Carp As A Food Source At Farmington Bay WMA

Plus a potential bump in the road for Feathered Photography.

Carp are the predominant fish species at Farmington Bay WMA so they’re a primary source of food for a variety of birds including some shorebirds, waders and even raptors during winter. And one of the things that makes them so useful as a food source is their size range. Young carp are small but adults can be very large and generally smaller birds eat smaller fish and larger birds prey on bigger fish so one species of fish serves a large variety of hungry birds.


1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

But some individual birds have their own preferences that don’t necessarily follow that pattern. I’ve seen Great Blue Herons swallow carp that were so huge that it was a miracle they were able to get it down the hatch but this one preferred much more petite meals. During the 35 minutes I spent with this heron four days ago it caught and swallowed eleven fish and all of them were tiny like this one. To me those fish seemed so small they were hardly worth the effort. I presume many of them were young carp.



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

But in February at Farmington food opportunities change when refuge personnel drain many of the canals and ponds in an effort to kill the adult carp that cause so much damage to the wetlands. Large dead carp litter the ponds and stream beds and a variety of birds take advantage of the situation. Yesterday I photographed this American Crow while it was feeding on a large sun-bleached carp. Gulls gorge themselves and some birds that we don’t normally think as fish-eaters also take advantage of the situation, especially when winters are unusually cold – among them Northern Harriers, American Coots and even some passerines like Song Sparrows.




1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

But Farmington is most famous for its Bald Eagles that feed on dead carp during late winter. In some years past there’s been hundreds of eagles feeding on dead carp but in recent years their numbers have been much reduced and most of  them have stayed in remote areas of the refuge where they’re unavailable to bird lovers and photographers. I photographed this one yesterday while it was far away so the image is of poor quality but as you can see they continue to be attracted to the dead carp.



1/2000, f/8, ISO 500, Canon 40D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

In years past there has been so many eagles at Farmington competing for carp that they would often strip the fish right down to the bones and then fight over their skeletons.



1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Competition was so fierce among eagles and gulls that eagles would sometimes take to the air with their prize and eat it on the fly.

I saw more eagles at Farmington yesterday than I’ve seen so far this year but their numbers still don’t compare to past years (far from it) and none of them were particularly close and available for photography or close-up viewing.

But they’re there and so were photographers and bird-lovers by the droves, hoping to get lucky with a close fly-by. It didn’t happen to me but you never know…


Note: Over the weekend I came down with a nasty case of shingles and to be perfectly frank I feel like shit. I never did have the shingles vaccination because a medication I take sporadically but often precludes it so now I’m paying the price and it’s a big one.

I mention it here because unless I start to feel better soon there may be days when I don’t publish a post to Feathered Photography. That may happen often or not at all – at this point I just don’t know. It isn’t my style to whine publicly about my health challenges but I thought I should give readers a heads up in case you don’t hear from Feathered Photography for a while.

Get your shingles vaccination, especially if you’re 60 or older!!!

Addendum: If you haven’t yet been vaccinated I strongly suggest you read the comment below from “Kiersten”. Kiersten is a pharmacist and she has some very interesting things to say about the new shingles vaccine.





72 comments to Carp As A Food Source At Farmington Bay WMA

  • Kathy G

    Your photos never cease to amaze! As a new follower they are all new to me…I look forward to each morning at my computer. Well at least carp are good for something for someone. ☺️ Sorry to hear you have contracted the ‘shingles’; I’ve never had them but as a nurse ‘of olde’ I know what they are like and the degrees of severity. It seems everyone reacts differently. Let’s pray yours are mild…they can be quite painful. Good thoughts sent your way!

  • gilly rolbein

    Ron, please please please get yourself a vitamin B COMPLEX tablet and start taking it. It will really help your body in it’s recovery from the shingles. Also please treat any pain aggressively now to minimise nerve pain later. I too am a pharmacist who knows all about shingles As I have had it 3 times. It is truly horrid. On a better note I love these pictures. Those carp are huge.

  • LS Clemens

    Shingles are so painful! I’ve had them twice. A friend got the vaccine & still contracted shingles. One year, 8 people in my office got them! Nasty condition!

  • Judy Gusick

    I put Kiersten’s post out to my siblings. As “luck”? would have it sister in England has just been diagnosed with Shingles for the 3rd time in her life. She had the current vaccine about 5 years ago. A brother had recently talked to his pharmacist about the vaccine and he suggested waiting for the new one so it’s “out there” in the Pharmacy community……

  • Great post, Ron!
    It’s amazing to observe how birds react to the ebb and flow of food supplies. Love the seeming inconsistent behavior of the large Great Blue Heron preferring the smallest carp available!

    First and foremost – take care of yourself! (I know you will.)

    We’ll be just fine out here. Many will suffer withdrawal symptoms, but a pot of coffee and the availability of your archives will see us through.

    Seriously, I’ll be thinking of you and hope your pain eases soon.

  • Take care of you. We can amuse ourselves by clicking on the header at the top and landing on random pages. Or am the only one who does that?

  • Stephen Clayson


    An additional note. As a surgeon I have seen people come in with such pain that they have required an exploratory abdominal operation (negative). The next day their rash shows up and the diagnosis of shingles is made. (Fortunately I don’t do abdominal surgery anymore but it persists as a diagnostic dilemma.) Yes, it always could be worse. Sorry to post twice.



  • Lyle Anderson

    I’m new to Feathered Photography and find your photography awesome and your essays very informative and well written.
    I have to chime in on the shingles thread. I view your blog and most everything with one eye, as ocular shingles 7 years ago altered vision in one eye akin to putting vaseline on a photo lens to blur the image. I have gotten the Zostavax vaccine (post-shingles, unfortunately) and will also be getting the Shingrex. Everyone even approaching 60 years old: Get the Vaccine now!

  • Alice Beckcom

    As I read through your blog and looked at your great photos, especially the 5th one, I never would have known that there was anything wrong with you. However, the first sentence did give me a clue, I did not scroll to the bottom to see what was in store.

    Feel better. I had shingles years ago and remember that it is painful stuff. I know that you have chronic back pain, so this only adds to the mix. Sorry about your problem.

    You certainly did a public service by notifying your readers about your shingles. Several of them will be heading off to the Doctor real soon. Kirsten surely gave many people hope with the new vaccine.

    Thank you, Ron

    • “I never would have known that there was anything wrong with you”

      That’s good to know, Alice, because the pain makes it very difficult for me to concentrate on what I’m writing. Thank you.

  • Adele Jennings

    I’ve always wanted to get a picture of a bird flying with a fish in it’s mouth! Great shot! The last picture is perfectly beautiful!
    Here in Florida we have ospreys flying with their prey! They fly so fast…that I always seem to miss the shot!

  • Charlotte Norton

    fantastic shots Ron! The Eagle is awesome!


  • Stephen Clayson


    First and foremost great shots as always. I guess I chose poorly during the sunny part of the weekend but I did get to see some of the Trumpeters at BRMBR at a significant distance. Don’t they know they should come closer?!

    I sympathize with your shingles. I had a mild case years ago and they were no fun. I got the vaccine after it started so maybe that might help.

    Good luck and take a few days if you need them for heck sakes! This, of course, is all voluntary!


  • Dick Harlow

    Great pictures, interesting Winter food supply.
    Sorry I’m late getting to your post, but thank you and Kiersten for Shingles info. My concern and sympathies to you!
    I remember well my Grandfather, who NEVER complained about anything until he got shingles! Oh such pain he was in, just agonizing! Probably NOT what you needed to hear. It gave me an appreciation for Shingles, but since I have an immune situation it was terrific hearing about Shingrix, I will certanily look into it.
    Many thanks for sharing.

  • Laura Culley

    Ron, I’m so sorry you have shingles. That’s just nasty! I so hope yours is minimal and clears rapidly. And not to worry…if you don’t feel up to posting, we’ll still be here when you do. At the top of your daily agenda is to take care of YOU!
    Kirsten, thanks for the heads up on the new vaccine! I have RA so I’m doing immuno-suppressive meds and was advised against the first vaccine. My grandmother had shingles and I do NOT want to follow in her footsteps. It was horrid for her. And I had chicken pox as a kid. I’d rather not take any chances on this one!
    And as usual, what a splendid series of images. I love the one of the eagle eating on the fly, despite that s/he is just showing off! I mean, really!

  • Laurel Crouch

    Good morning Ron , I’m sorry to hear you’ve been laid low by this miserable virus ! If you don’t feel well enough to post I’m sure we will all understand . Thank you for your dedication up to this point . Even though I don’t know enough about photography to comment on your posts I’ve enjoyed the beauty of nature and it’s many blessings through your efforts . Thank you
    Take care of yourself and heal quickly !

  • Trudy Brooks

    Ron, I do hope you get to feeling better soon. I got my shot about 15 years ago, had to pay for it my self, would be nice if insurance companies and Medicare will cover the new type of drug. I am sure it is no fun to have the shingles. I know several people who had shingles. Guess it reacts different on each person. Take a few days off and recover, love all your posts.

  • Ingrid

    Ron, I am so sorry to hear this! I know shingles is a very rough thing to contend with, and I so hope the antiviral protocol can take the worst of it from you. You are incredibly caring under the circumstances, passing along caution and counsel to others, even in the face of your own challenges right now. Sending you most positive wishes for healing.

  • Patty Chadwick

    So sorry to hear you have shingles!!!! That is one nasty bugger!!! Hope ypu can get some relief soon…my husband, sister and father all had it….

  • The last image is worthy of time sharing space over your mantle. I think DianefromZion is puzzling over the feathers in the water and the foot out of the water in #4. Extremely sorry to hear about you having shingles and I hope your recovery is rapid. I’ve had the vaccine but did not know about immunity waning after 5 years. Thanks for not removing Kiersten’s post and for directing our attention to it.

  • Karen Recher

    I am so sorry. Shingles is nasty stuff. I have had the 1st one, I will certainly get that 2nd one now.
    Nice study. PEACE.

  • frank sheets

    Ron, as always thanks for the images. Always a pleasure. Sorry about the shingles, hope for a speedy recovery. They can definitely cause a bunch of misery. I had them once, on the bridge of my nose and was worried about the possibility of migration to my left eye. Fortunately that did not happen. Good advise by your readers on the vaccinations. I will check with my Doc the next time in.

  • Nicole

    Fantastic photos!! I read about a new vaccine called Shingrix recently (on NPR??), and apparently they recommend it even if you’ve HAD shingles (which I’ve heard is an absolute NIGHTMARE):

    I hope you’re better soon, and not in too much pain…

  • Everett Sanborn

    Great photos as always. Envious of the photos opportunities you have there. You feel like crap and so do the carp. I am about to hit number 80 and have gotten the shot. Best wishes for a speedy recovery and many more outstanding photos.
    Everett Sanborn, Prescott AZ

  • Kiersten

    (Please take this reply down if not appropriate for the blog). I feel weird even posting this, but also feel the need for a little public health update. A second Shingles vaccine was recently approved for use in the US. The one we’ve had for years, Zostavax, is a live vaccine and cannot be used in people with immune suppression (either caused by meds or otherwise). The new vaccine, Shingrix, is not live and may be given to people with immune suppression or using meds that suppress the immune system. The CDC/ACIP is recommending Shingrix over Zostavax for adults 50 years and older, but the recommendations were very recently published and commercial payers are just now slowly starting to cover the vaccine. Widespread insurance coverage is anticipated in April 2018. The CDC recommends Shingrix in people who previously received Zostavax (Zostavax immunity wanes after 5 years), and people who have not received Shingles vaccine. I don’t receive any money from GlaxoSmithKline; I’m just a pharmacist really excited about this new Shingles vaccine!

    • Your comment is very appropriate, Kiersten. Thanks very much. I’ve added an addendum to my post to point readers to your comment.

    • DianefromZion

      Kiersten and Ron : yes, I have been holding out for this newer stronger vaccine. I don’t spend much money on myself, but the $280 [because insurance coverage is not going to happen until….]seems like a good expenditure to me. I hope you have the short quick and done totally version, Ron. If you are too bothered to answer my question on your picture #4, I’ll understand! 🙂 What “dropped out of its pantaloons or is it using yoga by balancing with its right wing over its left shin; or does this bird have extra parts I don’t know about? Please take care of yourself.

      • At this point I wouldn’t hesitate to spend $1000 on the vaccine if it kept me from getting it, Diana. I’d do it in a heartbeat!

        I assume you’re asking about photo #5 instead of #4. What you see didn’t drop out of it’s “pantaloons”. It’s a scale coming off of the carp. Carp have very large scales.

        If you’re actually talking about #4 I’m not sure what you’re referring to…

    • Marty K

      Thank you for the information, Kiersten!

  • Shirley

    Oh boy! Shingles…not so nice. I had them about 8 years ago on the back of my right knee, first the itchy little Chicken Pox like pimples then the most horrific pain. Evidently that area heals faster, the waist not so much & the eyes never. Years ago when I worked in health care I had a client with them in her eyes, poor lady! Hopefully yours go away soon, Ron. I will keep my fingers crossed for you. Your post was amazing, interesting about the Bald Eagles. The local photographer from here posted a Bald Eagle doing it’s “pounce” as Alistair called it and had a duck for it’s meal. That didn’t make me happy, I guess not enough Rodents around in the winter.

  • Sharon Constant

    OMG Ron! I’m so sorry to hear about your bout with shingles. I’m 61 and haven’t had my vaccine yet. I’ve been putting it off. Thanks for the reminder–I’m going to make an appointment tomorrow when I get back home. Get well soon and I hope you feel well enough to read (I hate it when I’m so poorly that I don’t even feel like reading).

  • Great images Ron, the one of the adult bald eagle in flight eating young carp is amazing!

    Shingles… darn my friend! I hope you are not in too much pain and get over it soon. My weekly reminder alarm says “get shingles vaccination…” and of course there is always something more pressing to do…well, I think this morning I will drive into town and get it! It runs in my family and it is time to get the vaccination.

    Feel better soon!

  • sallie reynolds

    The adult Bald feeding on the wing is wonderful. I think I’ve seen it before?

    Feel better soon.

  • Joel H

    Ron, you have lots of devoted followers hoping for your speedy recovery. -Joel

  • Judy Gusick

    GEEZ! Horrible stuff! 🙁 A sister had it in her teens and a gal at the Sr. Center got it on her face recently despite having been vaccinated tho it wasn’t too severe fortunately! Yes, I’m vaccinated! Choices always have to be made on these things – a crap shoot really. Hopefully the valacyclovir will get a handle on it!

    Photo’s of the birds with various size fish is interesting – they do adapt to what’s available so the carp and carp control aren’t all bad. It is interesting that the great blue was dining on minnows………………

  • Delores Freestone

    Hope you fell better soon, your health is important, we can wait for your next blog when you feel up to it.
    Love this one! Delores

  • Christine Brockmeyer

    Get well soon! What type of carp are these? I’ve been reading a book “The Life and Death of the Great Lakes” and it details the fight against the Asian carp and the, seemingly, futile efforts to keep it out of the Mississippi River basin. The zebra and quagga mussels are apparently in Lake Mead already, likely having arrived via trailered boats from the Midwest.

  • John Pierce

    Shingles is nasty as unfortunately you know. Most of the time we don’t think that viruses are responsive to treatment (i.e., common cold) but there are some cyclovir drugs that help shingles if given early in the course. You should ask you primary care doc about getting one. My mom at about 85 had shingles and one of the cyclovir drugs (can’t recall which one) knocked it right out. One person is not a controlled study but it really helped her. Best wishes for a rapid recovery.

  • Mary

    Oh, boy. My sympathies, may you get over this rough ground as lightly as possible!

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