The sun suddenly came out, so I headed South about a mile to Blackdog Road between I-35W and Hwy 77. I saw 6 Eagles at about 3 locations. The first I saw immediately at the little parking lot just off of I-35W flying further West. I saw quite a few people parked on the North side of the Minnesota River at the boat landing at the end of Lyndale Avenue. I went a mile up the road to the observation area parking lot. Blackdog lake was clear of ice in a large area but, I did not walk out to the observation deck to check it. An Eagle was directly across the River sitting in the tree. It had shifted trees as I pulled into the parking lot, so I setup a tripod next to the road and proceeded to wait for 45 minutes standing in the snow waiting for the bird to move. Quite a few people were cruising Blackdog looking for Eagles, and I watched as quite a few stopped on the road sometimes for as long as 10 minutes about 50-100 feet away from a parking lot blocking one lane of traffic entirely. Quite a few people came and went. I was mostly shooting with a 70-200 Canon F4/L which is not even close to long enough (although the 1.6x digital crop factor does’nt hurt), along with the ZenithStar 66 (William Optics 66mm SD Doublet APO 388mm F/5.9). The Eagle never moved, I figured with everyone else setting up tripods comming and going my chances were pretty good that the Eagle would take off when someone packed up and went back to their car, no such luck the Eagle won. Not seeing any activity (other than ducks) on Blackdog Lake I did not bother to check the observation deck over the lake. Just outside the Beautiful Blackdog power plant situated in the center of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge at least a dozen cars were parked shooting two Eagles in a tree. I decided to head to Ft. Snelling State Park (the park has a large chunk of land on the South side of the Minnesota River) and turned around and headed back to Blackdog. I parked outside the entrance to Blackdog to watch the two Eagles sitting in a tree for the next couple hours. One Juvenile flew directly overhead, every now and then I saw an Eagle down or up River as well. The two Eagles would occasionally fly down river (near an Eagles nest) and back every now and then.
I left this morning a little after 8:30/9 and headed to Red Wing. It was pretty foggy, and overcast. Today’s mission was to find different areas where Eagles might be if we ever see a sunny weekend day in the next two months where I have nothing else planned for the day…. I looked around Red Wing, going out to edge of the Mississippi driving around various boat launches and Marina’s. I didn’t see a single Eagle in Red Wing. On my way to Lake City I spotted a huge Owl sitting on a tree next to the highway, I debated turning around but, didn’t. Lake City an Eagle was sitting out on the little Island behind the Marina, I saw an Eagle in the same tree the weekend prior. I turned around and saw several Eagles flying Westbound, the Eagle was no longer their when I arrived in the parking spot at the Marina so I backed out seeing the ‘No Trespassing’ sign?? I didn’t see it when I pulled in but, it was on a sign right in front of the one parking space I happened to park at.
I saw tons of Eagles South of Lake City, easily over 100. I stopped at the Historic Marker just North of Reads Landing. An Eagle was sitting in a tree below, I took several close up’s with a Williams Optics 66mm APO refractor telescope. He was behind a few branches but, the refractor works great if you don’t need autofocus, fantastic optics at 388mm/f5.9. He was soon joined by another Eagle in the same tree a couple branches away. A few more Eagles were hunting off the ice shelf (actually at the time they were just sitting their) while a few more came flying in (from nearby trees a little further South) fishing. I spoke with at least a half dozen people at that one spot. I went onto the next stop (about 4 in a row), saw more eagles, spoke to more people, next stop…. I drove to Alma, just over the bridge from Wabasha is a small refuge, I grabbed some maps, in the span of a couple minutes I counted about 6 Eagles flying North. I went on to Alma and Eagles were flying everywhere. From what I understand they will be in one spot one day, another spot the next day. Anywhere their is open water. A couple good spots are just North of Reads Landing where Lake Pepin continues into the Mississippi, just below the Damn in Alma, and near the power Plant in Alma (if it’s a cold winter), otherwise anywhere open water is found you will likely find Eagles. At Alma I first went to the Power Plant just North of it…Nothing. I drove back into town (just South of the Lock and Damn #4) and this is where I spent about 2-3 hours. Some other Photographers setup next to me, one of them lent me an extra Tamron 2x SP Pro teleconverter to try out, I was looking at it at Amazon(&B&H) just a day or two before, it said it will autofocus a f4 lens but, it didn’t (I was using the Williams Optics Refractor, a Canon 70-200 F4/L, and a Sigma 70-300mm but, used just the Cannon F4 with the teleconverter). I don’t think I will get one although autofocusing was fine, will certainly not discount the 1.4x’s (also when I had it in place the Camera recognized the lens as an f8). We chatted occasionally over a couple hours while taking hundreds of Eagle pics. I took around 875 shots, it would take a month to go thru them. Again no light, overcast and foggy all day long. Waiting for a sunny day but, I need big glass.
Highlights again was the interaction with between the birds including Eagles (several instances), Eagles & a Trumpeter Swan, a golden Eagle and some Juvenile’s. I also used the refractor with an eyepiece as a spotting scope to see what was in the trees across the River. The Eagles were very active all day long.