As my friend Bob and I slowly drove down the dirt road, our excitement grew into amazement. Our goal was coming into view: 25-30 bald eagles sitting in the trees and on the edge of the ice, and a half a dozen circling above looking for fish to grab. It was cold (below zero) and windy, and the light was poor, but we were thrilled at having found this place. We were at the spillway below the dam of Lake McConaughy in Ogallala, Nebraska. Lake McConaughy is a 30-mile-long summer playground for recreational activity, but in the winter it is a frozen slab on the Nebraska plains. It is frozen solid with the exception of about a one-acre area of open water below the spillway of the dam. This is where as many as 100 bald eagles spend their winter feasting on the shad that are easy pickings in the open water. The fish are sucked through the tunnels of the dam and spillway and are often stunned or killed by the water turbulence. They float to the surface and become highly visible to the predators converging on this patch of open water from the north. At one point we counted about 50 bald eagles, giving us a target-rich environment for photography.
An adult bald eagle with talons ready is about to grab a fish from a hole in the ice:
An immature bald eagle practices its technique and plucks a fish out of the open water:
View this video to see an adult bald eagle grab a fish:
Many of the eagles sat in the trees near the spillway:
Trumpeter Swans and seagulls enjoyed the fishing, as well:
Cameras used were Canon 7D and Canon 5D mark II with a 500mm f/4 lens plus a 1.4x extender.
~ by richardseeley on February 19, 2011.
Posted in Photo Adventures, Stories
Tags: adult, adventure, animal, bald, beak, bird, canon, eagle, eye, family, fish, fishing, flying, frozen, grab, gull, hole, ice, immature, juvenile, kill, lake, landscape, life, lunch, mcconaughy, nature, nebraska, ogallala, photographer, pluck, portrait, predator, prey, reflection, scenic, sea, swan, swoop, talon, three, trumpeter, vertebrate, video, water, wild, wildlife, wing, winter