Photography by Larry A Lyons

Posts tagged ‘Bald Eagle’

Bald Eagle Photography at Conowingo Dam

Conowingo Dam is a hydroelectric dam situated on the Susquehanna River in Maryland just five miles south of the Pennsylvania border. It is an area where bald eagles tend to congregate particularly in November to about mid-December. It just so happens…… where bald eagles congregate so do photographers with their long lenses. On any given day during this period you will probably find a hundred or more photographers and they come from all over. When I was there last week coming from New Jersey, we parked next to a van with three gentlemen from Toronto, Canada and I set-up my tripod between a lady that just flew in from Dallas, Texas and a gentleman from Maryland of all places.

The dam has 11 turbine units – four high capacity units and seven low capacity units. The more units that are operating in a given day, the more fish that pass through the turbines. The more fish often equates to a greater activity of bald eagles swooping down to collect a meal. There is a Conowingo Generation hotline (888-457-4076) that will inform you how many turbines will be operating the next day on the evening before.

Photographing bald eagles particularly when they are zooming down to capture a fish is challenging. First of all, you need to have all of your camera setting set for the best exposure and you will need to be able track the rapid action through your viewfinder. This is not easy to do. You will also need to be aware of constantly changing lighting conditions.  Let me show you what I mean.  The next 10 images were captured sequentially over a period of THREE seconds. All images were captured using a Canon IDX and a 600 mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter (total of 840 mm). The camera was set at a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, f-stop of 5.6 and ISO of 1600. The camera was set on spot metering and rapid fire.

Start time was 8:03:34 AM for Image #1:

Image #1:

#1 The Grab

‘Image #1: The Grab’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #2:

#2 Walleye Secured

‘Image #2: Crappie Secured’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #3:

#3 Liftoff

‘Image #3: Liftoff’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #4:

#4 Revving Up

‘Image #4: Revving Up’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #5:

#5 The Glide

‘Image #5: The Glide’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #6:

#6 More Power

‘Image # 6: More Power’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #7:

#7 More Lift

‘Image #7: More Lift’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #8:

#8 Increase Lift

‘Image #8: Increase Lift’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #9:

#9 Banking Left

‘Image #9: Banking Left’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #10:

#10 Heading Home

‘Image #10: Heading Home’ © Larry A Lyons

End Time was 8:03:37 AM for Image 10. If this photo sequence was captured in video, you would miss out on all those maneuvers over a period of only THREE seconds.

It is just remarkable to process what happened in just three seconds. This bald eagle swooned down from high above at lightning speed and dipped its talons just below the water surface to snag its target. Razor-sharp talons penetrated the crappie preventing any chance of escape. In the next fraction of a second, the eagle begins lift off with this three-pound walleye. Average weight of bald eagles is 9 to 12 pounds and so it is lifting perhaps thirty percent of its own weight. Then, you witness the sheer power and determination with that wingspan to maneuver itself away from the surface of the water and head home. Talk about skills! We should be in awe!

The image that I like the most is image #9 (Banking Left). What I like about this image is the way the eagle is maneuvering; the length of the wingspan; the visibility of its very lethal talons; how one of the talons is firmly holding onto the crappie; the eye of the crappie is visible; and the backlighting of the tail. Is it a perfect image? No, but what do you want from three seconds. I am just a photographer not a bald eagle.

Image #10, as well as Image #5, provide good examples how changing light conditions can so quickly change and reduce the quality of an image. The detail of the crappie is washed out in Image #5 probably because of the way the fish was turned and some of the details of the white head are lost in Image #10 once it starts flying downstream directly into the sun.

This particular bald eagle with the head and tail not entirely white is just completing its development to maturity. The immature stage of the bald eagle lasts for a period of four to five years. The plumage of the immature bald eagle, as shown below, is dark brown including its head and tail. It sometimes is mistaken as a golden eagle.

Image: Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle

‘Immature Bald Eagle’ © Larry A Lyons

The immature eagle is not nearly as dramatic or regal as the mature eagle with its white head and tail except perhaps when it is looking right at you claiming its catch.

Please visit my website at www.EnviroQuestPhotography.com to see more galleries.

Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey

This is the second post of a three part series of a Florida field trip that this photographer co-coordinated for the South Jersey Camera Club members for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March. The first post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds’, visited the Venice Rookery with an amazing diversity of birds courting, mating and raising offspring. This post travels to various locations in southwest Florida to photograph birds of prey nesting and caring for their offspring.

Bald Eagle Portrait

‘Bald Eagle’ © Larry A Lyons

The Bald Eagle is another success story on the importance of banning harmful chemicals, such as the pesticide known as DDT; enacting laws such as the federal ‘Endangered Species Act’; and providing appropriate measures of wildlife management. In Florida there were only 88 active nests in 1973. Now there are more than 1,300 nests documented as a result of all of these initiatives.

One of these nests is situated high up in a tree in the northern section of Fort Meyers, Florida. Adult ‘Bald Eagles’, known as Ozzie and Harriet, have been coming to this nest since 2006 residing in the nest between the months of October and May. This eaglet was stretching its wings waiting its turn to be fed.

Can I Fly Yet?

‘Can I Fly Yet?’ © Larry A Lyons

Feeding The Eaglets

‘Feeding The Eaglets’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Burrowing Owls’, no bigger than 10 inches (25 cm) in height, live underground in burrows. They dig out tunnels in sandy soils often within residential communities, particularly vacant lots preferring areas with low ground cover. Burrows extend for 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) underground. This pair of owls was guarding its burrow.

No Trespassing

‘No Trespassing’ © Larry A Lyons

The Florida burrowing owl is classified as a “species of special concern”. This means burrows, owls, and their eggs are protected from harassment and/or disturbance by state law.

Burrowing Owl Portrait

‘Burrowing Owl On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

The installation of T-perches near the owl burrows is often provided. These perches provide the owls with an elevated view that aids in looking out for predators. The T-perches also make the burrows visible for operators of lawn mowers.

Watching Over Nest

‘Watching Over Burrow’ © Larry A Lyons

Unlike other owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day. They have a diversified diet feeding on small mammals (moles and mice), insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Burrowing Owl On The Prowl

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

This wise old ‘Great Horned Owl’ was watching over an owlet living in this tree. Two nests of these owls were observed within a suburban community of Cape Coral that was no more than two blocks apart. It is one of the most common owls in North America. They live in a broad range of habitats from deserts, forests, tropical rainforests, cities, parks and suburbs. Like the burrowing owl, it has found a way of adapting to suburban sprawl.

The Wise One

‘The Wise One’ © Larry A Lyons

Great Horned Owls take life-long mates and will raise the young together. It does have a varied diet that can include small to medium sized mammals (foxes, rabbits, raccoons, rodents, etc.), amphibians, birds, fish and reptiles. This owlet is only a few weeks old and still covered with downy feathers.


‘Owlet’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s because of the widespread use of an insecticide, known as DDT. Once DDT was finally banned in 1972, recovery of the osprey population began. A previous post entitled, ‘The Osprey Comeback’, provides more information about the how DDT caused the extermination of the osprey populations. The biology and reproduction cycle of the osprey is also provided in this previous post.

Osprey Portrait

‘Osprey Portrait’ © Larry A Lyons

The ospreys were quite active in building their nest. This nest was situated on an osprey platform in the Ding Darling Refuge in Sanibel Island and nesting begins as early as March. The male ‘Osprey’ brought the remainder of a fish to the female who was attending to constructing the nest. Ospreys mate for life and often return to the same nest year after year.

Room Service

‘Room Service’ © Larry A Lyons

Stay tuned for the final post of this series that will visit birds and other wildlife at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.