June 2, 2014 Belfair State Park, Washington

Bald eagle approaching perch
Bald eagle approaching perch

 

My Last Day With the Eagles

This morning I drove up to Big Beef Creek for my final session with the eagles. On the way I stopped in Silverdale at the Bank of America branch to deposit the check from closing out my Citizens checking account, thus cutting my final tie to the state of New Hampshire, home for more than 30 years.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron landing
Dropping in

As usual, the great blue herons were the first to arrive on scene.

Bald eagle in tree
The lookout

Then the bald eagles, first one,

7 eagles in a tree
Favorite lookout tree

then many. At one point today, I counted 14 eagles perched in this one tree over the beach.

Bald eagle coming in for a landing
Coming in for a landing
Bald eagle on the oystertbed
Bald eagle on the oystertbed

A bald eagle coming in for, and then sticking a landing in the oyster beds.

Juvenile bald eagle
Juvenile bald eagle
2 bald eagles
Stealing from junior

This juvenile eagle was heading for the trees to enjoy his seaweed wrapped lunch until one of the adults attempts a midair heist.

Low flying bald eagle
Low flying bald eagle

A low flying eagle, for a very large bird their in air dexterity is pretty amazing to witness.

Bald eagle in dive
Dive
Bald eagle in dive
Dive

They hit some pretty amazing speeds when they see something and suddenly dive towards a fish, a heron, or another eagle.

Bald eagle with fish
Checking the cargo hold

This guy is doing his midair check of how visible his catch will be to other eagles before he makes the run to the trees to eat.

Redhead
Sorry, the red hair distracted me

Sorry, I don’t know why this is in an entry on eagles, but the red hair distracted me, kind of got the camera’s attention. Back to the eagles now.

Bald eagles
Bald eagles

At times these guys are all hanging around on the oyster beds, often shoulder to shoulder,

Eagle dispute
Food dispute
Bald eagle dispute
Bald eagle dispute
Eagle squabble
Eagle squabble

and then something to eat comes along and it suddenly just isn’t quite so buddy, buddy.

 

Bald eagles in flight
Bald eagles in flight

Wonderful weather continues on, but the harsh noon day light coinciding with the low tides once again made photography difficult.

2 eagles in flight
Chasing a free meal

I ended up spending about 3 hours on the beach, then said my good byes to my new found friends and headed back to Belfair State Park. All in all, an amazing time at this great spot, probably the best place in the lower 48 for bald eagles. I really hate to leave, and the friendly folks I have met here are a large part of the reason why. Thanks everybody!

Well, you probably noticed the new Amazon ads on the right. I am doing this to hopefully generate a small revenue stream from this blog to cover some of my blogging costs ( hopefully ). If you click through to Amazon from one of the ads on the right, Amazon pays me a small commission on whatever you may be interested in purchasing, it in NO WAY adds to what you will pay for the item, it simply helps this traveler stay on the road a little longer, and share his adventures with you.

Thank you for shopping Amazon here!

June 1, 2014 Belfair State Park, Washington

Bald eagle getting close
Bald eagle getting close

Yet Another Five Star Day

While planning this trip to Washington, I prepared myself mentally to being forced to spend many days cooped up in the motorhome waiting out the rainy weather this region is known for. Funny thing is, it just hasn’t happened. Today is yet another blue sky 70 degree day. What have I done to deserve this?

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Juvenile bald eagle harassing great blue herons
Juvenile bald eagle
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

See, I’m not kidding, blue sky everywhere you look, probably one of the nicest stretches of weather I have ever experienced, anywhere.

Great blue heron liftoff
Great blue heron
Great blue heron liftoff
Great blue heron

A couple of shots of the great blue herons as they arrived on schedule

Bald eagle and heron
Another futile protest

and yet another protesting heron surrenders his catch.

Bald eagle attack mode
Bald eagle attack mode

After a while observing these guys, you can tell by the way they leave their perch and by the look in their eyes, if they have locked onto someone catching a fish, or if they are just taking off on a scouting run. This guy has spotted someone with a fish!

Bald eagle attack glide
Bald eagle attack glide
Bald eagle attack glide
Bald eagle attack glide

The two shots above show an eagle gliding down to the water about to pluck an unknowing fish from the bay. I would love to have that great shot just as he is plucking the fish from the water, but the one imperfect aspect of the great weather is that the wind is always from the north and the eagles always turn into the wind as they snag their prey, or as they land on the oyster beds. And since I face north taking these shots from the beach, while I can get some nice pre-catch glide shots, when they actually grab the fish, I am always only getting yet another ” bird butt ” shot. I need a southerly breeze, but the only time the wind turns around and comes from that direction is when it is bringing in bad weather.

Attack coming from above
Attack coming from above
Eagle defending his catch
Defending his catch

After almost two weeks of shooting eagles, I still don’t have any great battle shots, like the one above, only a higher quality shot. There really haven’t been that many opportunities to get this type of shot, the only good scrapes I have witnessed have occurred at too great a distance, and there really haven’t even been all that many of them. With only one more day to go, I just might be running out of time.

A gathering of eagles
A gathering of eagles

This last shot is a composite of several photos taken today to show how concentrated this gathering of eagles at Big Beef Creek is getting. The number of shots was dictated by the very narrow depth of field of the 600mm lens that I had to use since these guys were a long way off. I focused each shot on a different eagle, or group of eagles, to get them all somewhat in focus in the combined final image.

Yesterday I could count over 50 eagles within eye site of my position, today, probably ” only ” 40. The locals tell me the month of June is always better than the two weeks I have been here, and with the eagle count rising rapidly the last two days, I would have to say they are probably right.

Amazon Ads

Well, you probably noticed the new Amazon ads on the right. I am doing this to hopefully generate a small revenue stream from this blog to cover some of my blogging costs ( hopefully ). If you click through to Amazon from one of the ads on the right, Amazon pays me a small commission on whatever you may be interested in purchasing, it in NO WAY adds to what you will pay for the item, it simply helps this traveler stay on the road a little longer, and share his adventures with you.

Thank you for shopping Amazon here!

May 31, 2014 Belfair State Park, Washington

Great blue heron with sculpin
Great blue heron with sculpin

Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles

I returned to Big Beef Creek for 3 or 4 hours today. Unfortunately, yesterday and today harsh high noon light coincided with low tide. However, the weather is breathtakingly gorgeous, beautiful blue skies with a few puffy white clouds, temps in the 60’s with a gentle breeze, could not ask for a nicer day! Just not ideal for photographing dark birds with white heads.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Great blue heron fishing
Great blue heron fishing
Great blue heron fishing
Great blue heron fishing

A great blue heron exhibiting great fishing technique.

Great blue heron liftoff
Great blue heron liftoff

Then taking off.

Bald eagle on roof
Checking the gutters
Bald eagle landing
Bald eagle

Bald eagles choosing two different places to dine.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald eagles soaring above,

Another kind of bird in flight
Another kind of bird in flight

and another type of bird doing the same.

Bald eagle with sculpin
Bald eagle with sculpin
Bald eagle in flight closeup
Bald eagle in flight

Trying not to blow out the white heads and tails of the eagles while still preserving some detail in their dark bodies is made very difficult, if not impossible, in this kind of mid-day brilliant light.

Well, you probably noticed the new Amazon ads on the right. I am doing this to hopefully generate a small revenue stream from this blog to cover some of my blogging costs ( hopefully ). If you click through to Amazon from here, Amazon pays me a small commission on whatever you may be interested in purchasing, it in NO WAY adds to what you will pay for the item, it simply helps this traveler stay on the road a little longer. Thanks for helping me when you shop Amazon!

May 30, 2014 Belfair State Park, Washington

A small gathering of eagles
A small gathering of eagles

Big Beef Creek for More Eagles

Once again I drove the 35 miles back up to Big Beef Creek in Seabeck from my campsite at Belfair State Park in Belfair. For those of you getting tired of bald eagle shots, I only have three days left doing this and then I am off farther west to Potlatch State park.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Great blue heron coming in for a landing
Great blue heron coming in for a landing

Started off this morning shooting the great blue herons as they arrived on scene to fish for sculpin. About two or three hours before low tide, they usually come flying in and concentrate near the bridge, fairly close to shore, and the road.

Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great blue heron with sculpin
Great blue heron with sculpin

Great blue heron with sculpin
Great blue heron with sculpin

This morning they were having quite a bit of success with the sculpin.

Fishing is good this morning
Fishing is good this morning

As the tide retreats, the herons go with it out to the oyster beds  a few hundred feet from the road.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle dive
Bald eagle dive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is usually the time the eagles arrive to start stealing and fishing, maybe an hour or hour and a half before low tide. They soar over the scene searching for herons with fish, then swoop down and scare the heron off it’s catch.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle fishing
Bald eagle swooping in
Bald eagle landing in the oyster bed
Bald eagle landing
Bald eagle landing in the oyster bed
Bald eagle landing

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the tide continues to recede the eagles often will land on the oyster beds and search for sculpin trapped among the oysters by the falling tide, easy pickings, even easier than stealing from the herons.

Bald eagle with sculpin
Bald eagle with sculpin
Bald eagle with sculpin
Bald eagle with sculpin
Escort for an attacking eagle
Escort for an attacking eagle

The eagles also do their own fishing, this one above was diving for a fish with a crow flying escort, most likely hoping to grab a morsel if the eagle was successful. He followed close on the eagle’s tail for a whole sequence of shots, though I didn’t see it rewarded with any scraps.

Escort for an attacking eagle
Escort for an attacking eagle
Bald eagle descent
Bald eagle descent

More soaring eagles.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight
Subadult bald eagle
Subadult bald eagle

Bald eagles reach maturity at four to five years, this is when they are seen with their distinctive white head and tail feathers. Until then, you see them in varying feather tones. I liked this ones outlined tail feathers.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

A couple of closeups from today’s shoot.

Bald eagle in flight closeup
Bald eagle in flight closeup

As the tide goes out, I usually wander down to the beach and walk a little ways out from shore, trying to position myself directly under the flight path the eagles use to return to the tall trees along the shore where they perch to eat their catch. Often they come quite close as they come and go from their perches.

Quite neat when you actually hear their wing flap as they pass overhead.

Bald eagle landing in the oyster bed
Bald eagle landing
Bald eagle landing in the oyster bed
Bald eagle landing
Great blue heron liftoff
Great blue heron liftoff

 

 

 

 

Great blue heron liftoff
Great blue heron liftoff