Another Trip to Lock & Dam 14

For the past three years, I've made the 5 hour drive to the north and east of where I live to photograph the eagles at Lock & Dam 14. Located along the Mississippi River in LeClaire, Iowa, this location is well-known as one of the best places to photograph these majestic birds in action. It's not necessarily because it has the highest number of eagles. The real magic is in how close you can get to the river where the eagles are fishing. 

Taken last year, this image shows the boardwalk right along the river. Most people were standing along the river bank or on the boat ramp downstream from here this year. 

This year was a bit different than the previous years. Last February, a winter storm took out two trees that had been a mainstay at Lock & Dam 14 for many years. Those trees are where the eagles liked to perch and fish from, and their location typically placed the eagles directly in front of a slew of photographers standing on the boardwalk above the river. It was a perfect setup.

This image, also taken last year, shows the two trees that were lost in the storm last February.

Last fall, replacement perches were installed to take the place of those trees. The new perches are basically power poles with some extra cross members for the eagles to sit on. So far, the eagles have not taken to the new perches. When I was there the third weekend in January, they were fishing from a cove just down-river from the boardwalk. The best place to view the action was from the boat ramps along the edge of the wooded area. That meant that the eagles were not as close most of the time, but the number of eagles was really good and the activity was the best of the three years that I've been there. 

This shows the poles that were installed to serve as perches. According to the locals, the eagles don't want anything to do with them. Hopefully, that will change.

This has been a much colder winter than the previous two, which may have contributed to the higher number of eagles. The weather the first day was perfect, with some good light to make photographing the eagles much easier. They move fast and a really fast shutter speed is required to freeze the action. Having good light is important so the ISO doesn't have to be so high. The second day was completely overcast, but the eagles seemed to be more active. On both days, the morning was the best time to capture some fishing activity. 

It turned out to be another really great trip to LeClaire. Hopefully the eagles will begin to use the new perches by the time I return next January. The new trees that were planted won't be large enough for them to use for many years. Either way, it's always a great time, especially to catch up with some old friends and make new ones. 

In case you're interested in learning more about Lock & Dam 14, I wrote much more detail about the history in my blog post from a couple years ago. You can click this link to find that post:

Now for more images. If you follow me on social media, you may have already seen most of these. Enjoy!

The competition is fierce among the eagles. When one catches a fish, there is at least one other eagle looking for an opportunity to take it away.

There were lots of catches...

...and a few misses.

Heading for the trees with his loot.

We had a nice sunrise the first day I was there.

The pelicans caught their share of fish, too.

Moving in for the kill.

And he dropped it!

Waiting for their chance to steal a fish.

And another miss.

Hope you enjoy the images. If you're ever in the LeClaire, Iowa area in January, stop by and maybe I'll see you there. Thanks for reading!