As I’ve written and shown, Winter 2014 in Iowa was simply brutal. Furthermore as I’ve written and shown, to endure you must embrace. So, to me, there is no better way to embrace the value of Winter in Iowa than to head over to the Mississippi River where the once endangered American Bald Eagle has learned to flourish and entertain.
Many people don’t realize the importance of the Lock and Dam system on the Mississippi. Many today may not even realize the importance of the river at all. But in the summer months the river is filled with barge traffic shipping goods and produce from one port of call to another. The Lock and Dam system helps to regulate the river levels so barge traffic can move safely. But, that’s not the value of them in the winter months. In Winter, the Mississippi freezes solid in most places except immediately downstream of a lock and dam and that is where the majestic birds of prey congregate to feed over the open waters. Lock and Dam 14 is the favorite of many photographers and tourists because of its public access. It is located in Le Claire, Iowa which is virtually swallowed up by the Quad Cities of Davenport and Bettendorf of Iowa and Moline and Rock Island of Illinois.
Number 14 is a haven of birds in every season, but the highlight for most is between December and late February when the eagles arrive from the frozen north.
Patience is certainly a virtue if you choose to go take in the scenes here. For one, there will be many photographers at this location on any given day of the week during the winter months. Gear envy will ensue as many professionals toting their 600mm lenses are available for you to gawk at. Also, its not always a given that birds will be here and active at the moment you arrive. So, be patient and wait it out – you won’t be disappointed. You should plan to spend a few hours and I’ve found the best time is late afternoon when the birds fish for their final time before nightfall. On this day when I first arrived it was rather cloudy. I had to wait a few hours for the clouds to disappear and give me some good light to work with. These shots don’t disappoint me, however. By clicking on any of them you will open a new window showing a larger version of the image.
If you stay long enough, you may get some interesting or entertaining shots you weren’t expecting as these 2 shots would indicate.
The true goal though is to get the birds fishing. That’s when the drama begins and you can see these birds in all their glory being the fierce predators that they are. In this sequence, the eagle flies down to the prey in his sights, thrusts the talons forward, grasps the fish, and does a flyby as he heads to the nearby trees to devour his catch.
If there is a better place in the world than Lock & Dam 14 to watch these creatures I need to know. Enjoy some final shots from this incredible day!