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Posts Tagged ‘Bald Eagle couple’

There are at least two Bald Eagle nests (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the location where I take many of my wildlife photos. One of them is located adjacent to a popular trail and most years the authorities close nearby trails during eagle nesting season. There has been a lot of construction at the refuge over the past few months and, although I saw an eagle couple at that nesting site on several occasions, it looks like they may not have occupied that nest this year (and the trails have not been closed).

The second nest, pictured below, is in a more remote location—it is visible through the trees from one of the trails, but is surrounded by dense vegetation, so the eagles are more insulated from human activity. On a recent visit to the refuge, I was pleased to spot both members of an eagle couple in the nest. I am pretty sure that the eagle on the left is the male, because male eagles tend to be considerably smaller than their female counterparts.

With a bit of luck I hope to be able to spot some eaglets here in the upcoming months, although I noted last year that it is a real challenge to do so, because the wall of this large nest appear to be quite high and effectively hide the eagles from view.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How do Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) show affection? I am not sure exactly what these two eagles were doing when I spotted them on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Were they singing to each other? Maybe they doing some version of eagle French kissing? Whatever the case, the eagles definitely seemed to be enjoying spending the time close together, beak-to-beak, showing love in their own ways.

Happy Valentine’s Day as you show love in your own way. Although this holiday traditionally is focused on couples, I think that singles like me should also celebrate love today—I love flowers and am planning to get some later today. It is more than ok to love yourself, so go ahead and treat yourself today—you are worth it.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why do eagles scream? Most of the times when I hear a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) screaming, the eagle is by itself and appears to be signaling its location to its mate. This past Monday, though, I spotted a Bald Eagle couple perched together on an osprey nesting site not far from their nesting location. The eagles seem to enjoy hanging out at this location that gives them a clear view of the tree in which the nest is located.

I am posting this little sequence of photos out of order, because the first image best tells a story, although it is not completely clear what that story is. The female eagle, the larger of the two, is on the lower level and seems to be screaming at her mate who is perched higher on the pole. A moment earlier they were both on the lower level and both eagles appeared to be calm, as you can see in the second image. Then the male hopped to the higher level and the female began to scream.

In the final shot, the female has turned away and the male is now screaming. Was he responding to his mate or was he screaming at something else? I guess you can connect the dots of this story in any way that you like.

As I was doing a little research on screaming eagles I came across a fascinating National Public Radio (NPR) article entitled “Bald Eagle: A Mighty Symbol, With A Not-So-Mighty Voice.” The article posits that most people have an incorrect idea of what an eagle scream sounds like and blames Hollywood. According to bird expert Connie Stanger, “Unfortunately for the bald eagle, it has like a little cackling type of a laugh that’s not really very impressive for the bird” and in most movies the sound of the eagle is actually dubbed by a Red-tailed Hawk. (I imagine a hawk in a sound booth with headphones dubbing over the eagle’s calls.)

If you click on the link above and then click the button on the website called “57 Second Listen,” you can hear a short clip of the NPR broadcast that includes both the call of the eagle and that of the Red-tailed Hawk. As for the question in the posting’s title, I personally like to think that it was a conversation, but acknowledge the distinct possibility that they were individually responding to a commonly-perceived threat. I think that my interpretation allows for more creative possibilities as I try to imagine the domestic conversations of a Bald Eagle couple. 🙂

bald eagles

bald eagles

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I have gotten older, I have rediscovered the joy of taking naps. When I was a child, I seem to recall rebelling a bit against the idea of a forced midday nap, but now I look forward to them. Sunday afternoon naps have become part of my routine and now that I have retired, I sometimes indulge myself without waiting for the weekend.

Several of the Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to share my fondness for napping. In the first shot below, the Bald Eagle looked like it was just settling in for a long winter’s nap. The eagle’s head is bowed forward in the familiar position that I used during my recent transatlantic flights when drifting off to sleep. I am mildly amused by the fluffiness of the head feathers on this “bald” eagle—the head feathers remind me of the wigs worn by British barristers.

The second image shows a Bald Eagle couple. The male eagle, the smaller one to the left, appears to be alert, but his female partner seems to be asleep. Female eagles are larger than their male counterparts, but this female has magnified that size differential by a rather extreme fluffing of her feathers. (I am assuming that eagles tighten their talons while napping, so that any sudden movements while asleep do not not dislodge them from their perches.)

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am blessed to live in an area in which Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are present throughout most of the year. During the summer, however, my encounters have been pretty infrequent, so I was excited to spot this one on Monday while visiting Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was looking for dragonflies that day and had a macro lens on my DSLR camera and I realized the eagle was too far away for me to capture a decent image.

It was precisely for situations like this that I also carry my Canon SX50 super-zoom camera. The resolution of this camera is not as good as that of my “big” camera, but it gives me a lot of reach. After I had zoomed in to take the first shot, I zoomed out and realized that there was a second bald eagle perched above the one I had just photographed. The second shot shows the relative positions of the two eagles.

I was hoping for better head positions for the two eagles, but they flew away shortly after I took the second shot. I have discovered that it is usually best to get a shot as early as possible in such encounters and then work to get a better shot. If I had waited for the “perfect” moment, I almost certainly would have come up empty-handed.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s nesting time for eagles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On Monday I spotted this Bald Eagle couple in a nest that I know has been used the for at least the last two years. The tree is adjacent to one of the main trails at the refuge and is pretty prominent. Shortly after my sighting, I encountered one of the law enforcement officers who was putting up barriers to block access on the roads near the nesting site to protect them from human interference.

Each year they put up the barriers in slightly different locations. I am hoping that this year’s barriers are about the same distance from the nest as last year’s. At that distance, I was able to photograph the eagles from a distance that let me get photos about the same as the first image below and also monitor the eagles. I was fortunately last year to be able to even get some distant shots of the two eaglets after they were born. Perhaps I will be equally lucky this year.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the year I tend to see individual Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but recently I have been seeing them in pairs, like this couple that I spotted last week perched on a nesting platform for ospreys at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It will soon be time to occupy a nearby nest.

If you look closely at the two eagles, you will notice that one that the one on the left is smaller in size—I believe that is the male. I do not know if this is the same couple, but an eagle couple successfully raised two eaglets in a nest in a tree that is not that far away from this platform, which housed an active osprey nest last year.

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) appear really fierce with their intense eyes and powerful talons and beaks, but they also have their tender moments, as you can see in this image that I captured on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Officials have blocked off an area of the wildlife refuge for the security and privacy of the nesting eagles, but I was able to get this shot by shooting over the barrier with a long telephoto zoom lens and by cropping the image.

The female eagle, which I believe is the larger one on the right, seems to be sitting much higher than she was several weeks ago, making me wonder if one or more egg might have already hatched. A few moments before I captured this image, she was repeatedly lowering her head down into the nest and then raising it. Perhaps she was just eating, but I like to imagine that she was feeding an eaglet.

From what I have read, eagles mate for life and actually are quite affectionate with each other. Additionally, they share the responsibilities for sitting on the eggs and for raising the young. I am somewhat more familiar with some duck species, where the female is left with responsibility for caring for the ducklings, and it really causes me to admire the devotion and commitment of the eagles to each other.

So what about you and the ones that you love? Do you get weary? Maybe we too should follow the words of the classic Otis Redding song and “Try a Little Tenderness.”

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you take photos only when the weather conditions are optimal? If I followed that rule, I’d be staying at home most of the time. This winter in particular, it seems like I am at work on all of the days with good weather. So often I will choose to go out with my camera when I am free and not when the weather is good.

One particular morning last week it was really foggy and visibility was extremely limited. The subjects that I could see were hazy and indistinct, utterly lacking in contrast. It’s hard to know how what camera setting to use in situations like those.

I was at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite spot this winter for wildlife photography, and as usual I managed to spot some Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). It is always a challenge to photograph the eagles, because they tend to perch a good distance away from the trails that I follow and they are often quite skittish.

In this case, the difficulties were magnified, because of the heavy fog/mist. I ended up processing the images that I captured in a number of different ways, attempting at times to enhance the contrast or eliminate some of the fog, with varying degrees of success.

Here are a few of my favorite shots of the eagles in the mist.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Is this love or anger or a bit of both? Relationships of any sort are complicated and I don’t know enough about eagle behavior to interpret the interaction between these two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I observed one morning last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Sharp-eyed reader viewers may have noted that these two eagles are perched on the same branch where I previously photographed an eagle couple. The branch is part of a tree in which there is a nest that I am now relatively certain is an eagle nest. It is a pretty good distance off of the path and partially hidden, so I am hoping that the wildlife will judge that passing humans won’t unduly disturb what may become nesting eagles and will leave the path open.

As for the behavior, I must admit that I am a bit romantic and couldn’t help but note how the space between their beaks forms a heart. I’m voting therefore for love.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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No matter how much you love someone, minor squabbles are virtually inevitable and sometimes they can get quite heated. I am not sure what was being discussed, but the members of this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple seemed to have differing views that they defended loudly and emphatically on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

In many ways this photo embodies what I most love to capture when I go out with my camera. Although it is wonderful to capture a static subject, it is even more wonderful to capture some action or even better some interaction. I think viewers are drawn into the drama and emotion of the moment and creatively try to imagine what was going on in the photo. Are these angry birds? Is this how eagles express love? We, of course, can’t know the true explanation for the behavior that I document, but that sense of mystery and incertitude can sometimes further stimulate our imagination.

I didn’t see this couple kiss and make up, but a short time later they took off together, apparently having resolved whatever problem had prompted their little squabble.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was tracking a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) yesterday in the sky over Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was surprised when they landed in the distance on the ice. I have no idea why they did so, but they stood there on the ice for a long time.

Were they just chilling? Did they want to try ice skating? Could they see a fish through the ice? I have lots of questions and few answers, but it was definitely a cool sighting.

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on the top of a post this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge looked for a moment like it was going to pounce on another eagle that had just landed on a platform attached to the post. Apparently the larger eagle, almost certainly, decided she had something to say to her mate and was merely hopping down to his level and she landed really close to him.

The female eagle seemed unhappy with him and made several loud cries in his direction. He just stood there and took it and in the third shot has the look of a henpecked husband. Apparently she also told him that he needed to perch on the upper post. Perhaps this is the eagle equivalent of sleeping on the couch.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

Bald  Eagles

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If one Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is good, two are even better. The challenge with any couple,though, is to get both of them to smile for you and look at the camera. This was the eagle couple’s best pose on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Bald Eagle couple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Seeing one Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is pretty exciting, but seeing two together is even more awesome. I spotted these two eagles on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

At a certain location within the refuge there is a tall pole, which resembles a telephone pole, with a wooden platform. I am not sure of its purpose, but several times in the past I have seen a bald eagle perching on it. I have tried several times to get shots of the eagle, but have generally been unsuccessful, because of the height of the pole and the fact that I cannot get close to it.

When I spotted an eagle there yesterday morning, I decided to give it another shot, hoping that my monopod would help me to get a sharp enough shot to survive a severe crop. As my eye was pressed to the viewfinder taking some shots, imagine my surprise when another bald eagle entered the frame and landed next to the first one. They perched together for a little while and then the larger of the two, which I later learned is the female, began to embrace the other, eventually using her beak to give what looked like a kind of massage. What was going on?

Thanks to some experienced birders in a Facebook group, I learned that the breeding season for eagles in our area begins in early December and that this is likely a bonded pair. I also discovered that the pecking that I observed, as seen in the second photo below, is almost certainly a kind of courting behavior.

I think that there may be several pairs of bald eagles at this wildlife refuge, so I will keep my eyes open for more of this kind of behavior and for more photographic opportunities.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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