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I had to get out of the house today.

True, I had got to work yesterday, sniffling through a moderately productive time, but that was no substitute for a real excursion. It has been a while since the weather, ongoing events or my health, has allowed me time to do one of the things I like best. Today, I had my chance and I took it.

Of course, at this time of year, light is also against me with the short days. Sunset today, not quite at the winter solstice, is starting to creep forward again. A few days ago it hit its minimum at 4:39 p.m. By this Saturday it was 4:41 p.m. Roll on the long nights!

After a satisfying lunch with the family at Dewey's, I headed off to my much-frequented lookout by Alton, Illinois, to see what change winter had wrought on the river.

As you can see, it was quite a different view from last time. Ice, and lots of it.

I set up my tripod and took a look around. Unusually, there were a number of other photographers congregated by the riverside and I soon saw why. The eagles are here. I, and everyone else, spotted three sitting on an ice floe slap bang in the middle of Mississippi River. The shot you see above was taken at my maximum telephoto range – it made me wish a little that I had an even longer lens, but those start rivaling the cost of a second hand car!

In the opposite direction, and even further away, I noted a camouflaged hunting or bird-watching blind surrounded by wooden decoy geese. What I didn't see at the time, and you can only barely make out in the picture, are three or four eagle chicks nested on top. I stayed a while as the sun lowered. It was really pretty cold and none of the other photographers lingered once the eagles had flown upstream. The lovely cool winter light was enchanting. On the riverbank, the ice had frozen to resemble what looked like at enormous carpet of white teeth. I'd never anything quite like it before.Very beautiful, I thought.