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Posts Tagged ‘Bald Eagle in flight’

Adult Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are easily identifiable because of their white heads, but it actually takes four years for them to grow “bald.” In earlier stages of development their beaks and eyes are dark and their feathers are mottled. Experienced birders can tell the precise age of a juvenile by bald eagle simply by its coloration.

This juvenile eagle that I was excited to photograph on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge appears to be about two to three years old. The beak has turned yellow excepted for the tip and its eyes, which are dark brown when they are really young, look like they are starting to get almost as light as those of an adult. If you want to learn more about the developmental stages of a bald eagle, check out this interesting article by Avian Report on Juvenile and Immature Bald Eagles.

The young eagle was flying above the water, apparently looking for fish, when I captured these images. I tracked it for quite a while, but never did see it pull a fish out of the water. Still, I was happy with my images and definitely enjoyed my time basking in the warmth of a sunny spring-like day as I watched and waited.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I did not have much time to react yesterday when this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) zoomed past me, flying low over the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I was thrilled to capture this image. I am not really sure where the eagle was headed, but it looked like he was fiercely focused on getting there quickly.

Photographing birds in flight is rarely easy. If you spot the bird when it is far away, you might have time to check your settings, calmly track the bird as it approaches, and shoot off a burst of shots at the decisive moment. That ideal situation almost never happens in my world. More often than not, the bird seems to come out of nowhere and I frantically raise my camera to my eye and try to find the bird in my viewfinder and focus on it, never knowing for sure if the camera settings will be anywhere near appropriate.

Yesterday, I managed to snap off only three shots of the eagle and only one came out in decent focus. I decided to include the second photo to give you an idea of what I was seeing through the viewfinder—it is slightly edited, but uncropped. I end up cropping most of my images, which sometimes gives the impression that I was closer to the subject than I actually was.

As you can see the eagle was quite large in the frame in this case, which meant that my heart was really racing as I scrambled to get the shot before it was too late. For those of you who might be curious, I captured the image with my Canon 50D and Tamron 150-600mm lens at 500mm with settings of f/8, 1/1250 sec and ISO 400.

In some ways I am just using a point and shoot technique when I photograph birds in flight, but it is much more sophisticated than what most people think when they hear the words “point and shoot.” After thousands and thousands of shots, I have built up reflexes and muscle memory that help me to react quickly and instinctively in situations like this. There are no guarantees of success, of course, but I have reached a point in my development as a photographer that I feel like I have a fighting chance of getting a decent shot in some pretty challenging shooting situations.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Timing is a critical skill in taking wildlife photographs (and in telling the lame jokes I so enjoy), and I was thrilled to capture this image last Friday as a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was lifting off from its nest high in a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I kept my wits about me and was able to track the eagle and get a few shots as it flew parallel to me  before turning and flying away.

If you remember yesterday’s posting with the singing eagle, you can’t help but notice the contrast in the sky colors. On Monday of last week, we had brilliant blue skies, which have been rare this winter, but when I took these photos a few days later, we had reverted to the gloomy, gray skies that are more typical.

Without the glare, I didn’t have to worry about blowing out the details of the eagle’s bright white head and tail, which was a definitely plus, but my camera and lens combination tends to work best when I have better light. Nonetheless, it is always a joy to successfully capture images of birds in flight, especially bald eagles.

I am particularly happy with the eagle’s wing positions in the final photo, though I dud have to crop it in an unusual way because it was near the bottom of the frame in the original shot—if the eagle had extended the wings, they would surely have been cut off in my shot.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love watching Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flying so effortlessly in the sky, propelled by their massive wings and the currents of air. Quite often they soar so high that they are beyond the range of my camera, but this week I was able to capture some images of them at a somewhat lower altitude while I was visiting Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I would love to be able to fly so freely above all of my earthbound cares and can’t help but think of some of the lyrics of “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band.

“I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
‘Til I’m free.”

The other thought that inevitably comes to mind when I see eagles in flight is a promise from Isaiah 40, one of my favorite verses in the Bible, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

During this pandemic time, we all need that kind of strength and endurance and hope as we continue our daily struggles, looking forward to a time when we too will soar again.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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