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It was cold, cloudy, and windy last week when I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—it definitely is beginning to feel like winter. I had bundled up, wearing a hooded jacket and gloves in an effort to stay warm.

On days like this, I often marvel at the ability of wild creatures to survive in harsh weather conditions. I was a little surprised when I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nestled into the inner branches of a tree. Quite often when I see eagles, they are perched at the top of trees, majestically surveying their kingdom from on high.

This eagle, however, seemed to be hunched over a bit with its feathers puffed up, perched lower in the tree. The eagle’s feet with their massive talons were tucked in under the feathers, presumably to help them stay warm.

Vegetation kept me from getting very close to the eagle and I really did not want to disturb the eagle from its comfortable perch. So I framed my shots from a somewhat awkward angle, content that I had even spotted this handsome bird.

As I was preparing to move on, I noticed the eagle beginning to shift around a little. I correctly guessed that the eagle was preparing to take off, but did not react quickly enough to capture the action. I was still focused on the branch and when the eagle spread its wings and took to the air, I clipped its wings, not realizing in that split second that I had zoomed in too closely.

Still, I am pretty happy with the second shot below and the way that it caught the eagle in mid-air. There is a dynamic feel in this kind of action shot that is impossible to capture when a bird remains perched. The degree of difficulty though is significantly magnified when motion is involved, so I tend to judge myself a little less critically when photographing moving subjects, like this puffy bald eagle, vice static subjects.

Bald Eagle

 

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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