Eagles

Eagle along the Cowboy Trail

On to the perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1600

A Bald Eagle spent a couple of mornings in and around a field east of Bragg Creek where the prairie starts.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1600

He landed in the grass in one general spot a few times on the two days that I stopped to watch so I suspect there was a carcass that was an easy meal.

Scouring the field - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/25ooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800

The only distraction came from a pair of ravens that pestered the eagle in the air and on the field.  They proved to not be a significant deterrent as the eagle muscled them out away.

Bird jousting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800


An eagle’s easy snack

Eagle on the move in Cow Bay - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 99mm: 1/100oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 400

We had a great afternoon in Prince Rupert today.  The marina in Cow Bay was busy with boats of many different stripes coming and going throughout the day.  Seals popped up amongst the boats looking for scraps from the fishermen – a quick snack between meals.  While several Bald Eagles flew by overhead looking for a similar handout.  One group cleaned and divided up several large Halibut on one of the tables on the dock.  This drew in the seals and one eagle.  The seals made out quite well and at the end, a chunk of fish was left beside the table for the eagle.

Those are my scraps! 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 105mm: 1/250oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000

It swooped down from its piling, grabbed the fish and then flew off to eat.  I was watching from across the marina on a wharf.  When the eagle left the dock, it flew towards the wharf and flew right under me as it headed away.  A good start to the weekend.

Over - under - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 70mm: 1/40oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000


Eagle Skirmishes

Eagle Skirmish - 2013 © Christopher Martin

An eagle enjoying a feast is not often left alone for too long in Brackendale.  Finished spawning, the salmon drift downriver listlessly and eventually die naturally or with the assistance of the scavengers along the rivers.  The effort is in pulling the fish out of the water.  When that is done, competition often arrives to stake a claim.  Skirmishes, jousting and all out fights can breakout before one eagle is chased off.

Lox for breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinThis eagle was unchallenged as we floated past but it kept its head on a swivel wary of potential thieves.

Guarding breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinIn another spot, there were a lot of fish along the rocks and a lot of eagles vying for them.

Salmon wars - offense and defense _2013 © Christopher Martin-

Eagle ballet - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Occasionally, as in the photograph below, an equilibrium of sorts will be found where a few eagles will take turns on a fish with little aggression.

Salmon Potluck - 2013 © Christopher MartinHowever, one eagle soon came screaming in and upset the delicate balance.

The disruptor arrives - 2013 © Christopher MartinThere are many gulls that wait for opportunities to grab bits out of the water.  When eagles aren’t around, they have similar battles over prime spots.

Seagull skirmishes - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Bald Eagles in Brackendale

Immature in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I was in Brackendale, just north of Squamish, for a couple of days in December.  Every year thousands of Bald Eagles congregate in this area along the banks of the Squamish River.  There are three separate salmon spawning runs that overlap between November and February that result in dead and dying salmon littering the rocky shoreline.  The easy dining is a draw for eagles, seagulls as well as the occasional otter and seal (which in turn are quite the draw for photographers as it turns out!)  I was there for the Bald Eagles and was not disappointed in any way.  The first day was spent along the berm, that serves as a main viewing point, a bit further upriver in an eddy where a particularly cool eagle was hanging out.

Walking this way - 2013 © Christopher Martin-33612Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I will do a separate post from the second day when the snow fell and I was out on a birdwatching float down the river.  For now, these images are from the first day where the overcast skies allowed for open shadows and allowed the texture and detail in the eagle plumage to be seen.   It was pretty dark at times as you can tell by the ISO settings I was using but it was a great day filled with eagles coming and going.

River Flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin-31222Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 4000

There are so many fish that serious fights appear to be rare but eagles are opportunistic so there are still skirmishes where one will try to chase off another who has already gone through the effort of retrieving a salmon out of the water.

Eagle Battle - 2013 © Christopher Martin-31552

Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 4000

Others preferred a little more distance from their brethren.  This eagle hung out on a perch in the middle of a pond-like eddy off the river. At one point it called out but it didn’t fly over to the scattered groups of eagles in the trees across the water nor did any of them come over to visit.

Eagle eye - 2013 © Christopher Martin-34812Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/800 of a second at f/4.5 on ISO 1600

2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 2000

It splashed around in the shallow water for a while, stopping to snack for a minute, but seemed to return to this stick as its preferred resting spot.

Fish hunting - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Brackendale Buffet - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1000

Direct stare - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/2000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

Eagle Portrait - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/2000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I never tired of watching these eagles flying.  I think they are one of the most beautiful birds to watch in flight.  It was a great day on BC’s west coast.

Low Altitude - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

Flying downriver - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 3200


Merry Christmas!

Winter flight - 2013 © Christopher MartinWinter Flight – A Bald eagle flies under falling snow in Brackendale, B.C. on December 20th, 2013

December has been a busy end to a busy year.  It is nice to have a few days over Christmas to spend time at home with my family.   I hope you are able to do the things that make for a great holiday for you and yours.  Merry Christmas!


Beak to talon

Beak to talon - 2013 © Christopher Martin

There was one additional encounter with a Bald eagle in the Khutzeymateen that I really enjoyed.  The rain cleared on the evening of the second day and the weather was beautiful on the morning of the third day.  We were crossing the inlet heading towards the side where the sun had just reached down the mountains to the shoreline.  An eagle was lit beautifully as it perched on a rock exposed during low tide.

River guardian - 2013 © Christopher Martin

At first I thought it was watching the seagulls at the mouth of the creek it was perched beside.  We watched it for a while as it surveyed its dominion.  It seemed in no rush to join the fray as the gulls jostled for scraps of fish that floated downstream from a bear working on the salmon up in the creek hidden in the forest.

Rocky perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When it took flight clutching the tail end of a salmon in its beak that it had pulled out of a little nook, I realized it had been pausing between feasts.  Watching it pass right in front of our boat, I had a few good images.  When it started to climb off the water, it passed the fish from to its talons, presumably allowing for more comfortable flight.

Sushi to go - 2013 © Christopher Martin

-

Under the radar - 2013 © Christopher Martin

-

A raptor in profile - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I loved the light and the sense of place in the flight images.  When the eagle passed the fish back, it was the defining moment of the encounter for me.


Eagles in the Khutzeymateen

Vertical aspirations - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Grizzly bears are the kings of the Khutzeymateen’s wildlife.  In the air, the eagles hold a similar position among the birds along the ten mile inlet.  Most were Bald eagles but a few Golden eagles were also in residence to enjoy the salmon runs that were in full swing.

A golden perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

-

In the rainforest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Constant adversaries on the prairies, eagles and ravens, were occasionally found chasing one or the other around the towering pines.

Catch me if you can - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Often adolescents were dining on the fish in the creeks alongside the seagulls.  That may have been much less trouble than jousting with their elders for the prime fishing locations at the mouth of the estuary.

An avian beachgoer - 2013 © Christopher Martin

-

Beach picking - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When the heavy rain would roll down the valley, most of the eagles would weather it in the open on a raised perch of one type or another.  They probably don’t care too much about it but on the first two days where there were few breaks in the downpour, I thought there must be at least a few that hunted around for shelter.  I didn’t find them but the exposed raptors provided a good subject when the bears were not to be found.

Waiting out the rain - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When the rain did stop, the wings were unfolded to air dry and the daily activities resumed.

Drying out after the rain - 2013 © Christopher Martin

-

Aerial curiosity - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Photographing the eagles throughout the trip into the Khutzeymateen was one of the collective highlights.  I’m fortunate to see them occasionally on the prairies but it was a real pleasure to be able to watch them along the coastline and up in the tops of the rainforest.

Eagles in the rainforest - 2013 © Christopher Martin


An eagle’s easy meal

Fast food carryout - © Christopher Martin

I was out on the ocean with my friend Jeff yesterday.  We are heading into the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary this morning for four days on a boat where we will be looking for the wild bears that own this remote inlet on British Columbia’s Pacific coast.  That’s today but yesterday we were out whale watching leaving from Prince Rupert and cruising the coastline in search of humpbacks.  On the return, there were a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) attracted by fishing scraps thrown overboard in the channel.

Target practice - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I saw it as a rare easy meal for these beautiful creatures.  Seemed like good target practice as well.  They circled around a couple of times for the chunks of fish, chasing off a large raft of gulls that seemed to materialize out of thin air.

Waterbound - 2013 © Christopher Martin

More to come in a few days when I get back.


Eagles along the Grand Valley Road

Soaring - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Our family went for a drive along the Grand Valley Road northwest of Cochrane a few days ago in search of raptors of any description.  This road is nice drive that is rarely busy and can often yield sightings of owls, hawks or eagles.  In a hilly farmland area we noticed a number of ravens circling around a stand of trees in a field a couple of hundred metres off the road.  When we pulled over to see what the focus of their attention was two coyotes bolted out from under a large cedar and sprinted across the open into the thicker forest on the far side of the field.  Looking back to the spot where they started running we could see a carcass that had been mostly picked clean of what, judging by one of the horns that was sticking up, appeared to be a bison.  As it was on farm land it seems likely there were bison being raised here but there were no other farm animals within sight to confirm that theory.  With coyotes, ravens, magpies and probably a number of other predators drawn to this unfortunate beast, its herd was likely as far away from this spot as the fences would allow.  So, we were watching the ravens which were squawking and pestering the smaller birds picking at the  scraps when Bobbi noticed a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) approaching from down the valley.

Scouting - 2013 © Christopher Martin

We already had the long lenses out so we were able to photograph the bird as it flew overhead towards the other birds.  Two ravens also saw the eagle inbound and flew up to harass this new attendee.  The three looped around the trees for a minute before the eagle landed in one of the high branches and the black birds returned to ground.

Dogfight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

During this chase, the overcast skies took on a more threatening tone and soon a soft snowfall turned into a blizzard.  I thought the Golden eagle would wait out the height of the storm from the perch so I kept looking around to see if the coyotes, or anything else, came back.

Blizzard flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Out of the sheets of snow a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) swooped in and took up a spot on a tree near to the Golden.  This had turned out to be a great encounter and when a couple more Bald eagles flew in and around over the next half an hour, it continued to get better and better.  The snow did finally ease up and there were opportunities for nice flight images.

Adult bald eagle in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The lighter skies appeared to spur one of the Bald eagles to say goodbye to a raven it had been sharing a tree with across the field and glide over to the bison skeleton.

Into the air - 2013 © Christopher Martin

-

Along the forest's edge - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This eagle brought a good amount of conviction to its scavenging intent and it chased off all of the passerine that had been crowding on the ground.

Scattering the scavengers - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When we moved on, this eagle was alone on the ground having successfully landed and taken ownership of what remained.

On guard - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Golden eagle had disappeared and two Bald eagles were perched where they could keep an eye on the bones.  The collection of black birds were scattered in singles and small groups around the scene though none strayed close to the eagle holding dominion on the ground.  The last wildlife we saw as we drove away were the coyotes trotting along the hill towards the farm-house keeping their distance while still keeping an eye on the bison.


Eagles on the Prairie

Scouting low over the Prairies - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I’ve spent a lot of time this winter driving the township and range roads which divide the prairie up into a grid work of  crisscrossing dirt roads.  The primary goal has been to photograph Snowy owls during their winter stay here but I’m always happy to see bald eagles when I happen across them.  These were two separate encounters.  Above, the eagle was flying low over the fields west of Calgary and I parked at a driveway in time to photograph the bird flying past.  In the photograph below, the eagle was perched in this tall tree near Gleichen east of Calgary for ten minutes while I watched before it launched and headed out over the fields.

A tree launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,774 other followers