Posts tagged “Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Bald eagles flying around their dinner perch

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-5968

Watching these two eagles for an hour back in March, I am convinced they are the pair who will occupy the large nest perched in these trees over a pond on a farm on the high prairie east of the Crowsnest Pass.

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6157-2

 

Both had no difficulty catching the ground squirrels in the fields surrounding the pond.  When they did, they returned to this branch to eat – possibly for the company.  It was very cool to be a stone’s throw away from the wonderful creatures.  At close range, I was reminded how big these birds are.

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6153

Other eagles circled the water as well but none seemed paired up like these two which leads me to believe they “own” the nest.  I’ll get back there soon and see where things stand now!

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6210

There were a lot of fun shots to choose from which I whittled down to these few here.  It was, obviously, a well spent afternoon by my standards.

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6203

 


Spread eagle

Livingstone Eagles - © Christopher Martin-5920

With the steady wind that was blowing, this near-mature Bald eagle only had to open its massive wing to take flight.  With the ~2 metre wingspan it easily glided over to a neighbouring tree where a couple other eagles were perched.  It was another great weekend on the high Prairie east of Lundbreck watching eagles.


A Bald eagle’s Prairie flight

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3331

Watching birds in flight is a source of great pleasure for me.  Perhaps it’s the freedom I imagine they enjoy (written just as two ravens glided by my window, acrobatically playing on the air currents outside) or the grace that many of them carry into the sky.  When I have the gift of watching them close to the ground, it gives a different perspective and one that I particularly enjoy photographing.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3315

So when two of the four bald eagles that watched for quite a while on the weekend glided off of their tree perch and landed out on the field nearby, I was excited.  I had hoped they may dive on the prairie dogs as they passed by.  They did not, it seemed that an alert had gone up as the little creatures were nowhere to be seen at that moment, and they alighted in the short grass.  They chirped a little at each other but it seemed like they were just enjoying the sunshine as they stood in their respective spots for close to ten minutes.  The adolescent launched first – I wanted to blur the wings in flight so I dragged my shutter.  I’m still evaluating those results – we’ll see another day if I think they are worth sharing.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3316

When the mature eagle lifted off the Prairie, I kept the shutter speed fast to freeze the motion and panned with the beautiful bird as it powerfully drove past.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3321

When it buzzed a magpie that had also been sitting in the field, that bird flew up and in front of the eagle for a short ways.  The eagle’s eyes were on this diminutive cousin of the raven and the crow but it was undeterred as it flew back towards its small convocation.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3329

As it gained a little altitude, I liked the way the elements in the background looked in soft focus.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3339

At one moment during this short flight it did look down at the field at one point – again raising my hopes of a dive – but nothing like that came of it.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3345

Both eagles rejoined the other two that had remained in the tree.  They all remained there for an hour before hunting over the fields individually later.

Bald eagle prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-3581


Eagle ways

Maycroft bald eagles - © Christopher Martin-2910

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.

Maycroft bald eagles - © Christopher Martin-2842

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.

Maycroft bald eagles - © Christopher Martin-2967

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.

Maycroft bald eagles - © Christopher Martin-2990

After a few minutes, he flew off to a larger tree nearby where the other three eagles were perched.

Maycroft bald eagles - © Christopher Martin-3060


A Bald eagle’s branch dance

Bald eagle's branch dance - © Christopher Martin-2949
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.


An eagle in the woods

Redwood Eagle - © Christopher Martin-0573-4

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.

Redwood Eagle - © Christopher Martin-0533

Redwood Eagle - © Christopher Martin-0568

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.

Redwood Eagle - © Christopher Martin-0574

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.

 


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


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


Taking Flight – Bald Eagle on the Prairie

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.


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