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Eagle takeoff sequence

I usually miss the takeoff sequence of a Bald Eagle, because the eagle spots me before I see it, but this weekend I managed to capture a series of shots of one such takeoff.

My first indication of an eagle’s presence is often when I see it flying away. Several times this past weekend, however, I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched in the trees at Huntley Meadows Park and I was able to observe the eagle for at least a few minutes at a time.

In the case of these images, I was looking across a beaver pond at the eagle as it perched in the trees. In the first couple of shots, the eagle seemed to getting a little agitated and is lifting its feet and flexing its wings. Then he assumed a position that reminds me of the start of a speed skating race or a sprint, with a flexed wing ready to propel the eagle forward. Finally the eagle pushed off from the tree and descended a little with talons extended before leveling off and flying away.

Some of the time it seems an eagle just springs into motion and ignores most of the items on its pre-flight checklist as it prepares for takeoff. Other times, like this one, it follows the established procedures and waited for flight clearance from the tower.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Bald Eagle takeoff

Yesterday was a great day for me photographing Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Huntley Meadows Park. I took this photo later in the day than the more close-up shots that I posted earlier. I can’t tell if it is the same eagle, but it too appears to have a band on its right foot.

I really like the way that the dynamic position of the eagle’s wings conveys a sense of the power of this majestic creature. There is a kind of dramatic tension in the pose that captivates me.

Bald Eagle

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I’m not your prey

Yesterday, for the second day in a row a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew close to me at Huntley Meadows Park. Unlike the previous day, when the eagle simply soared by overhead, this one looked like he thought I might be a potential prey.

With the snow almost totally, I decided yesterday to hike out to some of the more remote regions of the park. I was following a familiar stream when I noticed a dark shape near the top of a tall tree on the opposite bank of the stream. I extended my lens to its full length and was surprised to see that it was a bald eagle.

I had time to shoot shoot only a couple of images when suddenly the eagle took off, initially heading right toward me. I kept firing as the eagle grew larger and larger in my viewfinder. I think I might have startled the eagle when I moved to bring the camera up to my eye and his instinctive reaction was to check out the movement.

Eventually the eagle veered off and flew in the opposite direction and my heart rate started to return to normal.  I don’t think that I was actually at risk, but through a 600mm lens, it sure looked like the eagle was speeding toward me with talons extended.

I couldn’t help but notice that the eagle has a band on its right foot. Whenever I capture a shot of an eagle, I will have to check to see if I can see a band. I don’t know how many eagles hang out at our park, but eagle sightings have become much more common this last year than previously.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Bald Eagle overhead

Another eagle? I know that I posted some eagle photos a few days ago, but normally when I see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), it is flying in the distance. Yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, however, one flew almost directly over me while I was on the boardwalk.

This different perspective allowed me to get some shots that are much more detailed than usual, showing, among other things, the eagle’s tail feathers and fully-extended wings. The wingspan of this magnificent bird is amazing.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald EagleMichael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Behind the branches

As I walked slowly toward a fellow photographer pointing her camera deep into the woods, I suspected that she was looking at an owl. In a quiet voice, she explained to me where the Barred Owl (Strix varia) was perched. There were a lot of branches and vegetation between us and the owl, but eventually I was able to spot the owl.

Initially the owl was facing directly in our direction, but then shifted its body to the side, all the time watching us from behind the branches. I stretched and bent as I searched for a visual tunnel that would give me an unobstructed shot of the owl, but couldn’t find one. These are the best shots I could manage before the owl flew deeper into the woods. I think they help to give you an idea of the beauty and mystery of this elusive creature.

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Winter fishing

Last week, when we still had lots of snow on the ground, I watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park catch a relatively big fish. Most times a heron simply tilts back its head and swallows a fish immediately, but this heron walked out of the water with the fish in its mouth, probably to make sure that his prized catch did not have a chance to escape.

The heron placed the fish in the snow and adjusted its position multiple times. After several abortive attempts to get the fish into the optimal position, the heron lifted the fish up one final time and swallowed it in one big gulp.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

This past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, I accidentally spooked a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a distant tree. As the eagle flew away, I was able to capture a few images that highlight some of its beautiful details.

These images were shot from a long way off and I had to do a lot of cropping. I am really happy, though, with the performance of my lens, even when zoomed out all the way, especially when the light is nice.

I continue to hold fast to the view that any day that I spot one of these majestic creatures is a wonderful day. I hope that today is wonderful for you, however you choose to define “wonderful.”

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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