The Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam are world famous. When the days get cooler and shorter, the population begins to rapidly grow and one can frequently see up to 100 eagles in a day.
WHEN TO GO
- Beginning at the end of October through the beginning of January, Bald Eagles are the most plentiful.
- Anytime during the day is great as the action is unpredictable. The lighting quickly fades in the afternoon, quickly turning dark after 4:00 pm, EST.
- Plan on spending many hours standing and waiting for the action of fishing and fighting.
- Check on the Conowingo Dam Release Schedule daily by calling 1-888-457-4076.
- TIP: Get there around 8:00 a.m. The lighting improves and it’s still fairly quiet.
HOW TO GET THERE
Address is: 2569 Shures Landing Road, Darlington, Maryland 21034
From I-95 North/South, Take Exit #89 for Havre de Grace. Head north on Route 155 / Level Road. Turn right on Route 161 / Darlington Road go 4.4 miles. Turn right onto Old Quaker Road, go .4 miles. Turn right on Shuresville Road, go 433 feet and veer left to stay on Shuresville Road. After a mile, turn right onto Shuresville Landing Road. Road will lead you into the parking area along the dam.
TIP: Park as close to the port-a-potties as possible for easy car access.
- It will be cold ! Dress warmly in layers to add/remove as needed. Wear winter boots if you have them. There will be a lot of standing/sitting involved.
- Bring lunch and something warm to drink.
- Make sure you have plenty of memory cards and charged batteries.
- TIP: Bring a small chair to sit while waiting for the action to happen.
BEST SPOTS FOR SHOOTING
There are two primary locations photographers set up for shooting. Both locations have advantages and disadvantages.
- Along the fence line across from the twin power towers near the port-a-potties.
- The eagles frequently fish between the island and the rip rap.
- They then fly overhead into the trees to enjoy their fish. One can quickly move along the tree line to get a shot.
- Have an overview perspective of fishing eagles.
- Disadvantages – The action in front of the dam is further away.
- Down on the fishing pier.
- Closer to the water and action in front of the pier.
- Provides water level perspective.
- Shooting into the morning sun in the early hours of the day 7:00am – 10:00am.
- A bit of a walk to get to the tree line for the eating shots.
- Get the longest zoom lens you can get your hands on. Anything 400mm and longer will help you reach the bird.
- If you can’t afford to buy a mega lens, RENT !
- If you have access to two camera bodies, bring them along. One with the mega zoom, the other with a smaller zoom to capture the eagles in the trees.
- Tripod with a Wimberly type Gimbal head is a must. Unless you have super steady hands and have no issue hand holding up to ten pounds while panning.
- Practice, Practice, Practice before you get here. Practice sighting, scanning and panning a bird in flight.
- Know your camera well so that you can quickly change settings if need be. The light changes quickly in the morning and adjustments are continual.
- The Lazy Man settings:
- Aperture Priority
- Auto ISO
- Auto White Balance
- AI Servo focus mode
- Continual shoot mode
- Center weighted focus points
- Spot metering
- In bright light watch out for blowing out the white highlights of the head and tail of the eagles. Use negative Exposure Compensation to offset.
- The Lazy Man settings:
- TIP: With good light, my settings were: 1/1500 sec, f/7.1, ISO 400, AWB, AI Servo, Center weight focus points, spot metering. I had rented a 500mm and wish that I had also rented the 1.4x II extender to go along with it.
If you’re able to visit Conowingo Dam and visit this incredible sight of these majestic birds, have a wonderful time and happy shooting !