So far, wintering bald eagles aren't much using the three wood perches installed in the fall of 2017 at Lock & Dam 14 near LeCLaire to replace two trees that were cut down.
The trees — the go-to perches for eagles fishing in the open water below the dam — were cut down in January 2017 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because they were storm-damaged and dying and deemed a hazard to visitors.
Their removal caused immediate concern among eagle watchers such as Jay Brooks, of the Quad-City Photography Club, because the site was "probably the best place in the country to see eagles fishing in the river."
As a possible substitute, the club spearheaded a cooperative effort involving the Corps and MidAmerican Energy Co. to install artificial perches: three 40-foot utility poles, each with six, 8-foot "branches" braced onto the poles, sticking out like spokes.
A few eagles used them last February, toward the end of the season, but mostly they were ignored, said Kyle Slifka, who works near the lock and dam as a natural resources specialist for the Corps' Mississippi River Project office.
In an effort to attract more eagles, a MidAmerican maintenance crew subsequently returned with a bucket elevator and, using a grinder, roughed up the spokes to make them more like real branches, Slifka said. The crew also narrowed the circumference so eagles could get a more comfortable grip with their talons, he said.
Although it's early to tell if this will do the trick — the bulk of wintering eagles hasn't arrived in the Quad-City area yet this season — the best solution will be for the seven real trees planted in the fall of 2017 to reach the size that eagles like for perching, Slifka said.
The trees were donated by Living Lands & Waters, the environmental organization founded by Chad Pregracke of Hampton and should be of eagle-liking size in 10 to 15 years, Slifka said.
In addition, the Corp intends to do a native seeding in the spring "to boost up the habitat for multiple species as well," he said.
The two trees that were cut down — a silver maple and an elm — sometimes were filled with as many as 20 eagles, and the location became widely known among bird-watchers and photographers hoping to get views or shots of eagles swooping into the water to grab fish. Busloads of people, and from all over the country, frequented the spot, Brooks said.
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Reaghan Beaver, 4, of LeClaire, sports a painted face and colored painted eagle hat last year at Bald Eagle Days in the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island.
A crowd gathers around live birds of prey, Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the World Bird Sanctuary booth during activities at Bald Eagle Days in the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island.
A crowd gathers and gets out their cell phone cameras, Sunday, January 7, 2018, to take pictures of the grey wolves howling in their cage during activities at Bald Eagle Days being held at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island.
Bob Underwood of Moline teases his grandson Traven Huett 7 also of Moline with a balloon fishing pole, Sunday, January 7, 2018, while taking a break during Bald Eagle Days at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island.
Mom Brandy Weaver of Davenport, untangles the balloon fishing poles for her two sons Quincy 6 and Hayes 4 just got, Sunday, January 7, 2018, while attending the Bald Eagle Days at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island.
Hundreds of eagles perch in the trees and soar over the Mississippi River fishing, Sunday, January 7, 2018, at Lock and Dam 15 in Davenport. Bald Eagle Day tours were viewing from the former Dock site in Davenport.
Hundreds of eagles perch in the trees, stand on the ice and soar over the Mississippi River fishing last month at Lock and Dam 15 in Davenport. The number of bald eagles spotted in the Quad-Cities was up this year.
Janelle Swanberg with the Quad-City Audubon Society looks through a scope at eagles, Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the site of the former Dock building at Lock and Dam 15 while leading tours for Bald Eagle Days.
Eagles soar over the Mississippi River as others perch in the trees on the Rock Island Arsenal on Sunday as people watch from the the Iowa side near Lock and Dam 15 in Davenport on a wintry day. The weather is expected to improve this week with high temperatures reaching the 30s and 40s.
A group of eagles perch in the trees as one soars over head, Sunday, January 7, 2018, on the Rock Island Arsenal.
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Program director Ben Montgonery for the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, gives McGwire, a 21-year-old bald eagle, a place to perch on Friday during Bald Eagle Days being held at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island. The event continues 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
A 21-year-old male bald eagle named McGwire stares at the camera during Bald Eagle Days. During this year's bald eagle count, 1,447 were spotted in Iowa and 752 were in Illinois.
This golden eagle named Kili sits on its perch.
Charlott Strupp of North Carolina watches her grandmother, Isabel McCarthy of Moline, take a picture of Abby, a 15-year-old barn owl belonging to the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, on Friday.
A three year old peregrine falcon named Solo belonging to the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, looks over his shoulder, Friday, January 5, 2018, during Bald Eagle Days being held at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island. The event runs all weekend.
Daisy Girl Scout Myra Hamann 5, of Eldridge, checks out a stuffed red fox, native to this area.
Andrew Jackson 10, of East Moline, looks around through his recently made toilet paper tube binoculars.
Hoyt Reec 7 of Springfield, works his way up the climbing wall.
A 15-year-old female barn owl named Abby belonging to the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, looks over her shoulder, Friday, January 5, 2018, during Bald Eagle Days being held at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island. The event runs all weekend.