Saturday, November 21, 2015

Eagles and Aerial Acrobatics

It seems the eagles were out it in force recently as I stopped in at Ottawa Nat'l Wildlife Refuge and the Toussaint State Wildlife Area.  The eagle above was sitting on a tree in front of the nest there and I was able to see its white head from far off so started walking in that direction.  There is more than one way to approach the nest and, of course, I had no way of knowing which way he was facing as he sat in the tree but knew my approach would be with the sun at my back.  If I was presented with a shot I didn't want a silhouette by shooting into the sun, nor did I want to crank up the exposure compensation to overcome that if it could be avoided.

Well, it all worked out this time.  As I got closer I could see he was facing my direction which improved the chance he'd take off facing me...if he was going to take flight.  He let me walk right up to the tree where I snapped off a couple pics before he decided to leave and then I let the shutter rip.  It all happened very fast, as usual, and he chose the exact moment to depart just as I stole a glance at the screen to make sure the exposure was correct.  In that split second I looked up and he was in the air, so the first three shots were totally blurred out as I was trying to acquire focus.  The next five shots were right on the money.  Whew!  I'd been wanting a moment like this and almost blew it.

Next up was Toussaint State Wildlife Area which is only a few miles from Ottawa.  I'd been there only one other time last year and didn't see much to it so haven't been back.  I guess it's all about the timing because this time I spotted an eagle flying in the area as I approached and hoped it would be viewable from the site.  When I pulled into the parking area I caught a glimpse of the eagle flying over the marsh and hoped it would stay long enough for me to park, grab the camera, get out of the car, and get some pics.

As I quickly, but quietly made my way to the small opening to the marsh I saw two more eagles on the mud floor a short distance away.  That makes three eagles.  Then I noticed five more eagles in the trees across from where I stood.  Eight eagles in this area along with what appeared to be a couple hawks.  Jackpot. 

As I made my way to the swampy edge to sit on some large rocks there, the two eagles on the mud floor and all five in the trees took flight.  This made eight eagles in the air at once and they didn't immediately leave.  They first flew around this spot and circled and did whatever they do with and to each other all the while I was frantically snapping away.

After several rounds of rapid-fire I knew I needed to home-in on one bird if possible and stick with it.  This adult bird is the one I chose as it crossed through the viewfinder and it was fun.  Just look at the acrobatics going on here.  As I followed it in it came right over the top of me and I ended up on my back shooting straight up. It was great.  But it happened so fast I had no idea at all what kind of shots I was getting.  It was only after getting these on the computer screen that I realized what a moment I'd had earlier in the day and it is kind of bittersweet because I was there in person to both witness and capture the moment but have no real recollection of what these pictures tell me happened with this particular bird.

It's almost as if I blanked out and was on autopilot capturing the action but my brain was not recording what I was seeing.  It's a strange feeling for sure.  The total time from first shot to last was 1 minute 53 seconds and 65 images were captured.  For me, for a first time encounter like this, it was fast-paced.  And did I say fun?  I remember thinking exactly that as I followed this bird up, up, up, until I was laying flat on my back still shooting.

Now that I can see these and take time to reflect I'm pretty sure this adult was engaged with the youngster of the last photo because I've seen it before between adult and immature eagles.  And, I've got some images with the two eagles in the shot but the adult is flying away in the background and really doesn't make for much of a presentation here.  Anyway, it was a great time and I'll be looking for more opportunities in the future.


  1. These are awesome captures babe! And I love your enthusiasm of the chase! You really have come such a long way since you started. I really hope you continue to explore the possibilities and pursue where your talent can take you.

    1. Thanks, hon! I appreciate your support.