A Visitor’s Guide to the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam

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Conowingo Dam

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.

Dawn at the Dam

Dawn at the Dam

PREPARE

  • 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.
Bald Eagle Paparrazzi

Bald Eagle Paparrazzi

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.
    • Advantages
      • 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.
    • Advantages
      • Closer to the water and action in front of the pier.
      • Provides water level perspective.
    • Disadvantages
      • 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.
Fishing at the Dam

Fishing at the Dam

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

  • 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 !

lens rental

  • 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.
  • 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 !

Click on this photo to visit my photo gallery of the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam.

Related Posts:

http://birdingblogs.com/2012/glennbartley/how-to-photograph-birds-in-flight

43 thoughts on “A Visitor’s Guide to the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam

  1. Useful tip for me regarding the negative exposure compensation, Emily! I need to get my little instruction booklet out and figure out how to do that. Could have used that for yesterday’s Tundra Swans.

  2. This would be an EXPERIENCE! I remember going to Red Wing, MN to look at the eagles. Majestic creatures that are a true symbol of freedom. I have actually rescued a bald eagle – amazing experience to save a one. Thanks for sharing!

      • But you don’t ALWAYS need the best of the best to get a great shot. Just because you have the dough to put out for a $40k lens and $9k camera body does not make a photographer. Know plenty of people who wasted $40k a year to get a degree in photography who are absolutely horrible, no gift, no eye, nothing. Add the ones who get a decent camera and automatically think they’re the best photographer in the world and open a biz because all their friends tell them they’re the best thing since sliced bread and they are horrible. Just my two cents……….

  3. Pingback: Spectacular views of bald eagles over the Susquehanna River | Healthy Waters for EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region

  4. Thanks for the tips, I’m an Aussie based in the UK, but I need to get away for a week and I love Bald Eagles so I’m thinking about a trip to the US and the dam looks like the place to go! I shoot Sony, so I will see if I can persuade a friend of mine ot lend me his Minolta 600mm. Hey I can ask! :)

  5. Pingback: Conowingo Dam & Turkey Point Lighthouse_11-10-2013

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