Today was a bit of a quandry. I definitely wanted to go back to Bombay Hook, but I only had one day left and my main objective was really to get some Bald Eagle fishing photos. So given the situation, I headed back to the eagles at the Conowingo dam. Maybe it would be better today and there would be more eagles? Actually it was worse – a lot worse. There were fewer eagles. On top of that it was mostly a sunny day. Eagles are great to photograph on cloudy days – it brings out the subtle details in their dark and light feathers. On cloudy days, the contrast in eagles is often too much not to mention shadows are everywhere. On top of that, where you photograph from at the dam doesn’t have a great sun angle towards the eagles. I did notice an eagle starting to build a nest in the area (one reason why there might be so few eagles around now, since a nesting pair will try to scare off others). After the first time I saw the eagle, I positioned myself in the best spot I could and waited. The reward was seeing the eagle fly off with this massive branch that it broke off from some of the tall trees in the area. Amazing to think it can carry and fly with such a large branch.
Unfortunately that was far and away the best eagle image of the day. I did have the good fortune to get some help from a photographer from Massachusetts. He was at the dam as well and took pity when he saw me hand-holding the 600mm. He lent me a Sigma 50-500 to handhold for the day. It was great fun to shoot with a new lens. Since I couldn’t use the teleconverters I had, I switched from full-frame to the D300 which has a cropped sensor. This gave me close to the same reach that I had with the 600+1.4TC. In the end, I didn’t have the best of luck with the Sigma. The focusing on it was slower than the Nikon primes + TC and it meant that many of the flight shots weren’t as sharp as what I am used to. It is a very light lens (for what I’m used to) and was great fun to shoot. I really appreciate that kind photographer for giving my arms a much needed break! By late in the morning, the clouds came in. Other birds flock to the fish that come through the dam, and there are more gulls than anything else. Most of the time they are far away, but this Ring-billed Gull came close to where I was, hovering as it scanned the water for fish. Ring-billed Gulls are one of the most agile fliers of all gulls and are able to hover with ease unlike many gulls. Tomorrow would be a long drive down to South Carolina.