American Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam

American Bald Eagle in Flight with Its Fish Catch

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.

American Bald Eagle Flying over the Susquehanna River

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.

American Bald Eagle Diving toward River

American Bald Eagle Catching a Fish

Not every attempt for a fish is successful, but in the above image, the eagle is taking off with its catch.

American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle Flying with Fish

After coming up from the river with its catch, the eagle flew in my direction (above and below images).

American Bald Eagle Flying with Fish

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.

American Bald Eagle Eating a Fish

Below an eagle is perched in a tree, watching other eagles and the river below.

American Bald Eagle Perched in a Tree

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.

Screaming Eagle

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

About Stephen L Tabone

Executive Consultant and Nature Photographer
This entry was posted in Bird Photographs, Nature, Wildlife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to American Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam

  1. Kee says:

    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!!

  2. 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.

  3. Ernie Sears says:

    Great series of images. I think you are finding out that you are right about the second shot.

  4. Betty says:

    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.

  5. Love, love, love these photos! And the story, too! Screamin’ eagles … won’t forgot that ever!

  6. Mac says:

    Absolutely beautiful photographs particularly in flight…takes patience and skill, and these photographs confirm that you have both skills.

  7. clover58 says:

    Magnificent birds, magnificent photography!

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