Monday, March 15, 2010

Bald Eagle

This has been the year of the eagle in Newfoundland. Everywhere you look there is a picture of an eagle and a story to go with it. I have a few of those, too. The Bald Eagle is king of the sky, just like the lion is king of the jungle. He is stately, steady and calm. In tribute to this fine bird, I created a Bald Eagle portrait.

This eagle was particularly accommodating. He struck several memorable poses. First was the stare. I think he wanted to be sure that I a clear shot of that.

Following this shot, he raised his wings as if to conduct an orchestra and posed yet again. This time, perhaps, to make sure that I saw his wide wing spread. I was impressed.

Many people don't realize that crows work very hard to scare off eagles. They are often quite successful. When an eagle moves into an area, a group of crows will swarm the eagle to drive it away. In this case a lone crow is successful in keeping the eagle away from the birds on the ice.

People from all around the province flocked to Quidi Vidi Lake to get a glimpse of all of the eagle activity. There was a report that on one particular day four adult eagles and ten juvenile eagles descended on the ice. It must have been quite a spectacle. In the image below, the photographers with great equipment have gathered underneath a tree where a juvenile eagle overlooks the lake. He seems completely undisturbed by his fame and sat for over half an hour, posing for all.

I learned this year that photographers are willing to do most anything to capture that great shot. One particular day, a gentleman went to the nearby Dominion and bought a fresh chicken. He threw it on the ice, and within minutes, two juvenile eagles appeared out of nowhere to grab the chicken and fly from the north side parking lot to the boathouse. Within minutes, the paparazzi were in their cars flying around the lake. A Stampede! No one heeded the "Do Not Enter" sign just East of the boathouse. Before the chicken was devoured, there were a lot of satisfied photographers.

I have a little eagle story of my own. In December, I joined a group for a birdwatching tour to the South Shore. It was one of the worst days this winter. The snow was steadily falling and was being whipped about by the freezing north wind. Six of us had gotten up at 5 a.m. to meet and start this exciting trip and none of us was too thrilled about rescheduling for the next day. Mile by mile we drove into the blinding white flakes shrouded by darkness. There was an unusual silence in the car, as if to speak would mean to suggest that we turn back.

Finally daylight appeared, and we felt confident that we had gone through the worst and leaned into the day. We stopped at several locations, slipped across the icy paths and tied our hoods tight to keep the wind out. However, none of this was important. Each new bird was an experience. We saw two varieties of Grebes, Loons, Mergansers, Snow Buntings, House Sparrows, Eiders and so much more. By mid-morning we were parked in a basin of one of the many small communities watching a female King Eider. Our guide remarked that it was very rare for an eider to come into shore like that. Then, we realized that we could move the car and get a little closer look. We were easing our way around to the duck, when a Bald Eagle appeared out of nowhere.

The wheels hadn't stopped rolling on the van when I was already out with my camera. Unfortunately, I didn't have my new image stabilizer lens at that time. Nevertheless, I got a few memorable shots. The eagle made a pass and the eider dove. I have one shot of the eagle ready to grab when the ducks legs disappear underneath the water. I watched and photographed the eagle (dark drab day!) set up three times before he mastered the rhythm of the duck.

On the third pass, the eagle was waiting when the duck popped up above the water's surface. The snatch! The eagle grabbed the eider by the neck. A symphony of "Whoaaaa's" came out of the others on the trip. All were so hypnotized by the event that no one else got any pictures. So, by default, that makes mine the best of the event!

Eagles will continue to amaze us and cause people to stop and stare; although not likely at Quidi Vidi anymore this year. Once the ice is gone, the easy vittles are gone, and so too, are the eagles.

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