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Posts Tagged ‘Bald Eagle’

I am not sure why the bottom feathers of this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were in such disarray when I spotted it this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Clearly something had ruffled its feathers, perhaps some mating activity. Spring is in the air and the eagles should soon be sitting on eggs in their nests.

The pandemic has turned our lives upside down this past year—there is something hopeful and reassuring about observing the inexorable movement in the seasonal cycles of nature. New life will soon be springing up all around us in the Northern Hemisphere with the arrival of spring. I can hardly contain my excitement.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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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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Sometimes my potential subjects are immediately visible and there are no obstructions between the us. In other cases, I have to look more deeply through the trees or vegetation to spot a distant subject.

Spotting the subject, though, is only the start. Oftentimes the bigger challenge is to find a visual tunnel that gives the clearest possible view of the subject. I frequently find myself leaning, kneeling, bending, and standing on my tiptoes as I consider my options.

When circumstances permit, I am able to capture images like this one of a perched Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I saw a couple of weeks ago at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is not as dynamic as some of my shots of the eagles building their nests, but I really like the mood of this little portrait and I am happy with the way that I was able to capture the ruffled feathers of this majestic bird.

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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Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) never seem happy and frequently look fierce or even angry. OK, I know that I am sometimes guilty of anthropomorphism, attributing human traits, emotions, or intentions to my wildlife subjects. How can you tell if an eagle is happy when their massive inflexible beaks make them physically incapable of a smile?

We often consider music to be a signal of happiness and songbirds sound happy. What about eagles—can they sing? I usually think of eagles as “screaming” rather than “singing,” but this image that I captured last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge makes me wonder if eagles can express their joy or their love in their songs.

What do you think? Does this eagle look happy to you?

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was hunkered down in its large nest last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge but still managed to keep an eye on me through a peephole between the branches. (You may need to enlarge the first image to see the eagle, in what has been described by one of my friends as a “Where’s Waldo?” photo.) Earlier I had seen both of the eagles fly into the nest and they promptly disappeared from sight—one left a short time later.

As I watched and waited, I realized that I would have a tough time timing any shots of the eagle leaving the nest. When a bird is perched, I look carefully for indications that the bird is preparing to depart, hoping to be able to capture a decisive moment. The second shot below was the best that I could manage when I reacted to the appearance of a wing tip over the edge of the nest.

I have no way of judging the dimensions of the interior of the nest, but it looks to be really big and really deep, as you can see in the final photo. In the past, it has been hard to spot eaglets in this nest until they are old enough to climb around a little and pop their heads over the edge of the nest. I hope to see some little ones in this nest later this season.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is hard to get a good exposure of the feathers on the head of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). When the lighting is too strong or direct, the bright white head risks being overexposed and the details often disappear. Even under good circumstances, the head often looks like the slicked-down hair of a 1950s greaser. I was thrilled last week when I managed to capture fluffy head feathers in this shot of a pensive eagle in the early morning sunshine at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Thursday I enjoyed watching a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple working on rebuilding their nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One member of the couple remained in the nest while the other one went off in search of sticks to add to the nest. Together they worked to arrange the new sticks and slowly seem to be raising the height of the walls of the nest. If you click on the images, you can get a closer look at the eagles and their building materials.

For those of you who have been following my posts on the two eagle nests at my favorite wildlife refuge, this is the “small” one, the one that was damaged last summer when a branch broke off. It is a bit of a race to see if the nest will be in good enough shape when the eagles are ready for nesting, but I am really hopeful that it will be. I will be keeping an eye on the nest and will continue to provide updates.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is hard to predict how a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) will take off. Will it fly up or down of maybe sidewards? Will it push off its perch or flap its mighty wings and ascend upwards? Will it wait until I am ready or wait and wait until I am not?

This past Thursday I was fortunate to capture an image of this bald eagle as it was leaving its perch at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle was high in a tree and quite a distance away, but I was able to steady my camera on my monopod and capture a decisive moment. Be sure to check out all of the cool details on the eagle’s body, like the rows of chest feathers and the very sharp-looking talons.

 

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I noted in a posting last week, I am currently keeping an eye on two bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Eagle couples have actively used both nests in each of the years that I have been visited this refuge. In that earlier posting, I provided a look at one of them, a really large nest.

Today I am featuring the second one, which has always been quite small. During this summer, I noticed that it had gotten even smaller. I can’t tell for sure what happened, but it looks like one of the supporting branches may have broken off and a significant portion of the nest was dumped on the ground. I was afraid that the eagles would abandon the site and rebuild at another location.

I was thrilled therefore when I spotted the couple last week engaged in some reconstruction efforts that I documented in the posting Carry a big stick with a shot of an eagle carrying a large branch to this small nest. The first two photos, which I took last Monday, show the current size of the nest. For comparison purposes I included the final photo which is from January 2019—it looks to me like the nest was considerably larger two years ago.

The refuge has blocked the trails near this nest to keep the eagles from being disturbed, but I am able to get photos like these from the barrier that blocks the road. I’ll continue to watch the nest as often as I can and I am hopeful that the eagle couple will be able to restore it well enough to use for nesting this year.

 

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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I am now keeping an eye on two Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As far as I can tell, the eagles are not yet sitting on eggs and are still in the process of repairing and preparing the nests. Despite this increased activity, catching the eagles at the nest is very much a hit-or-miss proposition.

One of the nests is a very large one that I have featured multiple times in this blog, most recently in a posting on 18 January entitled Eagles in the sunlight. This past Monday, both members of the eagle couple were working on the nest and I was thrilled to capture some shots of them. I generally had to wait for them to take a break in order to get a clear shot—when their heads are buried in the branches making adjustments, their bodies more or less disappear from view.

The nest is big enough that the two eagles can both work on it at the same time. Female eagles tend to be larger than males and I think the eagle in the first image is the female. She seemed to be doing most of the work on the nest, while the other eagle, pictured in the second and third shots, periodically flew away and seemed to come back with additional small branches.

I was trying to capture a shot of both of them in a single frame when I snapped the final photo. The eagle on the left started to take off and I shifted my camera slightly and almost cut the second eagle out of the frame. I thought about cropping the second eagle out, but decided I liked the wider view of the nest provided by leaving the eagle in place. As always, I encourage you to click on the images to get a closer look at the eagles and their enormous nest.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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One of the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seems to have suffered some damage during the off-season. It looks like one of the supporting branches broke off and more than half of the nest was dumped to the ground. The nest was relatively small in previous years and until yesterday I saw no signs that the eagles were planning to try to repair it and use it again this year.

The refuge has blocked off portions of the nearby roads to allow the eagles to nest in peace, but with my long telephoto zoom lens I am able to get a glimpse of the action. As I was standing at the barrier yesterday, I was thrilled when I saw one eagle fly into the nest and a few moments later, the second one arrived as well. After a short time together, one of the eagles flew off while the other eagle assumed what looked like a position of waiting.

A few minutes later the first eagle returned carrying a pretty large branch. I have seen ospreys carrying branches like this, but I had never seen an eagle do so. These three shots document part of the eagle’s journey with the branch. The final shot shows the eagle carefully approaching the nest where its mate was waiting. Amazingly, the eagle was able to weave its way through the branches of the tree and place its prize on the nest that is clearly still under construction.

I shot some images that show the current state of the nest that I will share in a future post. I also plan to do a post on the status of the other eagle nest at the refuge, the one that is huge by comparison with this one. Stay tuned for further developments as the eagles prepare for nesting season.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last week we were blessed with a couple of days with sunshine and blue skies, a nice change to our endless diet of dreary winter days. The weather lifted my spirits and multiple sights of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge raised them even higher.

The Bald Eagle in the first image was initially facing away from me as I moved toward it. Somehow, though, it sensed my presence and turned its head to glare down at me. As you may be able to tell from the angle of the shot, I was almost directly below the eagle.

In the second image, the eagle was farther away. If you look closely at the eagle’s talons, you will note that the eagle is holding onto the branch with a single foot. It looked to me like the eagle had tucked the other foot up under its fluffed-up feathers, presumably for warmth.

The final shot shows the large nest at the wildlife refuge. I have yet to see the eagle couple working on the nest, but both members were in the vicinity of the nest on this day, including the one int he photo.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was staring down at me and appeared to be irritated when I spotted it on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Was it truly sad, disappointed, or angry at my presence, or was I merely mirror-imaging the range of emotions that I have experienced this past week as I observed the chaos and confusion in my own country?

If you would like to get a closer look at the eagle’s expression, double-click on the image. What do you read in that expression?

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you choose the images that you will include in a posting? Generally I will post photographs within a day or two of taking them. Sometimes, though, I get backlogged, either because I have gone out frequently or because my “catch” for a particular day was particularly good. If I were better organized and more objective in reviewing my photos, I might be better at making sure that I always post my best images. However, I suffer from a phenomenon known as “recency bias.”

What is recency bias? Recency bias is a type of cognitive bias in which you give greater weight during evaluation to things that are recent than to those in the past, even in the recent past. How does that work in practice for me? Yesterday I posted a photo of a bald eagle couple that I had spotted this past Monday, the most recent photo that I had taken of a bald eagle. I was excited to share it, because every single eagle sighting is special to me.

When I was trying to figure out what to post today, I realized that I had run out of cool images from my most recent photographic forays. I decided to go back a little in time and looked through my photos from late December. I stumbled across my eagle photos from 28 December, less than two weeks ago. I had taken a whole lot of shots of the eagle in an attempt to get an unobstructed view and had never gotten around to reviewing them all. I meant to do so, but got caught up in newer photos and gradually forgot about this eagle.

I really like this shot of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted in a sweetgum tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. By almost any standard, it is a much better eagle photo than the one that I posted yesterday and I am glad that I “re-discovered” it. This little experience serves as a good reminder to me that it is important to look back sometimes and not be quite so tunnel-vision focused on getting the next image.

I am chuckling a little as I conclude this posting because I realize that, in essence, I am complaining about having so many images to post that I forget about some of them. Compared to the major challenges that we face in the world today, this definitely qualifies as a “first world problem.”

 

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We have now reached the dark, gray days of winter. The endless series of cold cloudy days threatens to weaken my creative energy, and subjects to photograph seem harder and harder to find.  What can I do? What should I do?

For me, the key is simply to press on, even when I am not “feeling it” and even when the weather is less than optimal. I have to keep reminding myself of the benefits to my body and my emotional well-being that come from walking around in solitude with my camera. So I put on extra layers and push myself out the door.

As for the photos, I try to be grateful for whatever opportunities come my way. On Monday, for example, these perched Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were among a small number of birds that I managed to photographed. They were pretty far away, but I was happy to capture some of the details of the eagles’ feathers and the bark on the trees.

I could’t help but notice that the only bright colors in the image were the eagles’ beaks and talons, so I played around and converted the image to black and white. With the color removed, I can focus better on the shapes and textures of the elements in the image, but perhaps it draws too much attention away from the eagles that are, after all, the primary subjects of the photo.

Bald Eagles

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The last time that I posted a photo of this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple, they were sitting apart on the platform that is sometimes used by ospreys during nesting season at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When I spotted them last week, they had moved much closer together and were perched on the small surface at the top of the post. Is love in the air?

The tree in which these eagles generally nest is not very far away. Part of their rather small nest there seems to have disappeared over the last year, perhaps as a result of a fallen branch, and it will be interesting to see if they will rebuild the nest at the same location.

As I was observing the eagles, I realized that I had never provided you with an overall view of this preferred platform, so I zoomed back and captured the second image below. As you can readily see, the platform is quite tall and I believe that the eagles like the commanding view from their perch, a view that includes the tree in which their nest is located.

Bald Eagles

 

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It won’t be long before it is nesting season at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). I know of two nests that have been used the past few years. One of them is close to a trail that the refuge authorities block off when nesting is taking place. The other, pictured below, is high in a tree that is visible in the distance from a trail but is inaccessible to human traffic.

You can’t help but notice how large this nest is, especially when you compare it with the size of the bald eagle that I managed to photograph early one morning last week. Every year the eagles add on to the nest and now it is so deep that I am unable to see the eagles when they are sitting in the nest.

I will be keeping an eye on the eagle nest in the upcoming months and will be sure to give a progress report if/when I see additional activity.

eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I first spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was mostly hidden from view, perched rather low on a broken-off tree and surrounded by a thick tangle of vegetation. When I finally maneuvered around to a position where I had a relatively clear line of sight to the eagle through the bushes, I realized that I had another problem—the light was shining brightly from the side, causing the white head of the eagle to be overexposed on one side with a resultant loss of details.

I moved a little from side to side to improve the lighting situation and waited for the eagle to move its head too. As I reviewed my shots afterwards, I was delighted to see that the side lighting had helped to reveal the beautiful layers of feathers on the eagle’s body. The eagle seemed to be giving me a disapproving look in the second shot, but amazingly it remained in place. As I was moving away I looked back at the eagle and silently thanked the majestic bird for our shared moments together.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During nesting season ospreys build a nest atop this tall platform at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but at other times of the year Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) like to use it as a resting spot. On a recent day when the weather was cold and windy, I spotted this eagle couple resting together. I suspect that the larger eagle on the lower level is the female and the one keeping watch is the male, although the sharp upward angle at which I was shooting makes it a little difficult to judge their relative sizes.

Bald Eagle

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The sun had already risen, but was still low in the sky when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched high in a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge during a recent visit. I really liked the way that the soft light illuminated one side of the eagle and the eagle probably appreciated the warmth of the sun as it began the day.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The foliage partially blocked my approach to this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to sneak up pretty close to it. In fact, I was standing almost directly below the tree in which the eagle was perched when I captured the second shot. Although my view was partially obstructed, I was thrilled to capture these images of this majestic bird.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally when I see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) catch a fish, it is a grab-and-go affair. The eagle reaches out with extended talons, pulls the fish from the surface of the water, and keeps flying.

Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the scene was quite different. I spotted an eagle flying low over the water and watched as the eagle went deep into the water feet-first. I was shocked when the eagle was briefly submerged. It made multiple unsuccessful attempts to lift itself out of the water before it ultimately managed to fly away.

What was the problem? I have heard of cases when the eagle snagged a fish that was too heavy to lift. I have also seen videos of eagles swimming to shore with large fish. This eagle was far from shore, so that was not really an option here. I wonder if perhaps the fish was stuck in vegetation and the eagle had somehow gotten its talons entangled. As I look at the final photo, I am not able to tell if the eagle has its prey, but by the time the eagle was airborne, the talons were empty.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot this beautiful Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Unfortunately it also spotted me. I captured these images as the eagle began to take off and then as it was flying away.

I was looking for an uncommon dragonfly that had been seen recently at this refuge, so I had my macro lens on my camera and was mostly looking down. As I was passing through a section of the trail that had a lot of tree cover, though, I heard what I thought was the call of an eagle. I slowed down and started scanning the trees. I spotted eagle out on a limb when I stepped partially out of the tree cover. I knew that I was exposed and would be seen, so I positioned myself and prepared for what I anticipated would happen.

I am surprised that I was able to capture such detailed images considering that I was shooting with such a short lens—my 180mm macro lens has an equivalent field of view of a 288mm lens because my camera has an APS-C crop sensor. Be sure to double click on the images if you want to see the details of this majestic bird, including its beak and its talons.

In a way, however, it was an advantage that I was not shooting with my zoom lens, because I could focus all of my efforts on tracking the eagle and did not have to worry about zooming in and out. For example, if I had zoomed in on the eagle for the second shot when its body was compact, I would probably have clipped its wings when it spread them wide open in the third shot.

I did not find the dragonfly that I was looking for, but, as I have said repeatedly in this blog, any day that I see a bald eagle is a good day, especially when I manage to photograph it.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At this time of the year it is hard to spot Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) when they are almost hidden by the vegetation. I was really excited to get a tiny peek at this one yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my first eagle sighting in months. The eagle spotted me when I tried to move in for a closer shot and flew off. It is tough get a good shot when your subject has sharper vision and quicker reactions than you do.

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, however, eagles have “stopping power” for me—I will invariably try to photograph a bald eagle when I see one, even if it is far away and almost hidden. Besides, I figured that some of you might like a momentary respite from an almost steady diet of insect photos recently.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It has been a month since I visited the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where I spotted an eaglet on 19 May and wrote a posting entitled “One little eaglet.” Yesterday I traveled to the refuge to check on the baby eagle and was a little surprised to find that the authorities had removed the barriers that had blocked access to the nesting area, which is adjacent to a trail. Did this mean that the eaglet had fledged and the family had left the nest?

I was happy to discover that the eaglet was still there, has grown considerably in size over the past month, and was sitting tall at one edge of the nest. The leaf coverage has also grown, making it pretty tough to get an unobstructed view of the little eagle. The vegetation also hid the presence of one of the parent eagles that flew away to a nearby grove of trees when I approached.

It is somehow reassuring to see that the cycle of life has continued undisturbed as our lives have been turned upside down by the global pandemic. I celebrate the new life of this young eagle and all of the other creatures who have begun their lives this spring and wish them success as they learn to navigate the challenges of their lives.

 

Bald Eagle eaglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at a prominent nesting site at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were late this year in nesting and I feared that they might not have any babies. I was therefore thrilled yesterday to discover that there is now an eaglet in the nest when I returned to that part of the refuge for the first time in a couple of months.

Authorities at the refuge set up barriers to keep the nesting eagles from being disturbed, so I had to observe the nest from a long way off. When I first arrived at the barrier yesterday, I could not tell if there were any eaglets. However, I noted that one of the parent eagles was perched on a limb above and to the right of the nest. In the past, I learned that when eaglets start to grow, there is no longer any room for a parent in the nest, so having one parent keeping guard near the nest was a positive sign.

I waited and waited and eventually the other parent eagle flew in and perched on a limb above and to the left of the nest. I was peering though my fully-extended telephoto zoom lens and noticed a dark shape pop up in the middle of the nest shortly after the second parent arrived. When I looked at my shots afterwards, I confirmed that there was an eaglet in the nest.

In the first shot, it looks like the eaglet was calling to its parent, although I did not hear a sound, or maybe was indicating it was hungry. I pulled back my zoom lens to its widest setting for the second shot, in which you can see both eagle parents and the eaglet in the nest in the center (you may want to click on the image to see more details).

I think that there is only one eaglet this year, though I can’t be absolutely certain. In past years there have been either one of two eaglets in this nest. Now that I know that there is a new little eaglet, I will probably try to return to the site to monitor its progress over the upcoming weeks and months.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday morning, the temperature was only 38 degrees F (3 degrees C), so I abandoned my macro lens, assuming that insects would not be active, and switched back to my telephoto zoom lens. I returned to my favorite location, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), to look for birds. This location is relatively remote and has few amenities, which means that it is rarely crowded—there have been times in the past when my car was the only one in the parking lot. Unlike many parks in our area, OBNWR remains open and it has become my place of refuge.

It has been almost a month or so since my last visit, so I was not sure which birds would be active. As you may have seen in yesterday’s posting, some warblers are now passing through our area. While it is nice to welcome these colorful visitors, I was perhaps even happier to spot some of my favorite year-round residents, the Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). There are at least two active eagle nests in the refuge and one of the volunteers there told me that there is already an eaglet in one of the nests.

I captured these two images not far from the nest with the eaglet, so it is quite possible that at least one of these eagles is a parent. The early morning sunshine was quite beautiful and I love the way that it illuminated the side of the eagle’s face in the first image. The second image gives you an idea of the amount of leaves now on the trees, which makes it difficult to spot birds, especially the smaller ones. Fortunately the white coloration of the bald eagles and ospreys and their large size makes it hard for them to hide completely.

It is reassuring to see that the cycle of life is continuing normally in nature even when our lives have been completely disrupted and most of us are confined and/or in isolation.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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No matter how many times it happens, it is always exciting to see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Last week I spotted this one at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was happy when it presented me with a chance to take this profile shot.

I had watched as the eagle flew to this tree and stealthily approached it. I was able to get relatively close, because the eagle was looking away from me and could not see me moving closer. However, the butt-first pose that it presented to me is not the most flattering for any creature, so I waited and hoped that the eagle would change its position. After what seemed like an eternity, the eagle moved its head to the side and I was finally able to get a few shots in which the eye was visible. Patience paid off one more time.


Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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