About This Site

Everyone should have goals in their life, and one that I'm working on now is to take a great photo of a bald eagle. I don't have one yet. As soon as I get one, I'll post it here. In the meantime I'll post my mediocre attempts.

In Search of Eagles

Iowa Eagle

I don't remember seeing a bald eagle in the wild until a few years ago. I did see one in a zoo once and I thought it was rather sad that a bird like that was confined to a pen where it could only fly back and forth a short distance. But since seeing a bald eagle perched on a faraway tree in Florida in 2002, I've seen them and attempted with varying degrees of success to photograph them in such locales as Maryland, Virginia, Alaska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Maine and British Columbia.

In the '70's, one had to wonder whether the species would even survive in the lower 48 states as the effects of DDT made it difficult to hatch eggs. The bald eagle was classified as "endangered" in the lower 48 in 1967. DDT was banned in 1972, and the populations of eagles and other birds of prey rebounded. In 1994, the status of the bald eagle was upgraded from "endangered" to "threatened" in the lower 48. It was removed from the threatened list in 2007, but of course is still protected. (Intentionally harming an eagle or any raptor is a federal crime, and offenders should be prosecuted vigorously.)

Of course you can see bald eagles when it isn't freezing cold outside, but the middle of winter is when they bunch together. Bald eagles live near water and usually depend on fish for a large part of their diet. During the winter as lakes and rivers freeze, they tend to congregate in areas where the water remains open, such as the locks and dams along the upper Mississippi River. And that's why one of my favorite locations for photographing eagles is Lock and Dam #18 near Burlington, Iowa.

In the '90's as eagle populations recovered, many locales around the U.S. and Canada began to see bald eagles as a source of tourism dollars during a slow part of the year. "Eagle Days" celebrations are now common in many communities around the U.S. and Canada. I'm not a big fan of mobs of people riding around on buses gaping at the birds, but it's a sign that eagles are becoming very popular.

I'm not going to try to maintain a list of eagle viewing locations or festivals, but click on this Google search to get started. Or just head toward Burlington in January. Here's an incomplete list of places with potentially great bald eagle viewing during the winter:

  • Upper Mississippi River locks and dams
  • Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, northwest Missouri
  • Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
  • Haines and the Chilkat River Valley, Alaska
  • Brackendale, British Columbia
  • Harrison River, British Columbia
  • Upper Skagit River Watershed, Northwestern Washington State
  • Klamath Basin, Oregon

Tom O'Neil 

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