Wednesday, Christmas morning, I stood at the top of the Ohio River bank at McClelland Park in Highlawn and did something I had wanted to do for a long, long time.
The day began a couple of hours before sunrise as I headed to the river to photograph a Gulf Coast tugboat on its way up the river to the cracker plant under construction at Monaca, Pennsylvania. The boat had already passed the East End bridge, and everything from there on up was covered in fog. I went up the Ohio side to old Lock and Dam 27 and waited anyway. Before sunrise but still with enough early-morning light, I was able to get photos of the boat and its cargo.
It was still in fog, but it was headed to a fog-free area. As things go, just before it got there the fog settled there, too.
From there it was up to Athalia to see if shooting conditions were better. They weren’t, so I headed back down the river. Through the trees on the riverbank and in the fog, I saw a boat pushing 15 barges piled higher than normal with coal.
Long story short, at Lock and Dam 27 I got photos of the boat and its tow, again in the fog, and went to Huntington to see if I could get pictures with the early-morning sun at my back.
There was no fog in Huntington, so all I had to do was wait for the boat, which I did.
As I waited, I saw a heron flying high overhead. The lens on my camera is not designed to capture wildlife at a distance, but I got off a shot anyway to see how it would turn out. As I reviewed the image, I zoomed in to see the one-half of 1 percent or so of the photo that had the heron on it. But it wasn’t a heron. It was a bird of prey with a white head, a curved beak and brown wing feathers. It was a bald eagle.
Yes, a bald eagle in Huntington.
Eagle sightings have been made in this area for several years. I myself saw one a couple of years ago at dusk on a trip down W.Va. Route 2 from Point Pleasant. I was riding shotgun, but I didn’t have my camera in my hand, and it was too dark anyway. Since then I have wanted to get a photo of an eagle along the Ohio River. Christmas morning in Highlawn, I did.
The picture wasn’t good. The original image was 6,016 pixels by 4,016. The part with the eagle was 442 by 294, and it’s blurry. Recognizable, but blurry. There’s not much you can do with that. It almost makes me want to buy a 600 mm lens and go look for another eagle, but at the present time I have better uses for $900.
In the days since I was a small boy, we’ve seen several species of wildlife return to this area. I can remember when deer were rare. So were Canada geese. Coyotes have been here for a while; I saw one crossing 8th Street Road in daylight a few years ago. And now eagles, too, are back.
Yes, other people have seen them, but now I’ve seen one myself and photographed it, and that makes it more real.
And in case anyone cares, yes, I did get photos of the boat and its coal barges as it passed the Highlawn park. The light was beautiful.
It was a good morning.