Washout at the Conowingo Dam


Well, it was my washout, not the actual Conowingo Dam being washed out. I was about two weeks too early to photograph the eagles according to the photographers that show up a few times a week.


I had a bit of a suspicion that eagles would be few because I follow Conowingo Dam on Facebook and the two weeks prior to me leaving for PA, photos of eagles were not being posted.


You might notice a lot of eagles shot from behind in this post. Just the luck of the draw I guess. They always don’t point where you want them too.


I knew there would be eagles, just not a hundred of them like last time on December 26th, 2014. See this post for how close the eagles were to photographers on that day. You can see hundreds of Cormorants above and just two eagles.


When there are so few eagles (about five to six at a time), they stay on the other side of the channel, too far for my lens. When they are plentiful, I get pretty close up shots. Otherwise, they are far away and I have to enlarge the resulting image.


Going down for the kill… the eagle below got lucky with an unfortunate fish.


If I post the actual full frame image without enlarging it, the eagle would be very tiny in the picture. You can see that full frame image below of two eagles and an osprey. The problem when they are this small in the image is focusing on the action. It becomes fortuitous if the subject is focused correctly. Many images are a bit soft, but considering the distance, the images are not too bad. I have a tendency to enlarge them more than I should too.


I arrived at the Dam about 9am and stayed to 3pm. The horn sounds at 2pm when they open the gates and the turbines start to spin. Eagles, osprey, herons, gulls, cormorants, black vultures and hawks hear the horn and come flying in for the stunned, flopping fish buffet. The turbines feed the channel with dazed fish. The raptors, sea birds and waders anxiously await.

Below the osprey got a fish and was being pursued by an eagle. As usual, the eagle wins the fish. I have a photo of the osprey dropping the fish (shown), and the eagle catching it mid-air, but both images were a bit blurry when enlarged. This image is a full frame image so you can see how far the eagles were in reality at 400mm. See the fish falling?


It really is hard to hand hold the long lens through all the action. Last time I mastered the panning. This year I was a bit rusty because the action happens within seconds and the eagles were further away.


The below image is an osprey in the morning, above around 2:30pm after the horn sounded.


Hawks were out and about since it is migration time for them. I was at Hawk Mountain for some of these images. At the top of a mountain, you get a view much closer when looking up to the sky as the hawks ride the wind currents.


The two images below of the hawk were taken the day before my trip to Conowingo. It was a dreary day when I arrived to Reading.


Since the eagle numbers were down during my visit, I am planning on going back in November when the eagles start arriving to pair up. I asked a photographer friend of mine to come along on the trip this time.


We are going to Presque Isle this weekend, so it will be interesting to see what I find there since migration will be nearing the end. I might only get colorful Fall leaves…


Nature and Wildlife Pics has the Cormorant eating an eel. I never saw that before.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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32 Responses to Washout at the Conowingo Dam

  1. swo8 says:

    Beautiful action pictures, Donna. I could see the fish drop from the Osprey. What magnificent birds.

  2. ALWAYS ALWAYS a pleasure visiting, my friend! 🙂

  3. I would not call this a washout! These images are thrilling!

    • Thank you,Connie. I suppose when anyone gets to see an eagle it is rather exciting, but knowing how many the Dam gets it was a bit disappointing as to the numbers and distance. The guys with the 600 and 800mm lenses got the great diving shots. I got them, but they were too far away. I should rent a lens for my next trip, but the cost always makes me think that money could go into buying one eventually. I have not got one due to my health. I have stopped going out looking for birds for the most part. My friend wants to go to South Africa on safari and that is where I would really need a lens of that size.

  4. We saw so many bald eagles in Maine this summer sitting in trees near our house or flying low over the island. I hope it means their population is up. Loons and osprey were also plentiful.

  5. David says:

    I admire people who take on the challenge of BIF photography. I have given it a serious try twice and decided it was not a skill I was ready to spend some time on. I like to limit my BIF photography to bees in flight. Much easier. 🙂

    • Really not much skill involved. Just proper camera settings. I think the most difficulty is in in getting enough BIF subjects. Little birds are the most difficult due to unexpected maneuvers, fast speed and small size. Bees are pretty predictable and very numerous and why I too have so many on my blog as well.

  6. Sue Link says:

    Loved the photo of the Red-tailed Hawk! I haven’t taken much time to learn or practice on taking bird photos in flight. Actually, I’m still learning how to use my (new-to-me) first DSLR. hahaha

  7. aussiebirder says:

    Amazing footage Donna, and superb photography!

  8. Incredible images, Donna, as always! Nobody captures birds of prey and water fowl like you do. Stunning!

  9. Beautiful pictures as always. What magnificent creatures!

  10. Great post, Donna! You make such a good point about knowing just the right time to go. My husband recently consulted a fellow Birder on Facebook about a place a few hours north of us, and she gave us some really important insights. We postponed the trip!

  11. Linda says:

    Beautiful and magnificent series of photos!!! 🙂

  12. debsgarden says:

    Great images, and, yes, I saw the falling fish! The first hawk shot is great. I have hawks year round here, but I have never caught such a good shot from below. I can see inspiration for some of our Native American designs in the colors and patterns of the hawk.

    • Thank you, Deb. There are a number of hawks and eagles in NY too. Living along the Gorge, they catch the wind currents on migration. I hardly get to photograph them though. I usually see them when driving as they fly the river’s course.

  13. For someone who has never photographed an eagle (me) that was not a washout, Donna. Stunning pictures. I must plan a trip to nearby Hawk Mountain and try my luck. P. x

    • Thanks, Pam. You must see quite a few though. Hawk Mountain was logging so many raptors each day. I am coming down again in early December, so I bet Hawk Mountain just has the regular resident birds. This past month, it was such a variety of those migrating.

  14. Annette says:

    breathtaking shots as always, you talented lady 🙂

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