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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/8000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 800
After spending time with the Avocets on the northwest corner of Frank Lake, I turned my attention skyward and watched for the White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) who fly between the spots they like to fish and their nests in the tall reeds near the viewing cabin. The feathers on both sides of their wings shimmer when caught by sunlight and they have the long, down-curved bills inherent to the Ibis family of birds. I find them to be as beautiful as they are striking and unusual.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/4000th of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 2500
I had only seen them from a distance previously as their nests are far from the shoreline that is accessible (I’ve heard of some people stalking through the reeds towards these nests but that’s nothing I’m interested in doing given the potential for damage and disruption) and they were staying close to them on my last visit. This time around, there were several of these iridescent birds in flight overhead at any given moment.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/6400th of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200
I set up near a small pond separated from the lake by reeds and grasses and had great opportunities to photograph these birds flying. In addition to being along the flight path of the Ibis, Double-crested Cormorants and Black-crowned Night-Herons were frequently seen highlight species.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/8000th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600
I saw a few Ibis carrying grasses and reeds as they flew towards the nesting area. Presumably, constant maintenance is required to keep the nest in good repair. I photographed one of these deliveries when the Ibis below flew relatively close by.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/2000th of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 2500
After hanging out by the pond for a half an hour, a couple of shorebirds landed in the shallow water nearby. They flitted about and were joined by a few others at one point. The evening light was beautiful and I was very happy to have these little fellows to photograph against the bold patterns created by the stalks along the far side of the pond. About an hour later, I was really excited when two Ibis flew in and landed.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/250th of a second at f/8 on ISO 3200
They set to fishing right away and ended up staying for only five minutes or so. I’m not sure if they didn’t notice me when they flew in and when they did they took off. Or, they just decided to fish elsewhere. Whatever the case, it was really great to see them in another part of their environment.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1000th of a second at f/11 on ISO 3200
The little shorebirds came out from the reeds they had slipped into when the much larger Ibis came in. I spent the rest of the daylight photographing them, particularly the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) below, as they carried out their hunting duties before night took over.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1600th of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 4000
This Canada Goose led a small flock off the lake at the Wild Rose Estates, west of Bragg Creek, and disappeared into the mist rising off of the water.
Eared Grebes are a very cool bird. They look fantastic (especially the red eyes), are great divers and really show their personalities. I watched a group of eight that swam alone and in pairs on the marsh.
There were a couple of characters who squawked or bickered a little but mostly they all meandered around grabbing insects off the water, diving for things under it and paddling around.
I was watching these birds from the Ducks Unlimited blind on Frank Lake. They swam within a few yards many times and gave me a wonderful opportunity to observe them in good detail for over three hours.
It was a beautiful afternoon on the water and along with the Eared Grebes, I watched Western Grebes, Black-crowned Night Herons, White-faced Ibis, American Avocets, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Ruddy Ducks and Canada Geese. It was a great afternoon on a beautiful Prairie lake.