eagles for thanksgiving

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Jan 22, 2008
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elmer, nj
I went to visit my sister's family in northern nj this thanksgiving, and clark had an idea to visit a spot in northeastern maryland where there were supposed to be a lot of eagles. Since I was going to be around a few days it sounded like a good plan. Clark loaned me one of his older zoom lenses or else I wouldn't have been able to get any pictures of them. As it is, clark has much more experience (and a better zoom lens!) so his pictures are excellent! The spot we were heading to was called Gonowingo Dam, and turns out that it's supposed to be one of the best spots east of the mississippi river for viewing bald eagles. This time of year at peak viewing, it can be possible to see around 100 eagles in one day! There were hundreds of different sea gulls and terns, plus black backed vultures, great blue herons and other water birds in great numbers. The dam is located on the very end of the susquehanna river just before it enters the chesapeake bay. The susquehanna starts way up nearish my hometown near binghamton, ny. The river starts a ways before that and crosses the width of the state of pennsylvania, so is very long. The dam generates power mostly for peak usage hours for the city of philadelphia and surrounding area; when the turbines are running fish get pulled through and are stunned/killed so that they float downstream after passing through the dam. Of course as a result the birds have a feast and photographers from all around 'flock' to this spot to watch and get pictures! There must not have been very many fish in the reservoir as only two birds were seen to have swooped down to try and catch fish.

Now, keep in mind that I was using borrowed equipment, and the things I normally take pictures of (plants/flowers/landscapes) have roots and don't move very quickly, and I can get very close to them! So, these pictures are 'okay' but nothing special. You'll be much more impressed when clark posts his pictures


bald eagle napping in the morning sun above the parking lot waiting for some fish to come along


on this rung of one of the huge power transmission towers there are eight eagles hanging out waiting for breakfast. occasionally the black-backed vultures would hang out on these towers and beneath


more napping going on!


a great blue heron hanging out waiting for a meal to come by. after a while we noticed that dozens of these birds were waiting on top of the rocky bank above this spot and all around, the most any of us had ever seen of them in one area (that wasn't a nesting site)


buildings with black-backed vultures hanging out in the morning sun, ignoring people and cats for the most part. there were so many around in different areas and flying around here and there, that clark commented that they were as common as pigeons in this area (dozens and dozens)


turbine spillway area; tiny white spots are sea gulls looking for a snack


image showing only about a fourth of the total length of the dam


this eagle was coming in for a landing on one of the huge towers so I started pressing the shutter; it's far away and highly zoomed and sharpened, but the action is more interesting than the detail


a bit further away from the spillway area there were large rocks that many birds were resting on. in this pic there are at least seven immature (brown) bald eagles, very close by there are two or three great blue herons, a large number of unidentified smaller grey/white birds and very many gulls and terns. also flying around in different spots are black-backed vultures. see how many different birds you can spot in this photo!


these birds were very far away and is highly zoomed... in this pic you can see an immature (brown) eagle diving at and harassing an adult bald eagle. this isn't an unusual event, though usually it was the adults harassing the immature eagles. sometimes with birds jousting each other, you could see four or more birds in the same frame in your camera viewfinder




a shot showing just a few of the people gathered to watch and photograph the eagles and other water birds. most were very nice and willing to share stories of their viewing exploits


the closest we were to any eagles; ironic that we were in the truck sitting at a stop light and the eagle was hovering over us!
it was very cool! really... the air was cold, and then the wind started blowing 15-20 miles an hour and the clouds rolled in, and I was happy I had my polartec hat and other gear to keep the wind off... thankfully clark's wife made a bag full of sandwiches (or else clark would have frozen long ago ;) ). I think the pic showing the people looks warmer than it really was though the sun was nice right off the bat

a few more pics I couldn't fit into the first post


three bald eagles very far away but very close to each other; two were fighting each other and the third was keeping close tabs on the two


two adults and at least one juvenile bald eagle on the trailing end of one of the small islands in the river, eating something that was just out of site beneath the rocks
Great shots!!!
Using google, pic #9 is about 1/4 mile away. Most shots were over 500ft., to give you an idea about the range.
There was over $100,000 of 800mmL type lenses within view all morning.
To me, it felt like opening day of trout season in NJ(elbow to elbow), combined with being on the field of a NFL game.
Great day!
WOW- what a day that must have been! Your pics are awesome. Eagles are so cool! Thanks so much for sharing the view with us!