BIRDER'S JOURNAL
January 7 , 2008

SUBJECT: Bald Eagles Fishing on the Upper Mississippi River

The weather this winter has been quite active with storm system after storm system sweeping through the midwest. This has led to mostly cloudy weather with very few sunny days. Finally an Arctic front made its way through the area leading to three consecutive sunny days. It was bone-chilling cold, but the weather was perfect for photographing bald eagles along the Mississippi. During those three days I took over 3,000 images of bald eagles from various locations along the river in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

There were a lot of images in which the photographer goofed or the eagles decided not to pose for me, but I did manage to have a few "keepers" out of the bunch. Usually these images are sent out through my bird photography mailing list, but with over 100 images to send I felt that a web page seemed the best way to view them. (If you haven't already joined the mailing list and would like to do so, click here to send an email. You may receive anywhere from zero to over 20 images per week.)

The first image I would like to share is a collage of images that show how a bald eagle fishes. In most cases on the Mississippi River, the eagles fish in open water below the dams where shad are common. Shad are a small, silver fish that eagles can eat on-the-fly. With the bald eagle flying into the wind, the eagle dives towards its prey and grabs the fish with its talons. In most instances, the eagle's lower legs are about the only part of the bird that gets wet. After a successful catch, the eagle will then transfer the fish from its talons to its bill while in mid-flight. On some occasions the bald eagle may be fortunate enough to hook a fish too large to do the mid-flight transfer. In such a case the eagle will either land on the ice or a tree limb to devour its feast.

Bald Eagle Collage
Please click on the above image for a larger view.

It is interesting to note that while photographing these birds, I found very few juvenile eagles. In autumn, the juveniles are usually the first eagles to migrate down the Mississippi with the "hardier" adults following a few weeks later. Considering that most of the eagles that I photographed were on the northern end of their winter range, I would assume the juveniles are further south.

Below are 120 images taken last week. Please click on the image of your choice to view a larger size.

Enjoy!

--Alan Stankevitz

 

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Web design © 2007, Alan Stankevitz
All photographs © 2002-2007, Alan Stankevitz

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