Bald Eagle in Winter

February 28, 2020 — It was just after dawn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with temperatures hovering around 8 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was scouting for wildlife with three other photographers. We spotted a Bald Eagle high in a frosty tree. A long lens (400 mm Sony) afforded us a closer look.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #winter, #wyoming, #wildlife, #nature, #jacksonhole, #eagleintree
Bald Eagle in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a frosty morning in February 2020. Perched high in an aspen tree along a stream, this eagle kept watch for possible prey.

For my friend Chris, this was his first time seeing a bald eagle. I had just been bald eagle watching and photographing in Florida the previous week, but seeing a Bald Eagle is always exciting.

We were only weeks away from the lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, but we were blissfully unaware. How blessed we were to complete this trip to Wyoming before the crisis hit the United States. I think of that childhood game of Musical Chairs. This is where we were just before the music stopped.

Bald Eagles: Parent and Its Offspring

Watching the skies for soaring birds around 6 pm, I saw an osprey, an anhinga, a cormorant and … a large raptor that looked like a juvenile bald eagle. That possible bald eagle disappeared in the trees to the south. Leaning my heavy lens, camera and tripod rig over my shoulder, I hiked in that direction and to the nearest lake edge. I scanned the sky again. A swallow tailed kite swooped over the lake and then disappeared into the trees, too quickly for me to find him with my lens.

Moorhens near my location squawked at each other, but they are too common to attract my attention. The breeze kicked up, helping me to feel a bit cooler in the April heat. I scanned the water and the trees. “Wait, was that a brown spot in the tree across the lake?” I wondered.

Looking through my 600 mm lens, I confirmed that fleeting sight. It’s an adult bald eagle — unmistakable — and on the next tree is the juvenile! The juvenile looks the same size as the adult, but is all brown with flecks of white. It will take 5 years for him/her to develop pure white head feathers and a white tail.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #juvenile, #bird, #birdphotography, #nature, #wildlife, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #florida, #sonyalpha, #naplesflorida
Juvenile Bald Eagle perched near its parent might be three to five months old, strong in flight, but staying close to the nest and parental oversight. Naples, FL, April 2020.

In this image, you can observe both parent and offspring in the same frame, as the juvenile takes flight. I stayed watchful for about 30 minutes, hoping to capture the adult bald eagle taking flight, but life was just perfect on that branch that evening and he/she outlasted me.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #juvenile, #adult, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #birds, #action, #outdoorphotography, #naplesflorida, #sonyalpha, #luminar
Juvenile Bald Eagle takes flight while the adult, presumably the parent, looks on. Naples FL, April 2020.
(Clouds were added in post-processing)

Bald Eagle Action

Earth Day 2020 is a quiet one for wildlife with the United States shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The animal kingdom is no doubt wondering, “where are the people?”

Between illness and unemployment at unprecedented high levels, humans are having a very rough time. For the millions sheltered at home, trying to adjust to a new normal, art and nature can help to lift spirits.

Wildlife photography can happen in a limited way during this period, and I have found a few chances to get outdoors while staying away from all other humans. When I went out looking for bird photography opportunities yesterday, I got lucky and spotted something brown in a distant tree. The long lens on my camera focused on a compelling sight: this beautiful Bald Eagle. Please enlarge this photo on your device to see the detail.

baldeagle, eagle, bluesky, birdphotography, sonyalpha, luminar, wildlifephotography, wildlife, nature, naturephotography
Looking poised to fly, this adult Bald Eagle is a thrilling sight. Naples, FL, April 2020.

Perched in a nearby tree was a juvenile Bald Eagle. My next post will show both eagles in the same image. I hope this eagle photograph brightened your day, and I wish you and your family good health.

Incoming Bald Eagle

There is something bold and brave about the face of a Bald Eagle, don’t you think? When that eagle is flying straight at you that courage and confidence are especially evident.

#eagle, #baldeagle, #birdsofprey, #birds, #raptor, #florida, #parent, #adult, #inflight, #brave, #bold, #soar, #wingspan, #wings
Bald eagle in flight, showing its massive wingspan, soars directly toward the camera. Naples, Florida, 2020.

Leaving the nest to find some fresh prey, mother eagle will soon return to feed her youngster, who has grown nearly as large as its parent and is nearly ready to fledge at 10-11 weeks.

Bald Eagle: Mother and Chick

Young eaglet looks on as Mother Eagle flies away from the nest. We recognize the young eaglet by his dark feathered head and body, but he is nearly the size of an adult in just 8-10 weeks. Typically, he will learn to fly at 11 weeks, but in the meantime he relies on his parents to bring food to the nest. As mother bird flies from the nest in the morning light, youngster awaits her return.

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Mother Eagle will be back soon with fresh fish to eat, but until then the sole surviving eaglet awaits her return in the nest. Naples, Florida 2020.

At this bald eagle nest near Saint Leo’s Catholic Church in Naples, Florida, the fledgling has not yet flown from the nest. However, he has spread his large wings and practiced flapping them, jumping in place. At this stage, mother eagle leaves “junior” alone for some time while she goes out hunting for food.

Feeding the Eaglet

Happy news: the Bald Eagle pair close to my home in Naples has an eaglet in the nest. One lucky observer saw the eaglet peering over the side of the nest. When I visited the nest, located high in a pine tree yesterday, I did not see the eaglet, but I did observe one of the parents standing guard, looking all around. After a few minutes I observed the parents feeding the eaglet. It was tearing little bits of pink flesh from some prey to feed to its young.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #adulteagle, #florida,#wildlife, #naples, #birdphotography, #outdoorphotography, #asmppittsburgh
Can you spot the pink flesh in the eagle’s beak? I made this image with my Nikon D800, with Tamron 150-600mm lens extended to 600mm, held steady on a tripod.

Male and female eagles look alike, so you can only tell the sex of the parent by seeing them together. Often the female is larger. Both parents participate in parenting by taking turns guarding the nest and hunting for food. The eagles know enough to guard the eaglet from an incoming predator like an osprey or iguana.

I will be stopping by frequently in the coming weeks to watch for the eaglet.

The Eagle’s Empty Nest

There comes a time when the bald eaglets are mature enough to fly on their own, and of course, the parents still like to keep an eye out for them. We human parents can relate! The pair of Bald Eagles who have raised two eaglets in their nest near Seagate Drive in Naples, Florida are taking their first flight. Join me in observing this special stage.

Bald Eaglet (upper right) near Seagate Drive took a tiny trip from the nest and perches just above it. He looks all around.

In this close up photograph, the eaglet shows his large claw. Soon he will catch his own prey.
Just a few yards away, the Bald Eagle parent continues to guard the eaglets, look around constantly.
My favorite image of the parent Bald Eagle, backlit in the sun. A magnificent bird.