If you can imagine a perfect place for Bald Eagles to gather, that place would look like Conowingo Dam in Maryland. Every fall, Bald Eagles from all over the East coast take a break from their migration to enjoy an all-they-can-eat buffet of fish served up at Conowingo.
On a sunny and cold Sunday afternoon, our group of 45 bird enthusiasts gathered along the Susquehanna River at Conowingo to watch the eagle spectacle. From the brand-new viewing platform we scanned the rocks, trees, and towers for eagles. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty– how many eagles were there?! We counted over 100 total! For many participants, these were the first eagles they’d ever seen.
Many of the eagles at Conowingo are juveniles that lack the distinctive full white head and tail of the adult eagles. Bald Eagles take four years to reach maturity, and we identified lots of eagles in the first, second, and third year age classes. We all took part in an eagle quiz session hosted by Arun, our club’s 4 year-old bird expert.
We saw dozens of Great Blue Herons and a variety of gulls enjoying the fish frenzy. At least two hundred Black Vultures perched on the towers on top of the dam, and seemed to enjoy soaring overhead with the larger eagles.
As a special treat, we took an in-depth tour inside the dam, where massive turbines help produce electric power as the water rushes through the dam. Power company employee Doug Appleton showed us all around the power plant, and we got to stand on the face of the dam and see all of the eagles perched on the rocks!
While wearing our hard hats, safety goggles, and ear plugs, we got to see a 150-ton crane, feel the warmth produced by the spinning turbines, and see the incredible command center where all of the machinery is controlled and monitored. Millions of gallons of water pass through the dam every minute! Next time you turn on a light, just think: that electricity may have been made at Conowingo, where the Bald Eagles come to play!
Our good friend Kim Steininger gave all of the youth birders one of her amazing eagle photos to take home. A great memento from a wonderful afternoon of eagle watching!
Eagle photos by Kim Steininger. Other photos by Derek Stoner.