NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - For nature photographer and author Ty Smedes, there couldn't be a better national symbol than the bald eagle.
"When you look at a bald eagle, every positive adjective you can think of applies. They look powerful, fierce, determined, majestic; I can't imagine a more perfect national bird," Smedes said.
Smedes and other bird lovers gathered in North Liberty on Saturday for the Bald Eagle Expo and Watch. They have been enjoying a "bald eagle renaissance," as Smedes calls it, a result of the chemical DDT being outlawed, and better conservation practices.
"The Endangered Species Act came into play, and we began saving areas where they fish, where they roost, and migration corridors," Smedes explained. "Even before DDT, it was loss of habitat. We lost our last next in modern times in 1907, and it wasn't until 1977 that we had another nest."
Now, thousands of bald eagles are nesting along the Mississippi River.
"That, outside of Alaska, is the largest wintering population of eagles in the United States," said Doug Harr, president of the Iowa Audubon Society.
But Harr said other birds aren't faring as well, and he hopes this renewed interest in bald eagles will help bolster conservation efforts for other species.
"We've started losing a lot of grasslands again here in the last four or five years. With some of the federal conservation programs, like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) being cut back, a lot of land owners are converting those grasslands back into row crops," Harr said. "From grassland sparrows to pheasants. They're all disappearing."