Bald Eagles | Below Lock and Dam 14

Iowa has an east coast and a west coast since it is bounded by two major rivers. This View From Iowa was about as far east as one can be in the state. We met friends Tom and Sharon in LeClaire along the Mississippi River. Melanie and Sharon did some shopping in a fabric store to stock up on their quilting needs. Jim and Tom visited while sitting in some fancy painted chairs in the front window of the store. We walked down the street for lunch.

After lunch, we drove a short distance along the river to a viewing area below Lock and Dam 14. Bald Eagles congregate there to snatch fish from the water, stunned by their passage over the gates of the dam. Several were soaring above us checking the waters.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

Many thanks to Tom for permission to use his photo above and the one at the end of this post. Very nice work, Tom.

 

By this time of year, the river is often covered with ice except below the dams. Eagles by the hundreds and thousands find these open waters along the Mississippi, and other rivers in the midwest, good food sources. This year has been above freezing lately. There is little ice on the main body of the river. There is some ice along the inlets and bays.

Lock and Dam 14 | Click to embiggen

Lock and Dam 14 | Click to embiggen

Several Bald Eagles were perched in the two trees at the left. The wind was coming from the right in these photographs. Now and then, a stunned or dead fish would drift from right to left. The eagles would take flight and fly over to see if it was worthy of their effort to snatch it.

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Also perched nearby were about 50 people armed with cameras on long telephoto lenses, waiting to begin a frenzy of photos in hopes of capturing the perfect shot. The fish were drifting with the wind right in front of the photographers. Someone brought an ice chest (in the foreground of the photo below) with several dead fish in it. Every 30 minutes he tossed a fish in to lure the eagles.

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If the eagles launched, someone would call out to the group of photographers. Shutters whirred while the birds swooped down not 100 feet in front of everyone. My results were so-so. Not enough $$ in my camera equipment.

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This brief video clip shows what everyone was watching. In the background sounds are the camera shutters near me. Listen to the vocalizations of the eagles during the last 10 seconds after it settles on the perch near another.

After a few passes, cameras quieted down and the eagles went back to the tree perches. All was quiet as the parties waiting for the passing of another dead fish. What a way to spend an afternoon. It was a good way to enjoy the sunshine on a winter day in Iowa.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

 

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25 thoughts on “Bald Eagles | Below Lock and Dam 14

  1. Debra

    Photographing eagles is -really- difficult but these are great shots. Thanks for sharing. Wow. The ’14’ suggests a series of dams. What are they used for and do the fish get any protection? I imagine there must be sturgeon in those waters.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Those with top of the line equipment set the camera so shutter speeds were very fast. That stops any motion. They fired away shot after shot hoping some would be keepers.

      The river between the origin in MN to the Ohio River has 27 lock and dam location. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_locks_and_dams_of_the_Upper_Mississippi_River

      Many are strictly for flood control. Several places have hydro-electric generators.

      There are lake sturgeon in the river. This article will add some info about some studies done. http://www.umesc.usgs.gov/aquatic/fish/bknights_5002554.html

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      1. Debra

        Even with good equipment it takes a steady hand and perfect timting. Your friend is talented. A lot of places are starting to remove their dams but I hadn’t heard what was happening to the Mississippi. Thanks for the links.

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  2. OceanDiver

    Fantastic site and situation. What a difference it makes knowing where they are likely to be. That steady clicking of shutters is hilarious – I wonder about that when I’m photographing, how the birds or mammals perceive it. You folks had a great day on the river. Thanks for the photos and the video. Don’t you love the sound of eagles calling!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      We were kind of surprised about the small number of eagles present. Here in Iowa City, we have more each day than we saw at the Miss. River.

      It was funny about the whir of shutters. Lots of money lined up along that railing. Each camera system costs a bundle. I asked a guy next to me if anyone ever dropped one over into the river. He said yes. Now many tie their tripod to the fence.

      They do lots of vocalizing. Do you still have the url for the Decorah eagles? They are busy at the nest these days.

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  3. Anarette

    Very nice. So far I have not been able to get a great shot like the last one. They show up ad random at my place and I never seem to be ready. Besides I do not have a very good zoom lens,,.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Mrs. P

    Beautiful! You are so lucky to be rewarded with many. I grew up in the era of endangerment and am thrilled to know that they are being spotted in my urban childhood neighborhood. I have yet to see one. I am jealous! I am hoping to see one some day…it took me 55 years to see a whale from the shore…a bald eagle would be just as exciting.

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        1. Jim in IA Post author

          I saw that same mouse when I looked. It was pretty funny to watch. It had better keep an eye out for the owls, too. They have been regular visitors. The eagles chase them away.

          Eggs are expected late Feb to early March.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Alex Autin

    Wow, what a fantastic way to spend a day! I’m envious, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a bald eagle…and I’m pretty sure I would remember if I had. Tom’s images are gorgeous, and I also like the other photos which give a great sense of the eagle’s activities and the surrounding environment. Great video as well!

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Tom and the others were getting great shots. The sun was bright. The breeze direction forced the eagles to glide across in front of everyone. All the right conditions.

      We are used to seeing lots of eagles here. They come down from the north each winter looking for some open water and nest sites. Most of the counties in IA have nesting sites. I figured there were many people who hadn’t seen eagles and would appreciate the story.

      Thanks for your comments.

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  6. melissabluefineart

    Lovely post, Jim. I had to take a double take at the photo with Tom’s copyright….I also have a friend named Tom Smith, who is an excellent photographer and birder. Not the same one, though.
    Years ago we went down to Keokuck (?) to see the eagles. What a thrill, and now they are turning up here in Lake County. Hooray!

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  7. shoreacres

    What a fine day you had, and the photos are delightful. I had to laugh at the photographers lined up. We get the same thing during certain seasons: during the raptor migration, and in the rookeries in spring, especially.

    People often don’t realize that Texas has bald eagles, too. I’ve seen them perhaps a dozen times. There’s a breeding population along the coast, from the Louisiana border down to about Rockport, and an overwintering population that stays mostly in the Panhandle and north and east Texas.

    I went looking, and found that in 1971, there were only five nest sites found. In 2005, there were 160 nests that fledged at least 204 babies. Such good news!

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I am surprised that there are so many down there. I associate them with northern climes. Since they are a member of the fish eating family, the coast would make sense, tho.

      Our numbers of eagles has risen dramatically. Now and then, we see one soar over our house. We are about 2 miles from the Iowa River. They are big.

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