Close Bald Eagle encounter

July 27, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I was trying to photograph Red-winged Blackbirds at Dungeness (in Washington State!) when suddenly it all kicked off at the small lakes just next to the river mouth. Ducks scattered, Pied-billed Grebes scampered for the reeds, and I soon saw why - a Bald Eagle was sweeping in low hoping for an unwary DUck as a meal. I'm not the greatest at birds in flight, but I do mostly understand exposure, and realised straight away that with my camera in manual mode and exposure set for mid-tones, that a bird against a white sky would be hopelessly blown. I'm not sure I got it quite right, but as I raised the camera away from the reeds and to the sky I was already dialling in a much faster shutter speed. Really it was just an instinctive twiddle of the dial towards where I thought it likely needed to be, and so 1/1000s at f5.6 for the Blackbirds became 1/2000s  at f5.6 for the Eagle. I have the superb autofocus of the 1D Mark IV camera to thank for the rest. But it got better, as within the mere three seconds that separate the first of the 13 images I took from the last, a feisty Brewer's Blackbird landed on the Eagle's back, gave it a good scratching and pecking, and then lifted off to safety. As I said, it was over in the seconds, the Eagle gaining height and departing to the east. I couldn't believe it when I looked at the back of the camera, and immediately backed up the images to the SD card that sits in a second slot. Looking at the images below, I can't see that the Eagle was bothered in the slightest - it didn't attempt to turn, didn't attempt to shake off its tiny foe, it just carried serenely on its way. Later on in the week I saw an Eagle get attacked by an Osprey, and that elicited an entirely different response, with the bird inverting itself in the air and extending its legs and claws up towards the smaller bird. Smart these Eagles! Anyway, I lucked out, and here are four of the 13 images that tell the story of that amazing moment.


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