By D. Chris Draughn
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Kwon Han from White Marsh stood beside his tripod mounted camera at the Conowingo Dam on Saturday morning waiting for a bald eagle to swoop down and pluck a fish from the water.
“There are usually several pairs of bald eagles out here,” Han said. “Today I’ve counted at least eight adults and too many juvenile eagles to keep track of.”
The juveniles, Han said, have a mottled appearance and lack the clean white head feathers of the adults.
“I like getting shots of the adults over the juveniles, but it is really exciting to see them catch fish,” Han said. “It is a short ride from my house to here, so I’m up here a lot, Eagle Day or not.”
Han was one of several hundred photographers who showed up for the 2015 Eagle Day event sponsored by Exelon Generation, the company that operates the hydro-electric dam.
Bob Judge, the Exelon spokesperson for the event, was lending a hand unloading bottles of water for the visitors.
“We are expecting about 900 visitors today, but it is a little cold and windy,” Judge said. “I’m not sure we will have as many as last year.”
Judge said the event is one of many things his company does to be a part of the community and let people know the benefits of the dam.
“The dam has been here 86 years and we take our environmental stewardship seriously,” Judge said.
Conowingo Bald Eagle Day features a photography contest and Exelon also invites local wildlife conservation groups to participate by setting up educational booths.
“It is more than just a photography contest, it is a family friendly event with free food,” Judge said.
Cindy Naylor of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, Delaware, said that her group participates in the event every year.
“We like to come out and educate the public about our work with wild birds,” Naylor said.
Tri-State serves the entire Mid-Atlantic region as a rehabilitation clinic for injured birds brought to them by wildlife agencies and citizens.
“The bald eagle population has really rebounded in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” Naylor said. “In the 2001 time frame we used to treat four or five eagles per year, but now we are averaging 22 to 25 eagles per year.”
Mark Johnson, a member of the Maryland Ornithological Society, was on hand at their booth answering visitor’s questions about eagles.
Johnson said that this time of year is a good time to spot eagles because they congregate around food sources like the dam.
“Bald eagles like to scavenge and they come here for the easy fishing below the dam,” Johnson said. “Once their breeding season starts again in late January, they pair off and go to their nest sites.”
One of the more popular displays at the event is put on by Adventures with Raptors from Damascus, Maryland. The organization brings over a dozen captive birds of prey to let visitors have an up close look.
Children are particularly drawn to the group’s Eurasian eagle owl with large golden eyes.
Mike Hanscom of Bel Air smiled at his two young daughters staring at the large bird.
“They are hardly ever this interested in anything,” Hanscom said.