The WGNSS Natural History Photo Group had a fun field trip in January, when we headed north up the Mississippi to the riverside town of Clarksville. Here at lock and dam #24, we were fortunate to be alongside ~75 eagles of various ages that took turns in catching the stunned shad that is their primary winter food source along the great river. We arrived early in the morning and made a day of it, experiencing wide shifts in weather from grey and snowy to partly sunny skies. I’m not an expert in aging these eagles, but I believe the bird picture above is a subadult II, which means it is 2.5 – 3 years old. In this photo you can see several retained juvenile secondaries on each wing.
The long and pointed secondaries make me think this bird is probably a year younger than the bird in the previous photo. I would guess this bird is 1.5 – 2 years old. The temperatures on this day were cold, but not too severe. We arrived with the car’s thermometer reading 16°F. There was a light wind most of the day, but not nearly as bad as there could have been.
With patience, there were some opportunities to capture a bird’s profile as it came to pick up a poor stunned fish.
The majority of prey captured in this way is small enough to be eaten immediately on the wing in a single “bite”. Sometimes, however, the bird is forced to retreat with its groceries and eat in seclusion.
The bird pictured above is much closer to looking like an adult bird, showing the mostly white head and tail. I estimate this bird as being 3.5 to 4 years old.
I noticed this in previous years, that it seems like the juveniles spend more time fishing than the adults. In the photo above, you can see a juvenile with an already full crop is pulling another fish from the river.
This is just a few I have processed so far. We have something in the works that may produce something much more in terms of eagle photography. Until next time.