturalist James Gates of the Mills County Conservation Commission said Monday. “You have the open water with the lakes over there and the Missouri River’s not too far away.”
Rural Pacific Junction resident Steve Liddell said he’s been monitoring The eagles from his deck with the help of a pair of binoculars.
“I’ve never seen anything like it around here,” Liddell said Monday morning.
Liddell suspects that a winter kill of fish in the lakes running adjacent to the interstate may be one of the primary attractions for the eagles.
“They might be seeing the fish floating on top of the water,” Liddell said.
Gates said eagles aren’t necessarily known for being migratory birds and he wouldn’t be surprised if the birds stick around. He noted that a pair of eagles have made their home for the past three years near Folsom Lake along the east side of I-29 in Mills County.
“They’re probably going to stick around, but not all together like this,” Gates said. “They’re probably going to start breaking off into mating pairs and start building their nests.”
Gates said eagles sometimes make a partial migration to states in the southeastern part of the United States and it’s possible that the unusual weather the nation has experienced this winter played a role in the birds coming to western Iowa.
News of the eagles’ migration to Mills County began spreading over the weekend. Many curious onlookers came by Sunday and Monday to get a first-hand viewing of the birds.
An Omaha television station was on the scene Monday along with several photographers.