Bald eagles gather in western Wisconsin - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Bald eagles gather in western Wisconsin

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TOWN OF ALMA (WKOW) -- Hundreds of bald eagles are expected to begin gathering along the rolling bluffs of Buffalo County along the Mississippi. WAOW's Rob Duns ventured out to the western side of Wisconsin to show everyone why.

The bluffs of western Wisconsin are a captivating backdrop to the Town of Alma in Buffalo County. But the beauty of the bluffs serves a purpose. This terrain is prime real estate for some of nature's most majestic creatures.

Larry Balk says, "I'm very proud of this place." Balk is one of Alma's 781 residents. He's also a founder of "Wings Over Alma". That's a non-profit organization promoting the town's history of attracting scores of large birds in autumn and winter. The region's hilly landscape, climate, and proximity to this dam in the Mississippi River play vital roles. Each year Balk says, thousands of bald eagles, tundra swans, Canadan geese and ducks flock to the area on their yearly migration routes.

Balk says, "everybody loves the eagles. Some of these people have never been up close to an eagle, especially in the wild." As winter approaches and the Mississippi River begins to freeze, the dam keeps a small section of the water unfrozen. In just a few weeks that is expected to turn this quiet stretch of river into an all-day buffet for bald eagles. Balk says, "right outside our windows is where the eagles are usually feeding on the fish."

The glaciers didn't do much to the topography of western Wisconsin, meaning the mountainous bluffs have been able to survive the test of time, and birds love them. They help to funnel wind currents up along the Mississippi River, which acts as an excellent source of food.

Jack Martin says, "some people are just totally blown away by it." Martin works with visitors at the "Wings Over Alma" observation center in town. He says, "I remember the first time I came in here. There were over 100 eagles out there."

It's that excitement that is taking the allure of Alma to new heights. Balk sums it all up by saying, "it's turned out really well."

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