962 bald eagles was the count by the US Army Corp of Engineers at Lock and Dam 18 in Burlington, Iowa on the Mississippi River in early February 2013. However, we chose to photograph at Lock and Dam 14 in Le Claire, Iowa, where the eagle count was only 12. Were we misinformed, naive or just crazy? Why not go where the count is the highest?
As wildlife photographers, we (Bob Karcz, Rod Chandler, and I) were in pursuit of the bald eagle fishing shot. Lock and Dam 14 is well suited for photographing bald eagles as they glide down from nearby trees and swoop in to grab a fish on the surface of the Mississippi, only a couple of hundred feet from where we were standing on the shore. There may have been far fewer eagles at this location as compared to others, but at the peak of the fishing, an eagle would swoop in every 15 minutes or so to catch a fish at Lock and Dam 14. This is considered a high probability and high frequency event for wildlife photographers.
On the weekends, Lock and Dam 14 is a mecca for photographers. The boardwalk had as many as 50 of us lined up waiting for that winning shot:
But it was not as reliable and predictable as one might hope. Many factors affect the likelihood of the event, such as: weather, temperature, amount of ice on the river, wind, number of fish coming through the turbines of the dam, time of day and number of eagles. There were long intervals when wildlife events were not happening:
Persistence does sometimes pay. Here are a few images that made the trip worth the drive (12 hours from Denver):
“Boomerang” – Not only does this beautiful bald eagle remind you of a boomerang, but also its flight path is from tree, to fish, then return to the tree for a fish dinner in a smooth, continuous boomerang-like loop.
And finally “Fish Finesse” – Second place award winner in the wildlife category of the Mile High Wildlife Photo Club competition for February, 2013
View more of my eagle images in the Eagles Gallery on my website.
You may also read a previous blog post on Lock and Dam 14:
~ by richardseeley on April 7, 2013.
Posted in Birds, Eagles, Photo Adventures, Recognition, Stories, Travel, Wildlife
Tags: adventure, animal, bald eagle, bird, finesse, fish, fishing, flying, lock and dam, mississippi, photography, predator, wildlife, wildlife photographers