Photographing the North American Bald Eagle “Haliaeetus leucocephalus” Has been a few years in the making, after a more than ten-year hiatus, I got back into photography in 2013 – 2013/2014 was the last year there was a significant freeze along the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 24, near Clarksville, MO and man oh man, was it glorious, there were an estimated 600+ eagles counted the between November and February.
On Saturday, four members of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society Nature Photography club braved the cold temps and headed up Highway 79, for our first of the year photography field trip to Lock and Dam 24. We did not have the greatest light, high numbers of raptors or close action. But when the Eagles came in for a closer look, the shutters were clicking away.
WGNSS members in attendance: Bill, Brian/Karen Bilgere and Miguel.
A big thanks to Karen, who counted close to 80 eagles on Saturday
From December through February, Missouri’s winter eagle watching is spectacular. The St. Louis metro area is fortunate to have two major rivers the Mississippi and Missouri, along with other tributaries, there is an abundance of many lakes, and abundant wetlands, Missouri is prime real estate for bald eagle viewing. Each fall and winter, thousands of these great birds migrate south from their nesting range in Canada and the Great Lakes states to hunt in the Show-Me State.
While there is no ideal recipe for seeing North American Bald Eagles along the river during these times. I have noticed that with sustained cold temperatures (2-3 weeks of highs in the mid-’20s and lows in the single digits.) Patches of ice start to accumulate and build up along the banks of the river and start to stretch their way to the middle of the Mississippi River. It is that which provides a perfect fish hunting spot for eagles. Along with a generous west wind are best scenarios for photographing eagles.
T I P S
- Don’t let the overcast weather scare you away from getting your image(s). Many times, animals are more active and make better photos on a cloudy day.
- Keep a respectful distance away from all wildlife when taking photos. There are great telephoto lenses and converters available now to help photographers capture the moment.
- Waiting is the hard part, but patience is usually rewarded.
- Be prepared with extra batteries, memory cards, lens cleaning cloths, and other supplies.
- Dress in layers, even down to your feet and hands.
Until the next adventure.
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