Wintering

Time was slipping by to catch the wintering eagles. I haven’t spotted a one on any trip, and the season will be ending in a few weeks. Today, then, I headed to the Lock & Dam 24 in Clarksville at sunrise–supposedly one of the most popular eagle fishing areas.

Clarksville is a very charming little town located directly on the Mississippi. It’s celebrating its Eagle Days this weekend, but today I was the only person looking for the birds in the viewing stand built above the locks. It was a beautiful day: sunny and clear skies and the Mississippi looked deep saphire blue there, above the confluence of both the Ohio and Missouri. But cold! The winds were so cold and dry, and my eyes teared up so much, when I got back into the car, I had rings of salt around them–something that’s never happened before.

There were flocks of seagulls and other birds, but no eagles. I was disappointed, but the rest of the view was so nice that the trip was more than worthwhile. I love funky small town, and Clarksville is that. It’s not very big, but many of the buildings have all the gingerbread of their Victorian beginings, and there’s plenty of places to explore.

Still, I was after eagles, so I stopped by at the Lock & Dam 25 near Winfield, on the way home.

This Lock & Dam has a park near it, and a slough that parallels the Mississippi river, but the actual locks themselves are behind barbed wire and fairly stringent security. I couldn’t see any eagles at first, though I did see white pelicans, the ubiquitous seagulls, and other birds. Finally, after walking around about an hour, off in the distance, I saw one eagle. One, and too far to photograph.

And cold! It was so bloody cold! As nice as it was to be by the river, I was becoming numb. I was getting ready to leave when I noticed a man standing by the bridge over the slough, camera pointed to the trees near my car. I hadn’t even noticed–the eagles were in the trees.

There were six adults and one juvenile. They would take off every once in while, circle about, and fish, though I didn’t manage a photo of any of the birds catching a fish. Actually, I didn’t have a chance to get any really great photos of the eagles. I’m not used to bird photography, and my inexpensive 400mm doesn’t take the best of photos. Add this to the bright light of midday and fast moving birds, and an elegant blur is the most one can hope.

eaglet

I am inspired, though, to get better at bird photography, including buying a better 400mm lens someday–maybe even a 600mm (yeah, dream on).

I had a wonderful time taking pictures of the birds. Especially when one headed straight over me, with me frantically trying to adjust the exposure, focus, and take pictures. The following is my favorite of the eagles, even though it’s not that sharp. To me, it shows the essence of eagle. I call it, “I am the fish”.

eagle3

My three favorite photos from the day were not of eagles, though. I like the one I took of the VFW Hall in Clarksville. I am thinking of starting a collection of photos of VFW halls in the various places I visit, because each represents the community in some way. They are the true Americana of America. The day the VFW halls disappear is the day when our country will have lost much of its heritage.

vfw

I also liked two photos I took of seagulls. One was at Clarksville, and features a boat full of fishermen in front of a flock of gulls taking off.

flock

The second was at Winfield, and again showed a flock of gulls taking off–backed by a dark and tangled wood. If the eagle represents pride, nothing represents joy of flight more than seagulls.

flight

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14 Responses to Wintering

  1. Sour Duck says:

    Beautiful – absolutely beautiful.

    (And I still have the text to look forward to.)

    I like how you get a really good view of the white talons tucked under the eagle’s tail in “I am the fish.”

  2. loren says:

    The best part of bird photography is constantly getting better.

    And, at the beginning that’s not too hard. I don’t think you really appreciate others’ photos until you try to do the same thing.

    The good thing is like most things the more you practice the better you get.

  3. Rob says:

    What camera and lens, if you don’t mind me asking?

    Beautiful photos, but even with my Nikon D50 and a 300 mm, I don’t think I’d get photos with that much detail.

    Mine always turn out “You see these 15 pixels? That’s the raptor I saw.”

  4. feithy says:

    Gorgeous shots. :) I envy your day out, and have to plan one of my own soon!

    F

  5. Elaine says:

    you should send “I am the fish” to Steven Colbert. ;) it’s damn iconic!

  6. Music Maniac says:

    Wow, these are really beautiful! The blue skies are so clear, and you did a great job capturing your day out! Thanks for sharing them!

  7. Yule Heibel says:

    You know, Shelley, I’m beginning to suspect that you run on some kind of different time line than other people — mere mortals get 24 hours to the day, but you seem to do twice as much in that time as other people! Hiking, photographing, writing, filing all those photos, reading blogs, writing, working on technical things, photographing, writing, filing/ sorting all those photos, decluttering, analysing more tech stuff, writing more code, building another webpage, making tinfoil hats, coding some more, catching up on movies & music, history, floods, hurricanes, and human nature…

    How do you do it?!? It’s gettin’ scary out here! ;-)

    But keep doing it!

  8. don says:

    Wow. I particularly like the “I am the fish” shot.

  9. Shelley says:

    Loren, I did enjoy yesterday’s outing. I am going to ‘borrow’ the car and get out more. Too much time at home turns one into a mushroom. The kind you don’t want to eat.

    Rob, I have a 400mm Sigma lens. I had a converter, too, but my digital Nikon just couldn’t handle it. I really want to get one of the new Nikon 400mm for the digital cameras. To go with my new D2X. When I get it, of course. To go with my new Mac Book…and Ferrari…

    I am really glad you all liked the I am the Fish photo. I know it’s not particulary sharp, but I loved the way the eagle was looking directly at me. I thought when I saw it heading straight toward me, and then looking down at me, “Damn. I guess I am the fish.”

    Yule, odd thing is, the more I do, the happier I am, and the more hours I have. Does that make sense? I figure I enter the place where Shrodinger’s cat waits for the box to open.

    BTW, kitty is doing fine, says send kibbles.

  10. Great pictures as we have come to expect, Shelley. I particularly loved the flock of gulls. Makes me nostalgic form my California home.

  11. Doug Alder says:

    As much as I like the I am fish shot I think I like the last one better. I’m a sucker for those types of contrasts. All great stuff!

  12. Rob says:

    Shelley,

    You are part of the inspiration that got me up early today.

    Thanks.

  13. Shelley says:

    I saw that Rob. Lovely pics.

    Joe, they make me long to see Canon Beach again.

    Doug, yes, I like that too. There’s so much implied with the photo.

  14. I Gallop On says:

    Exquisite photos. Your post about looking for the eagles made me think about the first time I ever saw one of these magnificent birds. I tend to think of them as being only here in the West and had no idea they spend some time in Mississippi. Getting to see one is such a privilege.