At one point when I was watching the group of Bald eagles I found east of the Crowsnest Pass last weekend, one of the adults landed in a tree close to where I was set up. Looking closely, I saw that he had a Prairie dog in one of its claws.
He finished the meal quickly and then set about cleaning its beak and talons. He used the stubs on the branch to rub against and as leverage during the cleaning. I was fascinated with the fastidiousness with which he carried out this work.
When that was done, he provided a few great poses for portrait shots while scanning the fields for more creatures and the skies for his fellow eagles.
After a few minutes, he flew off to a larger tree nearby where the other three eagles were perched.
I found an aerie of four Bald eagles east of the Crowsnest Pass this weekend. They perched in still dormant trees that divide up several farm fields. From these perches, they can hunt for the ground squirrels that scurry between their holes among the short grass. This eagle had just finished his meal and I caught him adjusting his position on the branch. It looked a bit like a line dancing sidestep to me.
There was a murder of crows circling a wooded spot east of Bragg Creek that caught my attention. I was driving into Calgary and pulled over to see what was going on. At that moment, this Bald eagle flew out of the trees and blasted through the middle of the group. They scattered and the eagle landed on a branch close by.
Whatever had drawn these opportunists in must have been deeper in the woods as I couldn’t see anything from where I was parked. While the eagle looked around I had time to switch lenses in favour of the longest one I have so I was able to get in quite close. The detail in the feathers was nice especially with the strong lighting – the relatively low angle of the sun in winter helped me here.
After a couple of minutes the eagle launched and banked into the forest. The crows had not yet returned so I imagined that he was hoping to finish his meal before being bothered again.
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.
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.
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.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800
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.
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.
Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 70mm: 1/40oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000
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.
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.
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.
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 cold snap has taken hold of the prairies around Calgary for the past few days. I saw this eagle picking away at some bones out in a field in Springbank and stopped to photograph it for a few minutes. After a few minutes, it took to the air to find the next meal. Given the damp cold, I would suggest it carry on the migration that brought it our way last week and head for somewhere more temperate. That said, I will be very happy if I have the chance to photograph it a few more times before then.