Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bald Eagles on the Rocks

I take my whiskey on the rocks, an inch of the pure with a little water and some cubes of ice.  This week I took my Bald Eagles in a pretty similar way at Conowingo Dam. The first day, the wind chill was around 15°F, and it got worse on day two with winds gusting over 30 mph.

The day began benignly with a stop at Port Deposit to photograph the setting super moon.  As the sun reddened the sky, the view down the Susquehanna River towards the Chesapeake Bay was nice. There are four bridges spanning the river that carry road and rail traffic north-south.

Recall the saying "Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning"?

Oblivious to that warning, I worked on the moon set across the river.

Arriving at the dam, it was quiet except for the ever active gulls.  Well, they make for good practice before the eagles get busy.  (It is not certain that eagles will be active, because one cannot predict if fish will be coming through the turbines, or, for that matter, how active the turbines will be.)

So, I practiced on a Ring-billed Gull.  They really aren't easy since their flight can be very erratic.  Anyway, this one had good light and nice head angle.

From time to time, a Bald Eagle will launch to check out a possible fish, and that makes for good practice.  I liked this one where the eagle banked strongly to follow an object.

The bird's intensity comes through when there is good light on a sharply focused eye.

The wind  began to build and occasional fishing occurred.  This adult eagle made a catch and headed downriver trying to avoid being robbed by another eagle.  It looks like it caught a walleye pike.  Look at that beak!

At times the Bald Eagles appear so close it is difficult to keep them in the camera viewfinder.  It is at times like this when I refer to "batting practice".  There are a lot of misses and just a few which absolutely fill the image frame.  This is one of those moments.  I only cropped the sides.

Much of the bird's fishing occurs close to the dam, and the background includes the dam.  This bird spotted a stunned fish close to the turbine discharges and flew up parallel to the spillways.

My favorite of the day was this bird that came directly towards me.  The intent look on the bird's face is intimidating.

That was day one - cold with a little fishing and some flight activity. Not uncomfortable.  The next morning was an escalation.  Winds were soon in the 20 mph and plus range, giving wind chill in the 5°F area, and by 9:30 a.m. gusts were over 30 mph.  Nearly all the birds were grounded other than gulls close in to the face of the dam.  Ice was coating the rocks along the river's edge. The waves in the river above the dam were breaking over the spillways when the big gusts rolled down from the north.  Toughing it out is one thing for good photos, but this was fruitless. My finger could not feel the shutter button.   Packed up at 10:00 a.m.  As I drove over US 1 highway that crosses the river on the dam, I saw the wind shredding the tops off the wave crests. 

There will be better days to compensate for this one.



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