On November 29 and December 4, I went to the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in northern Maryland with a friend and fellow photographer to photograph the American Bald Eagles that spend the winter on the downside of the dam. The dam is about 100 miles from home, and to get there at sunrise, when the eagles are most active, requires leaving home very early. For me, one of the challenges to Nature photography is getting up in the middle of the night, but it is usually worthwhile and very rewarding getting to see and photograph wildlife, like the eagles in this article.
American Bald Eagles are opportunistic feeders, but their main diet is fish. Not all eagles migrate, but since fish is their preferred diet, those in the north migrate south in late fall when rivers, lakes and other waterways begin to freeze. That is why at times there can be over 100 eagles near the Conowingo Dam, because the downside of the dam generally does not freeze, and where when the dam opens to run its turbines, fish flow through the dam along with the water, and the stunned fish are easy pickings for the waiting eagles. The large number of eagles in this concentrated area make it one of the best, if not the best, locations to photograph American Bald Eagles along the east coast.
The eagles are very active when the dam is open and the river is flowing through it. When the dam is closed, the eagle activity is very limited. Above, an eagle spotted a fish and began to dive toward the river. They swoop down, lower their legs when close to the water, open their talons, and when successful, grab a fish and take off with it under their tail.
Not every attempt for a fish is successful, but in the above image, the eagle is taking off with its catch.
After coming up from the river with its catch, the eagle flew in my direction (above and below images).
Most of the time, the eagles fly off to the other side of the river to eat their catch, but occasionally, they fly directly overhead toward the trees behind where I and other photographers are located.
Below an eagle is perched in a tree, watching other eagles and the river below.
You probably have heard the term “screaming eagle.” At times, eagles do sound like they are screaming, which is very loud and used to communicate with other eagles. Below is an image of an eagle screaming.
To see more of my eagle images, I posted an article in October that can be seen at https://stevetabone.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/american-bald-eagles-at-conowingo-dam/ or go to my website at: http://stabone.com/p922753828
Wonderfully crafted article with stunning photos of bald eagles, my most favorite birds.
I particularly like the second photo with orange-pinkish soft background.
Awesome bald eagle activity series over at the Conowingo Dam!!
Thank you Kee! Sorry it did not work out for us to go to the dam yesterday, but maybe next, I will see you there.
Terrific shots! What lens and settings did you use for these shots? Also, how do you ever manage to get up at 3:00 AM (or whatever)?
Thanks Steve. All of the images in the blog article were taken with a Nikon D800, Nikon 600mm lens and Nikon TC14 teleconverter. I shot them all in Manual mode, f/8, 1000 or 1250 sec, and Auto ISO; therefore, the ISO varied depending on the light. The D800 is excellent at high ISOs, and many of the early morning images were shot at ISOs above 1000.
As far as getting up at 0300 or 0400, it is difficult, but as I wrote, well worth it and that is what motivates me to get out of bed so early in the morning.
Great series of images. I think you are finding out that you are right about the second shot.
Thanks Ernie. Yes, the second image is definitely a “keeper.”
Indeed, that second image’s background is a beautiful color, enhances the eagle’s sun-tipped wings…gorgeous! All magnificent photos, and I liked your the follow-through story…get that fish and scream about it!
Actually, I think that is what the screaming eagle was doing. In other images of that eagle while it was screaming, the fish that it caught is at its feet and is clearly visible. I used that image on my blog because the eagle’s head was straight up and was the peak of its scream. BTW, I am going to have the second image printed on aluminum by Image Wizards and hang it on my office wall.
Love, love, love these photos! And the story, too! Screamin’ eagles … won’t forgot that ever!
I was going to take a video with sound of the eagle screaming, but unfortunately there was a lot of nearby background noise so I concentrated on shooting stills–maybe next time.
Absolutely beautiful photographs particularly in flight…takes patience and skill, and these photographs confirm that you have both skills.
Magnificent birds, magnificent photography!