Eagles at Conowingo Dam (Jan 2018)

Mom shooting eagles

For the past couple years (ever since my mom got back into photography), I’ve been trying to get her to come in the winter to go photograph American Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam. They tend to be there from around November to about early January and I usually go in December. This year at the semi-last moment she decided to visit and I suggested we go try and photograph some eagles. So she brought her long lens and we took off. Of course, the one day we had available to do this also happened to be the coldest day of the 2017-2018 winter so we were physically being tortured. I had told her ahead of time to make sure to get long johns, so we didn’t get hypothermia.

Mom, bundled up for the frigid temperatures
Mom, bundled up for the frigid temperatures

I’d read that this was just about the tail end of the eagles’ time here so I wasn’t sure we’d have anything to show for our freezing butts and 2-hour round trip commute. And at first it seemed my fears were credible. All we saw were some seagulls and ducks.

I asked one of the other photographers there if he’d seen any eagles and he told me they hadn’t been active for at least an hour and had flown off into the woods. I usually get there with the sun, but we had arrived pretty late. I was really getting worried.

Mom checking her seagull photos
Mom checking her seagull photos

But then we spotted an Eagle!

And we would spend as long as we could tolerate outside. When our fingers and toes no longer had any feeling, we would go back into the car until we defrosted.

Mom shooting eagles
Mom shooting eagles

I was a little disappointed with my photos. I was rusty on wildlife photos. I remembered to do a high shutter speed (greater than 1/2000). But the photos just weren’t as clear as I wanted. Probably partially the lens, partially not fully in focus, and eagles are very fast-moving. That said, I got this series of shots:

“yeah, I got it”

And, again, it’s not as clear and in focus as it could be. But I’ve wanted this shot for about five years. I never was able to get an eagle grabbing a fish out of water. What was amazing was how quickly it happened! And to be able to get that photographed, even if not perfect, was amazing for me. Next time I’ll try renting a longer lens and beefing up on my technique and try to get that again.

There was also this goose-like bird.

I shot over 1100 photos to get to these 30ish photos – of which I’d probably print a couple – one of them being one of the goose photos.

Overall, the trip was VERY worth it. I got 4 hours of bonding time with mom (and she’s SO busy that’s a rarity worth so much) and I finally got an eagle grabbing a fish out of water. Next time – when it’s warmer and there are more eagles – some time in December – should be great.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

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