Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A NEW BALD EAGLE

This has been quite a week for inclement weather as heavy rain moved in over the past couple days and snow returned today.  I was on the road before sun-up heading for the tail waters of Cherokee Dam to cheerfully undertake my job responsibilities for the day.  That was a flowery little sentence there.  The narrow roads that lay along the river were covered with black ice even though the morning was warm.  It didn't take me by surprise as I've learned long ago that black ice lingers well into morning after a frigid night, especially on roads where dense foliage overhangs the trail.  I pulled to the river side of the road and spent some time looking up and down the river's edge for lights that would indicate a fisherman who might have started fishing early.  Nothing.  Big surprise there!  I continued along my route that would eventually pass the eagles nest I recently discovered.  I have not seen any bald eagles on the nest for many days and I figured the nest had been discarded for whatever reason.  Was I ever wrong.  I wound down a hill past the nest and made a left turn at the river in order to follow it to the end of that road which amounted to about a thousand yards.  All of a sudden I saw an eagle high in a tree near the river surveying all before him.  He was gorgeous.
Look into my eyes you great rascal

As usual, the conditions were dirt for photography.  Gray to white sky with the subject high and far off in a tree.  All I could do was try to keep him below the tree line behind him so the dark backdrop would cut the highlight created by the sky.  I shot him using spot metering.
The first thing that entered my mind was, "I wonder if this guy belongs to that big nest I found."  The problem is that I only see one eagle.  I doubt a single eagle would take up housekeeping on a nest as they are nomads as individuals without company.
You'll see a shot or two showing his face with a brownish red mark about his head and neck.  That is clay.  I've seen this before on many bald eagles and it's due to their plumage wiping over prey that has been caught near mud or possibly even from catching prey that has struggled on a clay covered river bank.  Eagles catch sizable fish at times and will land on the river bank to either eat it, kill it or readjust it in their talons before setting off again to a comfortable tree.

The following shots are horrible as I couldn't achieve suitable shutter speed at all.  I tried to pan the camera with the bird when it flew and failed miserable.  Tough to do through a truck window.  A boat serves much better as a photography platform.  It's only a blog and not a National Geographic award winning photographic essay so what the heck.   I wanted to catch him launching off the limb.  I'll get him in the summer for sure when the sky is blue and bright.

I watched his flight path and he was heading directly toward the big nest.  Amazing!  I finished my pass on the river and backtracked up the road past the nest.  And, there he was.
This is really impossible photography, at least with my abilities.  White sky background.  The worse!  A rich blue sky would be perfect.  Those days are coming.  So, there he is on the nest.  I watched him carefully and he walked forward and his body slowly disappeared into the nest.  That's why I never saw any eagles on this nest.  They are in the bottom of it and that thing must be three feet deep.  I'd bet my life that the mate is in there also.  This is getting exciting.
I documented the GPS position so I can report this nest and eagle to The American Eagle Foundation and to the State Ornithologist who keeps track of bald eagle nests and birds annually.

The weather is foul and the critters are only now starting to venture out in search of food and social contact but, seems a new winter front is moving in and I'm sure the wildlife photography opportunities will be limited.  Hang in there cause spring is just around the corner----I think.