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Posts Tagged ‘Bald Eagle’

It is hard to read body language in humans and almost impossible to do so with other species. It is still fun, though, to engage in a bit of anthropomorphism and imagine what was going on between the two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The two eagles were sitting closely together on a single branch of a sweetgum tree and are almost certainly a couple. Despite their physical closeness, there seems to be a psychological distance between the two and the eagle on the right has its back turned to its partner. I can’t tell if the eagle on the right is angry or disappointed, but it appears to me to be pouting a bit. What ever the case, I sense a certain amount of tension between the two.

What do you think is going on in this image? I’d love to hear your creative thoughts about the eagle interaction.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For several years I have keeping an eye on two Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One of them is adjacent to several trails, so each year the authorities close portions of those trails to keep the nesting eagles from being disturbed. This year, an additional area was closed and a sign was posted indicating eagle nesting activity.

I knew more or less where the new nest was located, but I had trouble spotting it from the trails that are still open. On Wednesday, I was delighted to spot an eagle in the nest, as you can see in the first photo below. A second eagle was keeping watch over the nest from a nearby tree and I managed to get the second shot by zooming out with my Tamron 150-600mm telephoto lens.

There was quite a bit of vegetation between me and the tree where the new nest is located, so I had to move about a lot to get a relatively unobstructed view of the nest. I suspect that the nest will be completely hidden when leaves reappear in a few months. Until then, I will continue to observe the new nest with a hope of seeing some eaglets. The incubation period is about 36 days for bald eagle eggs, but I do not think that any eggs have yet been laid.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is wonderful to capture images of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in action, but most of the time when I spot one, the eagle is merely perching in a tree. Although the eagle is immobile, it is clearly keeping an eye on what is going on and is ready to spring into the air without warning.

Here are a couple of shots of perched eagle from a couple of recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Virginia, about 15 miles (24 km) from where I live. The images are not spectacular or prize-worthy, but I nonetheless feel a special thrill whenever I see a Bald Eagle and doubly so when I manage to take a photo of it.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Monday, I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting in the large nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and my first thought was that the eagle couple had already begun to sit on eggs in the nest. When I thought about it for a moment, though, I realized that was probably not the case—when one of the eagles is incubating an egg, it tends to sit really low in the nest and is hidden from view. This eagle seemed to be perched rather high in the nest and flew away from it a few moments after I spotted it.

I was pretty happy to be able to compose this shot so that the eagle is clearly visible and you can get a sense of the massive size of the nest. I worry sometimes that the weight of the nest will cause it to collapse during a rain or wind storm, but it has held up remarkably well during the five or so years that I have been watching it.

It shouldn’t be too long before actual incubation begins. According to the journeynorth.org website, the incubation period is 24-36 days. “Adults share incubation duties. Nest exchanges may occur after only an hour but usually take several hours between exchanges. Frequently the incoming adult brings a new branch or fresh vegetation for the nest, then the incubating adult carefully stands and takes off while the other settles over the eggs and rakes nesting material up against its body.”

Additionally the adult eagles have to also need to turn the eggs about once an hour to ensure that the eggs are evenly heated and that the embryos don’t stick to the insides of the shells. Be sure to check out the linked website for more fascinating facts about the process of bald eagle incubation.

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Quite often I will spot a perched Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched in the distance when I am on certain trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The trail runs parallel to the waters of the bay and eagles like to perch in the high trees overlooking the water. My challenge is to get close enough to the eagle to get a decent shot without spooking the eagle.

Normally I will creep forward slowly, stopping periodically to get a shot. As I am moving forward, I am very conscious of the fact that the eagle may take off at any moment, but it is not easy to predict the direction of the takeoff. Sometimes eagles will fly upwards when they take off and other times they will drop from the branches like a rock. I feel a bit like a goalie in soccer match when an opposing player is taking a penalty shot as I look for clues that will allow me to predict the eagle’s timing and direction of its takeoff.

Last Thursday, I spotted an eagle perched at the top of a tree. As I approached the eagle, it grew larger in my camera’s viewfinder, though it still filled only a relatively small part of it. Suddenly the eagle took off. As it flapped its mighty wings, the eagle increased in size and rose into the air. As you can see, I clipped one of its wings when I captured the first image below. I had only a split second to react and I did ok, but there was definitely room for improvement.

Later in the day, I spotted another bald eagle high in a tree overhanging the trail. I had quite a bit of trouble getting a shot of it, because the sun was directly in my eyes. I tried to walk underneath the eagle to get the sun to my back, but the eagle spotted me and I snapped off the second shot below as it was taking off. Technically speaking it is not a very good shot, but I really like the way that I captured the underside of the eagle that was almost directly overhead and the light shining through the tail feathers is pretty cool.

When it comes to reaction time and eyesight, a bald eagle clearly has me beat, but that does not discourage me. Some of the time, the eagles are distracted or inattentive and I manage to capture action shots of them. I am blessed to live in an area with a good number of eagles and I never tire of photographing them.  Hopefully you enjoy seeing photos like these ones, especially if you don’t see eagles very often.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the large nest at the refuge. They have been hanging around the area for a while, appearing to be keeping an eye on the nest, but this was the first time that I have spotted them inside of it. The eagle on the left was visible for an extended period of time, while the one on the right popped up only occasionally and appeared to working on renovating the interior of the nest.

The nest is quite large and deep, so it is often hard to tell when the eagles are in it, especially when they begin to sit on their eggs. I was not able to get many clear shots, but was happy with the two images below that show slightly different poses of the eagle couple.

UPDATE: I decided to add a third photo to give you an idea of the massive size of the eagle nest. Every year it seems like they add a new layer of sticks that increases its size.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted the Bald Eagle couple (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, they were perched closely together on a branch of a distant tree. My view of them was partially obscured by branches of vegetation, so I had to maneuver around to get a mostly clear shot of them.

I thought that the vegetation would mask my movement and the eagles would not detect my presence. I was wrong. As I was observing them through my long telephoto lens, one of the eagles, the larger of the two, took to the air without warning and I was fortunate to capture its departure from the branch. If you look closely at the perched eagle in the second image, it appears to be giving me a stern look of disapproval. A short time later, the second eagle also flew away.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I usually try to zoom in on my subjects as much as I can, but it is also great to show their environment (sometimes by choice and sometimes out of necessity). I captured these long distance in-flight shots of a Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) and a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) during recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle was a bit closer to me than the swan, which is why the background was so much more blurry in the second shot than in the first one.

Tundra Swan

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was surprised and delighted to spot this pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a floating log in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday. As I draw closer to nesting season, I have been seeing more eagles in couples. Normally, of course, I see them in the trees, but I have gotten used to scanning the water as well—I never know where I might see a perched eagle.

Bald Eagles

 Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was observing a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last Thursday (8 December) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it suddenly swooped down to the water and snagged what I assumed was a fish. When I looked at my photos, however, the prey looked like it might be a duck or some kind of grebe. Yikes!

I have read that eagles will sometimes grab a waterfowl for meal, but I thought that was only as a last resort, for example, when the waters at a location are mostly iced over during the winter. At this time of the year, the waters are completely ice-free, so I am not sure what prompted the eagle to hunt for another bird rather than a fish. Perhaps the eagle was feeling lazy or was really hungry and did not want to go to the trouble of tracking and catching a fish.

Some birders on Facebook have suggested that the prey might be a small grebe, possibly a Horned Grebe, or perhaps a small duck, like a female Hooded Merganser.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It had been over a week since I last went out with my camera, so I was thrilled yesterday to walk the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One of the first places where I usually look for activity is the large eagle nest shown in the second photo. It may be a little early for the eagles to begin nesting, but an eagle couple is often in the surrounding area at this time of the year.

I scanned the trees in the immediate area, but came up empty-handed. As I continued down the trail, however, I spotted the bright white head of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). As I maneuvered about, trying to get a clear shot, I suddenly realized that there were two eagles partially hidden in the trees. I don’t know for sure if the eagles were a couple, for they seemed to be perched far apart for a couple—maybe the pandemic has caused the eagles to practice social distancing.

I was happy to be able to capture an image that shows both of the eagles pretty well. As I have said many times before, any day when I am able to photograph eagles is a good day.

Bald Eagles

 

eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool on Monday to see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) working on a new nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge while the other member of the couple kept watch from a nearby tree. I suspect that this is the same nest that another frequent visitor to the refuge recently photographed. It is not yet clear if this will be a replacement for one of the nests used in the past or will be an additional one.

In the past I have seen active eagle nests in only two locations in the past. One of them is very large, but seems to be getting a bit precarious. The other is quite small and prior to last year’s nesting season seemed to have partially collapsed. Eagles were successful in the large nest this past season with at least one eaglet, but I don’t know for sure of there was an eaglet in the smaller nest.

In case you are curious, the new nesting site is almost equidistant from the two existing sites. It is a long way from any of the trails from which I can take photos and I suspect it will be tough to monitor when the leaves return to the trees in the spring.

eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What a difference a month makes. When I last visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was still relatively warm and many of the leaves were still on the trees. Butterflies were relatively abundant and there were lots of other insects, including dragonflies.

Yesterday, it was cold and breezy, with temperatures in the mid 40’s (7 degrees C). Virtually all of the leaves were stripped from the trees and there were very few insects. Already I have pulled out my thermal underwear and insulated boots. It feels like winter is almost here.

One of the advantages of the naked trees was that I was able to spot some larger birds from a greater distance, like these Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I photographed at different locations in the refuge. The eagle in the first photo was part of a pair that I had spotted. As I moved closer, one of them who had been looking at me flew away. The other one had its back to me and I tried to creep closer to it to get a better shot. Somehow the eagle detected my presence and looked back at me over its shoulder and I managed to capture its look of disapproval.

In the second shot, the eagle was pretty far away, but it was perched in the open, so I was able to frame my shot reasonably well. As you can see, the sun was shining brightly, though it did not provide much warmth, and the skies were blue.

The eagle in the final photo was perched in a sweetgum tree and I like the way that the spiky balls of the tree provice some color and texture to the image. Like the eagle in the first photo, this eagle was also looking over its shoulder at me. This eagle’s look appeared to be more coy and curious than annoyed.

Later in the day I spotted an eagle working on what appears to be a new nest. As we move closer to nesting season, I will try to keep track of the activity at the nesting sites that appear to be in use. In the past, eagle couples have used two different sites and I am not sure if this new nest will be a replacement for the older ones or will be a new addition.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was concentrating so intently on photographing the large eagle nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last Wednesday that I almost missed the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that was sitting in the nest. This nest is really deep and during nesting season it is hard to tell if one or more of the eagles are inside of it. The nesting season ended quite some time ago, so I definitely did not expect to see the nest occupied at this time of the year.

The second shot is the one that I was intending to capture. I liked the way that the red leaves were creeping up the side of the trees holding the nest and that was what I was I was photographing. If you look really carefully, you can just see a bit of the yellow beak of the eagle stick out from behind the leftmost tree, but I did not notice it at the time I took the shot.

After I had taken a few shots, I continued on the trail a half dozen steps, seeking to photograph the nest from a different angle. It was only then that I spotted a bit of bright white that turned out to be the eagle’s head. The eagle was hidden really well, but appeared have positioned itself so as to be able to keep an eye on what was happening around it.

I captured a series of images, but the eagle’s head was blocked by the nest and/or the leaves in most of them. Fortunately, the eagle was moving its head from side to side and eventually I managed to capture a shot in which we can see the eagle’s eye pretty clearly.

Quite often in my wildlife photography, I detect the subject only because of its movement, but in this case, the subject was stationary and it was the difference in color of the eagle’s head that allowed me to spot it. As you can probably guess, my eyes are moving constantly when I am out with my camera, searching high and low, near and far, and left to right for potential subjects to photograph.

eagle nest

eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite local venue for wildlife photography, for the first time in almost a month. It was a beautiful summer day for a walk in nature, with temperatures and humidity lower than usual for this area. I was thrilled to be able to capture a few modest images of birds, which is a bit unusual for me during the summer, when most of the time I am more likely to hear birds hidden in the foliage than actually see them.

The first image shows a rather fluffy-looking Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis). This is probably my favorite shot of the day, because the pose is more dynamic than most perched bird images. The little catbird seems to have a lot of personality and energy.

I was delighted to photograph a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched above the large eagle nest at the refuge. I composed the second shot to include some of the clouds that, in my view, add some visual interest to otherwise solid blue sky background. No matter how many times I see a Bald Eagle, it is always special for me.

The final image is a long distance shot of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). When I first spotted the hummingbird, I thought it was a butterfly as it flitted about among the flowers. When it finally registered on my brain that it was a hummingbird, I clicked off a series of shots, without much hope of getting a usable image. I was pleasantly surprised when several of the shots had the hummingbird relatively in focus. I selected this particular image because it shows the hummingbird hovering and because its wing positions reminded me of a butterfly.

It was exciting this month to be on the road, seeing different parts of the country and photographing some different subjects, but it was comforting to return to the familiar confines of a location that is a refuge for me in all senses of the word—it felt like I had returned home.

Gray Catbird

Bald Eagle

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here is a look at what might be one or more of the parents of the young eaglet at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I featured in a recent post. Last Friday, the larger Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at the top was perched for an extended period of time in a tree overlooking the large nest when the second eagle flew in. They remained in place for several minutes before flying away.

Are these two eagles a couple? The one on the left is probably three to four years old and may not be mature enough to be a parent—it can take about five years for the head feathers to turn completely white and for an eagle to fully mature. On the other hand, if only the older one is a parent, it seems a little strange that it was so comfortable with an interloper zooming in and perching that close if they are not a couple.

Several Facebook readers commented that the eagles that were hanging around the nest earlier in the year both had completely white heads. What happened? We may need a paternity test to determine if this precocious young eagle is indeed the father.

So what do we have here? Is this a much older sibling of the eaglet in the nest? If so, where is the other parent? Female eagles tend to be larger than males, so it is quite possible that the eagle perched higher is a female. Maybe she is disappointed that there is only a single eaglet and is trying out a possible new mate. It is a bit of a mystery.

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this month I did a posting called  Looking out of the nest that featured a young Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting up in a large nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and wondered when it would be able to fly. Last Friday I returned to the refuge and was delighted to see the eaglet flapping its wings and testing them out—I think it is almost ready to fly..

The eaglet repeatedly extended its wings, but seemed a bit uncoordinated, like a gawky teenager who has experienced a growth spurt. Several times it was able to rise up into the air, but looked uncertain about what to do next. The photos below show some of the action, which lasted only for a few minutes. The eaglet then disappeared into the deep nest, possibly to rest after its exertion.

I watched for a while longer and eventually the eaglet reappeared, but it simply sat up, looking out of the nest. A fellow photographer told me that he spotted the eaglet the following day perched in the tree that you can see in the right side of the image. I suspect, though, that the eaglet will need some quite a bit more practice before it will be capable of venturing out on its own and, of course, it will have to learn how to fish.

I will probably make a trip to the refuge this week to check on the eaglet. So many of the nearby trees are covered with leaves that I may have trouble spotting the eagle, particularly because its dark, and mottled plumage help it to blend in well with the foliage. Adult Bald Eagles tend to stick out a bit more because of the bright white feathers on their heads.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) looked a bit bedraggled when I spotted it on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where it was perched just above the large eagle nest in which a young eagle was visible. Harried parent? Check out yesterday’s posting “Looking out of the nest” if you missed the photos of the inquisitive juvenile eagle.

The sky was totally overcast on the day when I took these photos and the sky was almost pure white. The resulting effect makes these shots look almost like high key portraits taken in a studio setting, although personally I would have liked a little more directed light to make the photos look less flat. Still, any day is a good day when I get to see a bald eagle.

bald eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool on Tuesday to be able to capture these images of a young Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) looking out from the large eagle nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The growing eaglet appeared to be quite alert and was sitting up quite high near the edge of the nest. I love how you can see the mottled plumage, dark eyes, and multi-colored beak of this eaglet in these photos.

The nest is high in the trees and there is now a lot of vegetation growing, so it was quite a challenge to get a clear angle of view. I am pretty happy with the results that I was able to achieve. The eaglet looks to be big enough to be flying, but I am not sure if that is the case. One of its parents was perched on some branches just above the nest, so I am pretty sure that it is not yet ready to go out on its own—eagles normally take about 12 weeks to fledge and then may hang around with their parents for another month or two.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was excited to spot this juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting up in the big nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Monday. I assume that this eaglet was born this spring, based on its coloration and markings.

Earlier this spring I had noted eagle activity around this nest and thought that the nesting process had already begun long ago. However, this nest is very large and so high up that it is impossible to tell when the eagles began to sit on the egg or eggs. I checked my blog postings from the past and saw that I posted a shot of eaglets at this same nest on 19 May last year (see the posting Eagle nest update in May), so things seem to be following the same approximate schedule.

I saw only a single eaglet this time, but will continue to monitor the nest for more eaglet activity, including indications that there is more than one eaglet. Earlier on the same day I spotted an adult eagle perched in a tulip tree—you can actually see some of the “tulips”— adjacent to the nest and suspect that this is one of the parents keeping an eye on the eaglet(s). I included a shot below of the presumed proud parent as a final photo.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I love seeing the differences between juvenile and adult Bald Eagles—the coloration and markings of the eagles change dramatically over time. Earlier this week I did a posting called Two eagles that showed two juvenile eagles perched in a tree. One of them was quite young and the other was almost an adult. It was really easy to see the differences between the two stages of development, with only the older one showing the distinctive white head feathers.

Today I am featuring in-flight photos of two eagles that I spotted last Monday while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first photo shows a juvenile Bald Eagle that looks to be about two to three years old. The head appears to be dark and the there is a mottled mixture of white and brown feathers. The second image shows a mature Bald Eagle with a white head and uniformly dark feathers.

It is an awesome experience for me when eagles fly almost directly over me and I love trying to get shots of them. I never fail to be impressed by their amazing wingspans, which can reach more than seven feet (213 cm).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was excited to spot quite a few Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It was especially cool because the eagles that I observed were at different stages of development. Bald Eagles are mostly brown in color when they are born and it takes almost five years for them to mature and develop the white feathers on their head that we associate with Bald Eagles.

The eagle on the left in both of the photos is a really young one. I initially thought it might be a fledging that was born this year, but it seems too early for one to have already reached this stage of development. Perhaps this eagle is a year old, judging from its coloration and markings.

I thought that the other eagle was the same one in both photos, but the markings in the first photo show some dark feather on the head and some mottled coloration on the body that seems to me missing on the adult bald eagle in the second photo. I would guess that the “other” eagle in the first photo is about four years old.

 

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I feel compelled to throw back my head and sing at the top of my lungs, as this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was doing when I spotted it last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It might be somewhat of an exaggeration to call it “singing”—the eagle was calling out to its mate, I believe, in a somewhat unmelodious way, but it was a cool experience nonetheless.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology had the following description of a bald eagle’s calls, “For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls—usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes.” Check out this link to a Cornell Lab webpage that has several sound samples of an eagle’s call. According to a National Public Radio report, Hollywood movies often dub over an eagle’s call with a Red-tailed Hawk’s cry, which is much more majestic, so you may be surprised to hear what a bald eagle actually sounds like.

bald eagle

bald eagle

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There was a lot of activity on Tuesday at the large Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I still cannot determine if any eaglets have hatched, but several times I observed an eagle fly into the nest or fly out of it. The nest is so deep that an eagle is often hidden from view when sitting on an egg—the only way to know for sure that an eagle is present is when one of them arrives or departs.

The eagle in the first photo was arriving and had spread its wings to slow down its speed and forward momentum. In the second photo, an eagle that was in nest had popped its head up and was looking towards a nearby tree where its mate was perched. After the eagle had reassured itself that everything was ready, the two eagles executed a changing of the guard ceremony—the eagle in the nest flew away and the perched eagle took its place. I captured the third image just as the eagle was taking off from its perch to take its turn watching over the nest.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

bald eagle

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) tried to steal a fish from an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and chased it across the sky. It was quite an aerial dogfight. In the end, I think that the osprey dropped the fish and both birds ended up “empty-handed.”

Ospreys migrate away from my area for the winter and I was delighted to see that they had returned. I spotted at least a half-dozen or more ospreys and they were both active and vocal. Ospreys have high-pitched, distinctive voices that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology described in these words, ” Their calls can be given as a slow succession of chirps during flight or as an alarm call—or strung together into a series that rises in intensity and then falls away, similar to the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove.” Here is a link to a Cornell Lab webpage where you can listen to recordings of various osprey calls.

These three photos give you a general sense of the chase. In the first shot, you can definitely see the “prize,” the fish that the osprey had caught. In the second shot, the eagle has closed the distance separating it from the osprey. In the third shot, the osprey is doing its best to maneuver away from the eagle, but the eagle was able to match the osprey turn by turn. All of this took place over the water and eventually the two birds flew out of range.

eagle osprey chase

eagle osprey chase

eagle osprey chase

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) definitely had something to say when I spotted it last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think I may have been guilty of eavesdropping, though, because the eagle appeared to be calling out to its mate.

One of the things that I really like about this image is the way that I was able to capture a sense of the rough texture of both the bark on the tree and the feathers on the eagle’s body.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was blessed to see multiple Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last Friday during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I am used to seeing two eagle couples that occupy the nests plus a few other from time to time. On this day, though, there seemed to be a whole lot more eagles than normal.

Seeing eagles is great, of course, but getting photos of them is not always easy. In the first photo, the eagle was flying almost directly over me and it is challenging to hold a long telephoto lens upright and track a moving subject. I am pretty happy with the way that this one turned out. If you click on the photo you can see the wonderful details of the eagle more closely, including what looks to a band on at least one leg and possibly on both of them—to me it looks like the eagle is flying with leg shackles.

In the second image, I captured an eagle as it was preparing to land on its nest. There was a lot of activity at that nest on that day, with both eagles flying in and out of that nest. It seems a bit early, but I wonder if there is a change that the eaglets have already hatched. The only way that I will know for sure that there are eaglets is if they pop their heads up. However, the nest is so deep that it will probably be a while before the eaglets are big and strong enough to be seen.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never fail to be impressed by the beauty and majesty of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), like this one that I spotted a week ago at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This eagle had chosen a high branch as its perch and appeared to be surveying the situation from on high.

As I noted yesterday, I continue to be deeply disturbed and shaken by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. I’ll pose to you the same question that I posted last night on Facebook and make the same request—that we pray for the Ukrainian people, who are suffering in so many different way, and that we pray for peace to prevail.

“Would you selflessly be willing to take up arms to defend your country, your freedom, and your way of life against an aggressor that invades your territory and seeks to destroy your nation? I feel nothing but admiration and respect for the brave Ukrainians who continue to fight with courage and determination against overwhelming odds. Please join me in praying for all Ukrainians as their country continues to be attacked by Putin’s forces.”

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I had already spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting on a small nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (see the final photo in my recent posting Out on a limb). However, until Wednesday  I had been unable to determine if the eagles had started to sit on eggs in the much larger and prominent nesting sight. That nest is so large and deep that a nesting eagle is hidden from view most of the time.

We had unusually warm weather on Wednesday, so I felt compelled to leave my house with my camera and towards my favorite site for wildlife photography. As I walked past my normal viewing site for the nest, I wasn’t surprised that I could not see an eagle in it.  As I continued to walk down the trail, however, I continued to keep my eye on the nest as I continued to walk down the trail. My view was partially blocked by trees, but looking through the trees, I suddenly spotted a small white head sticking out of the nest.

I don’t know if the warmer weather prompted the eagle to sit up higher in the nest than during cold weather, when the eagle would tend to hunker down to keep the eggs warm. Whatever the case, I welcomed this confirmation that the eagles were in the nest. The first image shows that the eagle was quite alert and keeping and eye on things. The second image helps to give you all a sense of the massive size of this nest.

As I write this posting, my heart is breaking as I continue to watch horrific events unfolding in Ukraine. I would simply ask that you pray for the brave Ukrainian people who are fighting and, in many cases, dying to defend themselves and their country.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we near the end of the month of February, we are moving into nesting season for the Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I regularly observe at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Some other wildlife photographers have photographed one of the eagle pairs mating, but when I visited the refuge last Wednesday, there was no such activity. The best images that I was able to capture were of a solitary bald eagle perched on the outermost tip of a branch overlooking the trail on which I was walking—as the first photo shows, the eagle was quite aware of my presence.

Later that same day, I spotted a bald eagle that appears to be sitting on one of the two nests that monitor. One of the nests is so large and high up in the trees that it is almost impossible to tell when an eagle is sitting on the nest. The other nest, which is the one shown in the final photo, is much smaller and a sitting eagle is quite visible. There are barriers blocking the road to keep eagles from being disturbed, because a trail runs right under the nesting tree, so I am able to capture images only from a distance.

I will be checking in on the nests as time passes and with a little luck will be able to share some images of any eaglets that I manage to spot.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Through the distant trees, I spotted a shadowy shape in the early morning hours last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Was it a large bird or simply a malformed tree? It is a little embarrassing to admit it, but I often find myself taking photos of odd-shaped branches or leaf formations, thinking they might be birds.

In this case, though, it turned out to be a bird. When I zoomed in to get a closer look, I initially thought it might be a hawk, but the more I stared at the hazy form, the more I realized that it was almost certainly an immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

It takes almost five years for an adult Bald Eagle to develop its signature look, with its yellow beak, light-colored eyes, and white head and tail. In the interim the eagle’s plumage is flecked with white, rather than being a solid dark color, and the beak and eyes are darker than they will eventually become. Experts can tell the age of an immature eagle on the basis of its plumage pattern—I am definitely not an expert and would guess from what I have read on-line that this eagle is probably about a year old or so.

Although I was a long way away from the eagle, it seemed to sense by presence and took off shortly after I spotted it. As the eagle flew away, I was able to capture an image with a view of the mottled pattern of the feathers on the underside of its wings and its dark tail feathers

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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