Back when the Bald Eagle was chosen as our national symbol over the Wild Turkey, there were over 100,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states. By 1905, there wasn't a single nesting pair in the state of Iowa and perhaps only 4000 bald eagles left in existence. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was passed in 1940 to help turn those numbers around and in 1978 the Endangered Species Act also included the Bald Eagle.
It was 1977 when Iowa finally hosted the first nesting pair of Bald Eagles in almost 70 years. So when I tell you that in my youth, seeing eagles was almost so rare that when you finally saw your first one, you remembered that experience. My first time happened along the Mississippi river when my parents loaded us up in the car in the very early 1980's and drove all that way to spend the day eagle watching. I saw two or three bald eagles that day a long ways away and through a telescope.
Since that time, Bald Eagles have been a tremendous success story and now if I want to see one, I just have to go down to the river a mile from my house and look up in the trees. There are so many that I can even get quite close to them and get some decent pictures. Such was the case two weeks ago when one of those rare warm sunny days in mid-January occurred and we like so many other people decided to get out of the house for awhile and go for a walk. Along the river trail we came across this family of eagles. There was two adult bald eagles and two immature bald eagles whose white head feathers were just starting to show themselves. I should also mention that the river trail we walked on was right below a dam which keeps the river open year round while the rest of it downstream is frozen over.
I tried to get them all in one picture but one of the immature eagles refused to sit on the same side of the tree as the others and the only lens I had was a telephoto lens. Normally this wouldn't be a problem but because I was so close to the eagles, my field of view just wasn't big enough with it. It was a nice problem to have. I also spent some time trying to catch a good eagle in flight picture but the best I could come up with is the slightly blurry one below. The rest were really blurry or didn't show the spread wing look I was trying to capture. The ultimate shot I had hoped to get was of one catching a fish and although they flew around looking quite a bit, I never saw one catch a fish while I was there.