Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

I went on a wildlife scouting trip today. The temperatures went up above freezing but there is plenty of snow still on the ground. The Green Island Wetlands were snowed in and it was very very quiet. I saw a couple Horned Larks and some Song Sparrows but that was all.

The last stop of my little trip along the Mississippi River was the well known lock & dam #14, just south of the bridge where Interstate 80 crosses the big river. I was late but still early enough for the best light. Seven Bald Eagles were sitting in the trees and at least new visitors had a chance to see them relatively close, maybe for the first time in their life. This is good and this is why this location is great for everybody, not just photographers.

Some photographers, that came long ways to #14 for shooting pictures of the eagles may have been not so happy because the lack of action. Means the eagles didn’t hunt for fish in the river. However, more than 25 American White Pelicans and numerous Common Mergansers made up for the inactivity of the eagles.

When I arrived at 3:45PM many photographers carried their gear already to the parking lot. At 4:30PM most of the people were gone. Big mistake IMHO! It was the time when the magic unfolded. 

Although the gates of the lock are closed during the winter, there is still plenty of water flowing through the lock chamber. This is where the pelicans go for the fish. The light of the low sun got reflected from the doors of the lower gate onto the water in front of it. This made for a spectacular golden color. These two pelicans face the warm sun light directly and from all the reflections around. In addition they lifted their wings simultaneously, which gives them the little gesture that makes it interesting. It doesn’t always happen but today it all came together, light, gesture, and color…