Wintering Bald Eagles

 

Growing up I don't remember ever seeing a Bald Eagle in the wild...In fact, I vividly remember my seventh grade science teacher telling us that within our lifetimes the Bald Eagle would be extinct. She also said we'd definitely run out of oil by 1980...Well we're still driving cars (whatever happened to "flying cars"?) and the Bald Eagle is thriving! And they're thriving here in the midwest! The best way I've found to see large concentrations of them in the wild is to visit the upper Mississippi River in the dead of winter. Baldies fish for most of their food and will travel great distances to find open water. When inland lakes and rivers freeze they congregate near power plants, locks & dams, etc...and fish for sustenance. When and if it gets cold enough this winter let's go shoot hundreds (yes, I said hundreds) of bald eagles at Lock & Dam #13 on the Mississippi. Fulton, Illinois is approximately seven hours west of Metro Detroit.

The last eekend in January through the second weekend in February will be our tentative dates...BUT this will be determined by the weather! WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO FINALIZE PLANS BY MID-JANUARY! Spotters do provide amazingly accurate bird counts online throughout the winter. We will adjust our travel plans as necesary. Below are some shots I made in years past...And yes, there's more to shoot here than just Baldies. The river itself is beautiful when frozen. The towns of Fulton, IL and Clinton Iowa are also pretty interesting. There's beautiful farmland and barns in the area as well.

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  • JACK C.

    Just returned home from an eventful trip to join the others in Illinois to shoot eagles…Eventfull but unsuccessful. The simplest way to describe my weekend is Snow Squall + Black Ice = truck in ditch for 6 hours waiting for a tow, flat tire and broken wheel, cracked front lens element on 600, new iPhone lost (probably in ditch)…and much frustration! Anyways, grateful I'm not dead and everything else is fixable/replaceable…Next up? Return to shoot the eagles in about a week and maybe off to Wisconsin to explore the Bayfield Ice Caves…Never give up! Never give up! Never Give up!

    1 · January 27, 2014

    • John C

      Sorry to hear about your troubles Jack, but at least you have a good attitude about it. You are right that things can be replaced, fortunately! As much as I really wanted to be shooting the eagles, I think Jim and I made the right choice to turn around. We'll try again, like you!

      1 · January 27, 2014

    • Mary A.

      Jack - missed you in Illinois... so sorry about your car, phone and camera troubles.

      February 6, 2014

  • Walt

    Jack, just saw your post, was wondering where your images were! Thank God your okey..."

    February 4, 2014

  • Karen B.

    Glad you are okay. Heard the best way to go in bad weather is the train. Then rent a car. Maybe next time. Glad you aren't one to give up.

    1 · January 27, 2014

    • Linda G.

      So sorry to hear about Jack's troubles. I didn't attend because was driving to meet alone, from Grand Rapids, in this awful weather...didn't think about the train..so thank you for that advice...will be a 'next time' for me.

      January 27, 2014

  • Paul

    Looks like only four of us actually made it - Helen, Ev, Mary and I. Rough shooting saturday with really strong constant winds but a nice sunshine. Today was good conditions (but crappy sky) for a couple hours then turned bad quickly and chased me back to the route home. Really cool experience to see so many eagles in 1 place at a time.

    1 · January 26, 2014

  • JACK C.

    I'm running behind schedule…The snow is bad and roads are terrible! I'll be there as soon as safely possible!

    January 25, 2014

  • Mary A.

    Anyone in Fulton or Clinton tonight?

    January 24, 2014

  • Mary A.

    I'm in Fulton... got here late this afternoon... there are lots of eagles at Lock#13... ditto what Amy said... it is cold and a telephoto is a must! I'll check out a few of the other locks tomorrow... see you all soon!

    January 23, 2014

  • lisa

    Hi, unfortunately I will be unable to make it- I was driving home last night and some idiot hit my car on US 23. Please drive safely !

    January 23, 2014

  • Cynthia L.

    I am so sad to cancel. I have some organizing I need to do for a new gallery I'm taking my photos to. I here on the Chicagoland meetup group that the eagle counts are the highest they have been in the last 5 years, dang!

    January 22, 2014

  • Karen B.

    Very sad that my plans changed at the last min. Everyone who goes, Enjoy. Wish I were there with you.

    January 21, 2014

  • Amy O.

    Hi Everyone,
    I'm sitting in front of lock and dam number 13 as I type. I ended up coming out a week earlier and thought I would share some information with you guys.
    As of this moment the river is frozen. You're also supposed to have some arctic air come through the beginning of this week so hopefully it will keep it that way. There are quite a number of birds at number 13.
    However, to get good shots you need a minimum of 400 mm glass. A tripod is also recommended. I would absolutely bring the longest glass that you have and any extenders.
    It is also very windy and cold. Handwarmers and toe warmers are an absolute must along with hats, boots, snow pants and very warm gloves.
    While number 13 was good I truly did prefer lock and dam 14. Photographically speaking I got a lot better images. If you have the opportunity, I would consider making the trip over there in the afternoon. You will want to shoot from the Iowa side at that time of day. You also will want to get there early in the afternoon becaus

    January 20, 2014

    • Paul

      Your post cut off, hoping and eagle didn't take you :) Good info and thanks for the update. It's odd since the 'counts' at dam 14 look very low compared to most others - but I would trust the person on the ground!

      January 20, 2014

    • russ t.

      Paul, 14 is where you get the up close shots, while the other locations have higher counts it is harder to see and get the best shots.

      January 21, 2014

  • JACK C.

    It's almost here! The weather seems to be cooperating and things are looking good for our meetup this coming weekend! I have had plenty of reports from friends and others in the area that eagles are plentiful and cold temps are expected this next weekend! Should be great for seeing and photographing HUNDREDS of bald eagles!

    We are scheduled to meetup Saturday January 25 at Lock & Dam 13 near Fulton, Il. It is about an eight hour drive west from Detroit. You can book a room in either Fulton, Il OR Clinton, Ia…EITHER will work fine!

    We will NOT be spending the entire time at L&D 13…We will explore other Locks and Dams in the area for the best eagle viewing/photographing.

    PLEASE: I do need to know as soon as possible who is going and who is not. PLEASE EMAIL ME ASAP WHAT YOUR INTENTIONS ARE. There are several members registered who are interested in sharing a ride…Let me know if you are interested as well...

    THIS SHOULD BE A VERY COLD, VERY FUN TIME!

    1 · January 20, 2014

  • russ t.

    I just spoke with my contacts in Bettendorf IA - L&D 14/15, They said that they have tons of birds and that the colder times are the days to go (we already knew that!) They said that Wednesday was one of the best of the year so far and the year has been great! I went in December during the first cold snap and got some great shots. This weekend is going to be warmer and he suggested that people wait until the next weekend when they are expecting very cold weather. So, lots of eagles great shooting but try to go when it is very cold so there is more activity. With the waves of cold coming I would plan around the cold snaps.

    January 17, 2014

  • Amy O.

    Thank you Jack, that would be awesome! I'd really appreciate any info you'd like to share.

    January 16, 2014

  • Amy O.

    Hi Jack,
    I have had to switch my RSVP to a no. I am still planning on going but I'm going to head out this weekend instead of next weekend. I have Monday off for MLK day and it gives me an extra day to shoot.
    I hope that it stays nice and cold for you guys this year!

    January 16, 2014

    • JACK C.

      Hey Amy! I have two photographer friends in the area now who are supposed to give me an update on the river conditions tonight! I'll email you the info asap…You don't want to drive all the way there if the river isn't frozen over and the eagles are all 3 or 400 meters away!

      January 16, 2014

  • Linda G.

    Not easy to predict weekend of the 25th's weather... so just waiting to hear your decision or change of.

    January 16, 2014

    • JACK C.

      I'm eager to "finalize" plans as well…I have two friends in the area now who are supposed to give me an update on the river conditions...I'll email everyone who's registered an update tomorrow morning!

      January 16, 2014

  • JACK C.

    There are hotels in Clinton Ia and Fulton Il…Either is fine.

    January 15, 2014

  • Mary A.

    Looking good for this event given the cold weather? Any suggestions on where to stay?

    January 15, 2014

  • debbie

    Already have plans for that weekend. Sounds like a great trip. Does anyone know if there is an area in or near Holland, MI that also has Eagles?

    January 13, 2014

    • JACK C.

      There are eagles throughout the Great Lakes. There are eagles here in southeast Michigan. The issue is accessibility. When the Mississippi freezes over the likelihood of getting close enough to make interesting photos increases by a factor of 100 as they are forced to fish in whatever open water is available, hence the trip to the locks and dams.

      1 · January 13, 2014

  • Ellen

    Sounds great! But no go for me. Maybe next year!

    January 6, 2014

  • JACK C.

    It's still too early to "finalize" any plans…By about the 15th of January we should have a better idea both what the weather is doing (Is it still cold enough for the river to freeze over?) and what the bird counts are. As far as accomodations go, either side of the river is fine, I've stayed on both sides and each worked out just fine…The main thing is to only make resrvations that are changeable as the weather determines everything!

    December 30, 2013

  • Cynthia L.

    I see a date above of Jan 25th......you can cancel and rebook a hotel if you wish for another date but Niroop below said we needed to book early to be assured of getting rooms as a lot of people come to see the eagles.

    December 30, 2013

  • David N.

    Are the dates set yet? I thought they wouldn't be finalized until mid-January?

    December 29, 2013

  • Cynthia L.

    I booked at Oak Tree Clinton IA on hotels.com for $65 a night, it is rated 3.7 has full breakfast and free cancellation. If you book at any others watch as some charge extra for ability to cancel reservation.

    December 29, 2013

  • Cynthia L.

    On hotels.com I saw one hotel Fulton Ill. Comfort inn $99 rated 3.7, and in Clinton IA., Super 8 $47 rated 2.8, Oak Tree $65 rated 3.7, Country Inn $76 rated 4.5, Holiday Inn Express $99 rated 4.5. The Country Inn in Clinton IA $76 a night and rated 4.5 they do charge an extra $10 to make it refundable :-(
    One review said Super 8 was by a fertilizer factory.
    I booked @ Oak Tree as it has free cancellation Friday and Saturday night.

    December 29, 2013

  • Linda G.

    Would like to make hotel reservations and would like to know where most of you will stay..there are hotels in Fulton IL and in Clinton IA. [kept posting incorrect states for hotels!!]

    December 29, 2013

  • A former member
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    August 10, 2013

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