Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fishing along the Mississippi

The American Bald Eagle
Bold and Beautiful
Undeniably the beauty, skill and power eagles exhibit while wintering at Lock and Dams along the Mississippi River have an irresistible pull for birdwatchers and photographers alike. The winter months of January and February are an excellent time to see the American Bald Eagle at Illinois/Iowa Lock and Dams along the Mississippi River.

One of the first things you notice about an eagle is it's keen eye.
They have excellent eye sight.
In fact they can see their target (in most cases fish) from miles away.
Their eyesight is so powerful that their acuity is at least 3 or 4 times better than that of humans.

Even with keen eye sight the eagle does occasionally miss it's target. The bottom of the eagles feet or talons are rough and help keep the fish from slipping away from the eagles grasp. The eagles feet are it's fishing pole and are as important to the eagle as it's sharp eyesight.

This photo shows an interesting fact about the eagles eye. A fact I learned from a fellow photographer at the lock and dam. As I proudly showed this capture, I was informed that the eagle's nictitating membrane was captured moving across it's eye. I had no idea that the eagle's eye had a second or inner semitransparent eyelid that cleans dust and dirt almost continually.
So for me this was a very exciting and educational capture.

This eagle has it's eye on the fish it is just about to catch. It's tail looks like a rudder.

A juvenile bald eagle about to capture a meal.

This eagle is already turning around to redeem a fish that slipped out of it's grasp.

I love the sunlight highlighting this eagles tail and talons as it descends on it's prey.

With a wingspan of 6 - 7 feet it is a challenge for me to capture the entire eagle while panning my camera to follow it along the Mississippi River. It is extremely rewarding when I do.

And extremely disappointing when I clip the wings on an otherwise beautiful picture.

Eagles feed mainly on live fish.
To hunt and capture fish, the eagle swoops down over the water
and snatches the fish out of the water with it's talons.

My guess is this is a first year eagle because it is mostly brown
resembling the golden eagle but is dabbled with white spots throughout.

Eagles are fast! As they maneuver their way along the Mississippi River, speeds of 30 to 35 mph are obtained. Keeping focus with a camera requires lots of practice. Another wing clip. A challenge I will conquer! I still have three weeks left in February to practice and enjoy it's beauty, speed and character.

Visit my Smugmug Gallery to see eagles from last years visit.

Then check back often for updates and additions from this years visits.


  1. Once again, awesome photos, Deb! I haven't seen my heron since we got the dog - sob, sob.

  2. I love the unique perpective captured in each of these photos and I learned something today about eagle eyes.
    The juvenile's coloration is beautiful. You should do an eagle calendar too.

  3. This is exactly how fishing should be done! Bravo and you have such beautiful photos! Found you through facebook!

  4. Thank you everyone for the kind comments. This was a really great day!
    Wendy, Hopefully the Blue Heron will return this spring you may see it on a walk with the new doggy soon :)
    Mary Jo, The nictitating membrane was a learn something new moment for me, love those! A calendar, hmmm.. maybe :)
    Tom, I am so happy you found my blog through facebook. It gave me a chance to see and enjoy your blog also. Very nice to meet you, I look forward to getting to know you better through our blogs and FB.
    Rose, Yes, it truly is an amazing experience seeing these eagles in action. Glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for the visit.