Eagle-watching boosts Alton economy

ALTON, Ill. (KSDK) - It's wings gracefully flap as it flies over the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. This beautiful, bald eagle is in its element in the bitterly cold temperatures in the region this weekend.

"As the river channel freezes, they lose access to food upriver," said Audobon Center Ecologist Lane Richter. "We can have tens of thousands of people come out during eagle seasons," he said.

The bald eagles are tantamount to big bucks for business owners in Alton and Grafton.

"The crazy sign that says bald eagle specials,' said Kim Baalman-Eberlin, as she fills up a cone with her newest frozen yogurt at her ice cream shop in the middle of Grafton.

Winter months are almost dead for her business. Until the eagles show up. Then come the tourists and the bird watchers. They keep her lights on, and her machines churning. The bell at her drive-thru doesn't work, but her window is always open.

"I can't afford to miss a customer, gotta keep the window open," she said, laughing as she tries to stay warm inside her ice cream shop. "You really cant depend on the winters here to make any real money."

The eagles will help power her business until March. These are prime bird watching months. The Audobon Center will have an eagle watching festival this weekend. You can find more info here: http://riverlands.audubon.org/


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