Have you ever been to the Conowingo Dam to witness the eagle paparazzi for yourself? Or have you been a part of the paparazzi? I have done both and must say its a dam (ha ha) good time watching the eagles. The Bald Eagles gather at the base of the Conowingo Dam and on the towers and trees below the dam. They gather for breeding season and end up spreading throughout the area for nesting purposes. Photographers gather from near and far to witness the spectacle. Any given morning you will find a line of photographers a 1/4 mile long with gear stretching collectively into the hundreds of thousands.
The main joy comes from watching the eagles soar overhead. The rare joy comes from watching them dive down at the Susquehanna River and pluck out a fish. From that point the game is on and it becomes a free for all of eagles trying to steal the fish. America’s national bird is a bit feisty and opportunistic. And did you know that the sound eagles make on TV is not the sound real eagles make? Almost any time you hear a “Bald Eagle” on TV it is actually a Red-tailed Hawk call. Eagles whistle, kinda. You have to hear it for yourself to know, it is pretty hard to describe.
“Juvenile Hunter” shows a non-mature eagle. They have a lot of brown on them. Not to be confused with the loads of Black Vultures you will also see there. Black Vultures are black, smaller, and have gray tips on their wings when they fly. Pro-tip… Black Vultures are known to land on the cars in the parking area and rip the rubber off the door seals and windshield wipers, so keep an eye on your car from time to time.
The best time to see the eagles is in the late fall to early winter, aka now and for the next month or two. Arrive early in the morning to assure yourself a parking space and do dress warmly. It can be very cold standing staring at the photographers and the raptors.
If you do not have a very long lens on your camera bring a pair of binoculars. Although the eagles occasionally land in the trees a mere 15 feet away, they like to hang out across the river on the electricity towers. You will want at least a 500mm lens on a full frame camera, longer then that is better. Unless they land in the tree line just above the photographers, which they do from time to time (maybe 1 every couple hours, but often with a fish), in which case 300mm on a full frame camera is still worthwhile.