Conowingo Dam

November 18, 2020  •  4 Comments

My travels took me through Aberdeen, Maryland, recently. It was just at the start of eagle season at the Conowingo Dam, so I felt that required a visit. I was able to spend a few hours over a couple days in along with a couple hundred of my closest eagle photographing friends.

The Conowingo Dam dams the Susquehanna River on the line between Cecil and Harford counties, MD. The original town of Conowingo is now under the reservoir above the dam. Conowingo is famous among photographers because something like 250-300 bald eagle winter in the area. The dam keeps the water open. Fish that would prefer to stay deep underwater get stirred up (or even injured) going through the dam and make easy pickings for waiting eagles. The eagles have learned that the lights and siren to alert people that the dam is about to increase the water they're releasing means dinner is served.

Along with the eagles, there is a large flock of black vultures, several varieties of gulls, a gulp of  cormorants and even a pair of peregrine falcons. Photographers new to the dam are allowed to shoot a few pix of the non-eagles before they are roundly abused by their fellow photographers.

Here we've got a black vulture flying over the river. The vultures are a problem for visitors, they've been known to eat windshield wipers and any plastic part of a car they can get their beaks on.

Black vultureBlack vultureA black vulture flying over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam.

The fishing is pretty good for everyone. Here a double-crested cormorant has caught a nice catfish.

A double-crested cormorant with a catfishA double-crested cormorant with a catfishA double-crested cormorant with a catfish just below the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River.
The cormorant on the left has caught itself a good meal, the cormorant on the right would like to take it away.
Double-crested cormorants disputing the ownership of a fishDouble-crested cormorants disputing the ownership of a fishDouble-crested cormorants disputing the ownership of a fish on the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam

But, the real action is the eagles. When I was there, the winter crowd was just beginning to arrive. The local birders estimated somewhere between 50 and 75 eagles had arrived. Many of the eagles were juveniles.

Juvenile bald eagle in flightJuvenile bald eagle in flightA juvenile bald eagle in flight over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam.
Juvenile bald eagle in flightJuvenile bald eagle in flightClose up of a juvenile bald eagle in flight

But, the real attraction is the mature eagles.

Two bald eagles in flightTwo bald eagles in flightTwo bald eagles in flight over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam. Bald eagle in flightBald eagle in flightA bald eagle flying over the Susquehanna River just below the Conowingo Dam

Bald eagle in flightBald eagle in flightA bald eagle flying over the Susquehanna River just below Conowingo Dam.

Bald eagles often seem more interested in stealing fish from other birds than in doing their own fishing. A successful catch often leads to a chase. Here a couple juveniles tussle over a fish, look closely under their wings and you can see the eagle on the right has dropped what should have been his meal. There were several skirmishes between adults and adults and juveniles, but they usually took the fight over the trees along the river and out of sight.

Juvenile bald eagles squabbling over a fishJuvenile bald eagles squabbling over a fishWith the Conowingo Dam as a backdrop, two juvenile bald eagles tangle over a fish.
There were good views of eagles fishing; this eagle has just started his dive after a fish below:

A bald eagle beginning a dive after a fishA bald eagle beginning a dive after a fishThis bald eagle has spotted a fish in the Susquehanna River below and is starting its dive to catch the fish.

There were several flybys with eagles showing off their catch:

A bald eagle flying with a fishA bald eagle flying with a fishThis bald eagle has just caught a fish from the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam.
A bald eagle flying with a fishA bald eagle flying with a fishThis bald eagle has just caught a fish from the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam.

And, I was lucky enough to catch a few well-lit fishing sequences:

A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing
A bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishingA bald eagle fishing
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Comments

Birding depot(non-registered)
Your trip was wonderful. I like the pictures of the eagle you take. The fishing eagle looks very strong. How can you capture this moment?
Earl Hansen(non-registered)
Very nice photos. Thank you for sharing
Diana Tokaji(non-registered)
extraordinary - thank you!
Jacoby Lauren(non-registered)
Really beautiful photos...
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