Eagle Season at Conowingo Dam

It’s been Bald Eagle season at Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland. The past couple of years have been sparse with eagles, due to a variety of reasons.

The first being that Conowingo Dam’s permit for operation had been suspended for some time while environmentalists argued about the silt caused by the dam and the resulting consequences in the Chesapeake Bay. The second being the huge influx of photographers along the fence line. The number of visitors have more than doubled in the past couple of years due to social media and word of mouth.

But this year, the eagles are back, and they are back in full force. With numbers over 150 on a regular day, these regal birds giggle high on the power lines while they wait for an easy fish to float down the river.

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Photographing them is never easy as much of the action is far away. Even with a 500mm lens with a 1.4xx extender with the equivalent of 700mm, the birds are still really far. But watching the action has been incredible. There were times were more than five eagles where flying together in a tough dispute for a solitary fish. Many times, the one that got the fish decides that if he can’t have it, than neither can they. “Content over Quality” as many photographers along the fence say.

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I’ve been busy visiting the dam with the three photography workshops that I’ve held there, offered through Capital Photography Center. It’s a pre-dawn departure to arrive there by 6:30 a.m. to stake out my real estate for my class participants. Being at the dam is like being at a baseball game. You spend a lot of time waiting, and most things are quiet. Then BAM ! The eagles hit a home run and you have to be quick on the draw to catch the action.

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As with any bird photography, the best images are when the birds are close. Luckily, there has been a young female that has made the photographers her friends. She sits high in a tree near where many stand and just pose like a runway model.

I’m thrilled as I’ll be returning the dam this next week, this time with my camera in tow. So I’m hoping to get some of those close fly-bys that we all wait hours and hours for. Wish me luck!

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