FULTON, Ill. — "It's a good people day, not a good eagle day," said Daniel Clark of the Army Corps of Engineers from Lock and Dam 13 on Saturday.
Though Army Corp of Engineer Forester Steve Acuff expected more people as shuttle buses arrived from Clinton Community College during the day, he didn't have much hope for large numbers of eagles showing up for Fulton's 35th annual Bald Eagle Watch.
"Since they have a lot more open water to fish, they're a lot more spread out," Acuff said from the lock and dam's observation deck. If the river had more ice, the eagles would be forced to feed at the lock and dam where water continues to flow.
Normally large numbers of eagles congregate on the river during eagle-watching events, Acuff said. "Fifty to 300 in a day depending on what lock and dam and [the temperature]," he said.
That's because ice usually forces them into smaller spaces to find open water and fish.
"Last year it was about 5 degrees," Clark told a visitor to the eagle watch. "There were more eagles."
Temperatures in the 30s and 40s may have encouraged some people to attend the event, but "if you're really into eagle watching, you know when it's colder" more eagles show up, Acuff said.
"The weather hasn't been exactly ideal for us today," Clark said.
Despite the weather, the observation deck filled quickly Saturday morning. People viewed the birds through telescopes set up by the Corps for that purpose or through the lenses of their own binoculars and cameras.
Kathy and Les Palmer of Hanover, Illinois attended their first Eagle Watch on Saturday, though they often bike in the area.
"It's a beautiful trail," Kathy Palmer said. Saturday seemed like a good day to visit Lock and Dam 13 "just to see the outdoor scenery."
"We love the outdoors. We love to watch eagles," Les Palmer said.
Jody Brooke, wife of Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke, has lived in the area only two years and checked out the Eagle Watch for the first time. She sometimes takes photos for the Clinton Convention and Visitors Bureau, she said, but had her camera handy Saturday for personal use.
"I'm taking some pictures, but I will share them on the CVB site," she said.
Shuttle buses ran through 1 p.m. from CCC, where spectators viewed exhibits and films about bald eagles, to the lock and dam for a look at the real thing.