A Gathering of Eagles

The Bald Eagle is our great nation’s bird of course.

In many places it is considered Endangered. Up here in Alaska they are just the opposite, they are a very successful raptor, and in some places and at certain times gather in great numbers.

There are many misconceptions about eagles;

Hollywood gives them the single bold call of the wild that is majestic but fraudulent, Bald Eagles have a funny squeaky language that makes me think of a squeaky wheel bearing. The Hollywood fake sound is the Red Tailed Hawk, another awesome raptor, but not an eagle. Also, a lot of people attach values to the eagle that don’t belong. They are majestic yes, they are also scavengers, frequenting every land fill and dump, and find kills like buzzards, a reality of successful survival. They are truly wild, and will take opportunity to do what they are designed to do, to kill and feed on their prey as needed, as it should be I think.

There are several places where eagles gather in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds, in the winter. There are at least two places I know of where they are fed by "Eagle Lady’s". This practice has been challenged and even banned in some places. There seems to be no evidence, however, that eagles are anything but wild creatures who will kill to survive and cannot be domesticated in any way, or that they become dependant or dangerous as a result of feeding. I like that.

Last weekend I went to one such place, the Eagle River VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) lodge. Had a great breakfast and met up with some of the people from one of my photo groups on Flickr and some of the members of the lodge.

The eagle lady, Betty, was to show up at 11am and by the time she did the eagles were all over the place.

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The classic soaring pose

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Some of the people that came for the show, these people are part of our group.

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I quickly learned the difficulty in following these birds with a telephoto lens at close range

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I learned that I could watch for a certain flight pattern to catch them as they circled in

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I was amazed at the acrobatic flight these big raptors displayed, and was impressed at their speed

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Betty cuts up the fish into individual portions, as they will fight over big pieces.

They seemed to know how many could be on the ground at a time, and the rest would wait there turn.

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There were about 3 dozen eagles there.

With their super telephoto eyesight, some would wait some didtance off and watch.

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There were some tussles but no real fights.

This tussle over top branch dominance by two big guys lasted several seconds.

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Coming in as if for the kill

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It was thrilling to see all the action and hear the woosh of big wings all around

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One of the better air shows I’ve seen!

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24 Responses to A Gathering of Eagles

  1. Cat says:

    I especially like the 7th one down – great angle – I used to work up in the hills of Bel Air – Red Tailed hawks were plentiful until some developer started building these crappy land hogging McMansions – however my favorite memory was of a young red tail – I first heard him screeching – looked out the office window to see him doing barrel rolls while zooming up to the hilltops  and sounding like a a kid having the greatest time – w/ a flock of crows in hot pursuit! One can only imagine what the young \’un did to set them off!

  2. Passing says:

    These are terriffic pictures. I love them all.
    You really have captured a wonderful light of these
    proud birds.

  3. Barb says:

    Steve, I was so waiting for you to get to this blog entry! 🙂  What an incredible experience, and such devine images!  I didn\’t know about the fake hollywood scream.  I\’d have never found an Eagle if I had waiting to hear that sound.  They seem to be quite a social sort when it comes to their own.  It\’s amazing how they know to come at a certain time and place for the Eagle\’s Lady.  And we think we\’re the brightest bunch on the planet.  I think not! 🙂
    Great, great work.  Thanks so much for allowing us to tag along on your photo adventure.
    Hugs from a sunny, but chillier, south!

  4. Mud says:

    Hi, Steve… my friend JaeElle told me I\’d be impressed by your photos… but I had no idea!  Magnificent!

  5. carlton e. says:

    Great pixs.I do not know if any of your eagles come to Arkansas.We have many that winter here on the Arkansas river.I have tons of film of them here at the farm and people are surprised to see the eagles here .we have golden eagles come Thur and nearly every turkey buzzard from here to the pole come Thur in fall.Each spring we try to send as many back north as possible.$2500 dollar fine to just get caught shooting at a Rafter.There are lot\’s of Tyson Chicken House\’s around and the Eagles eat the dead chickens.

  6. Nozee says:

    <speechless>

  7. Sue says:

    Hi SteveWhat a beautiful bird and what great photosTake careSue

  8. Jim says:

    Oh man this is great photography.  I mean, really really nice.  I saw a TV show on this type of thing once.  i have always wanted to get a good shot of a Bald Eagle.  You have numerous here all at once.  That must have been an amazing event to photograph.  You are one lucy man.  Thanks so much for sharing the photos.

  9. REDEEMER WORD says:

    Birds of a feather , flock together…ELZA

  10. elizabeth says:

    great pics steve.  well done.
    hugs, bb. x

  11. JaeElle says:

    WOW!  Look at the claws outstrethched and open on the picture "Coming in as if for the kill"!   I like the pictures of the eagles in flight.  Actually,  I like them ALL!   Yes,  this is the best air show ever! 

  12. Pat says:

    Steve…beautiful, magnificent..awesome…you truly are a lucky man to have such wonderful sights and creatures so close. And we looking in thru this window you grant us by your blog are as well lucky and blessed.
    Thank you…..Pat

  13. Nae says:

    Very nice, photos!  The eagles are gathering here in Sitka while we wait for the herring to come up from the depths.  There should soon be anywhere from 50 – 100 on the beach (near McDonalds).  They say that thousands of eagles pass through Haines while following their meal supply.
     
    I\’ve seen two ravens take down an eagle — that was horrifying.  I, of course, cheered on the eagle — but it lost.  I have also had the opportunity to watch an eagle break a branch off from a tree and fly off with it to its nest.  That was cool!
     
    So — what type of lens did you use?  And … if you travel … what type of lens(es) do you take?
     
    Hope you had a wonderful Easter.
     
    God bless you and keep you,
     
    Nae  :o)

  14. n says:

    "Fantastic Bald Eagle shots!"

  15. Cheryl says:

    Excellent pictures.  In Texas or at least Houston area a bald eagle is very rare.  I heard we had one along the shore here and hunted for months to get a glimpse of him.  It never happened.  I came from north country and we would see eagles.  In my tribe an eagle feather is powerful but not nearly as powerful as a red hawk.  Hawk is part of my Indian name.  I am a messenger…

  16. - says:

    Extraordinary photos.  But that\’s typical of your work.  I\’ve seen bald eagles in the wild…a special privilege…but never more that two or three at once.  The Idea of dozens boggles my mind. And to think, millions of people will never share the privilege and must rely completely on extraordinary photos by dedicated people like yourself.  Thanks Steve.Hugs,e

  17. Tani says:

    Amazing Steve. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Lynn says:

    Really wonderful photo\’s Steve,
    thanks for sharing….Lynn

  19. Aimee says:

    incredible…
    *~* :o) the shortest distance between two people is a smile… :o) *~*

  20. PEP says:

    Magnificent pictures Steve and as always thanks for the lesson that accompanied the photos.

  21. . says:

     
       I learned alot with this post. I hadnt a clue that Eagles were so populated in Alaska. It blows my mind to see these pictures with so many of them in one place!! This is truly amazing. I have to say that I think this is one of my favorite posts and favorite pictures you have taken. I am shocked that someone hasnt discovered you yet and hasnt offered you a job taking pictures for National Geographic or something. Seriously, you should be taking pictures for a magazine! I was showing my Daughter these pictures yesterday. I was just amazed and so was she. Thanks for sharing your talent.
     
    xoxoxo

  22. Cindy says:

    Just like being there!  Unbelievable pictures!  And those claws!  Ouch said the little fishy.

  23. Dreamwalker says:

    Wow… Amazing Pictures.. What I wouldnt give to see flying free .
    thank you for sharing your talent of photography with us.
    Dreamwalker

  24. John says:

    The pictures show how majestic these birds are. I would have loved to be there to take my own pictures

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