Thursday, May 10, 2012

Choir practice for eagles

A tree swallow zooms by like a missile.

Padme the wonderdog was really hoping that we would just have a normal walk, where she would stop frequently and sniff what needs to be sniffed, mark what needs to be marked, and bark at what needed barking at. I can sense this, so I make a conscious decision to peek down the street where my favorite eagles live. If I see somebody hanging around in the trees, I think, we'll head down the street. If I don't, we'll find a another route that Padme would prefer.

We pass our usual eagle turnoff and I see a white-headed bird high in a tree. I'm thinking I have plenty of images of papa eagle minding the store, so we walk farther down the street. We make a detour over to the next street and I tell Padme "just a half a block, I want to check out who's in the tree." Padme sniffs the street and reluctantly comes along. I bring my favorite eagle into camera view and realize it's mama eagle. A couple of minutes later, papa swoops in to join her with something in his talons. Part of what he was carrying dropped. I don't know if it was a morsel of food or something else. Mama pointed out – loudly but in that kinfolk chortle – that he dropped something.

As he settled in, they both started talking and chortling up a storm at each other and at the nest below. I still don't know if there's one or more eaglets in the nest. Somebody's in there because mama is spending most of her time in the nest but with occasional forays away. They had a perfect spot to take a break but keep watch – sort of an eagle nursery monitor.

The owner of the house I was standing next to as I photographed asked if the eagle was out. I said "yes" and he proceeded to tell me that they are very active – and loud – early in the morning, between 4 and 5 a.m. I told him that I'm frequently photographing them at this time of year because they are so active, and entertaining. He chuckled and said, "that's for sure."

All of the neighbors I've talked to on the street are as fond of their raptor neighbors as I am. These birds also seem know us all and, at least, tolerate us in their midst. Most recommendations for bird photographers is that you photograph from a vehicle or something else that acts as a "bird blind." I always keep a distance of 100 feet or more. However, I'm usually out in the open, figuring that dozens of people walk, run, ride bikes and skateboards down that street every day. Often these eagles will look right at me, then go about their business.

As Padme the wonderdog and I got a quarter mile away, heading back up the street to our house, papa flew over us – low. He was so low I could've photographed him with a wide angle lens and he would take up the whole frame. Of course, my camera was in my backpack. I looked up and said, "Oh! Hello!" like I greet a neighbor I didn't expect to see on our walk. He tilted his head down and looked at us, then swooped low over the ridge and down to Puget Sound below.

Then we spotted three of his kin from earlier clutches...gliding on the thermals along the ridge, practicing flight maneuvers. Check back for more later this weekend.

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