Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wednesday on the River

Back on the Susquehanna River for another try on Bald Eagles.  I had just three hours, but the colder weather encouraged me that I'd see more Bald Eagles fishing.  After all, it takes more feed to keep warm on the colder days. 

Activity began early with this fly-by just after daybreak.  This bird won't need to fish again until much  later in the day.

The large sycamore tree above me was a favored perch for the birds. This adult Eagle retreated to the branches with its catch, but soon escaped the pestering juvenile eagles seeking to steal its catch. Note the fishtail trailing in the tail feathers.

Below is just one of the large number of juvenile Bald Eagles facing the need to catch their own fish in their first winter.  What a better idea to just steal one from an adult.  The first year of independence is a tough one.

Usually, eagles grab the fish from the surface with their talons, but this bird caught a smaller one in its beak, and performed some in-flight contortions to transfer the catch to its talons.

It is easy to overlook the necessity for cleaning up after the eagles, and that task falls to the Black Vultures.  Some people seem to be repulsed by them, but I find them stately when perched and graceful in flight.  Thanks to them, I am not dealing with the "perfume" of decaying fish carcasses.

If you find yourself around these birds, it is wise to remember that black vultures have an appetite for the vinyl trim on cars; they need to be watched.  Their beak can rip trim off a vehicle.  They call for a different style of bird watching. 


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adapting to the Day

Left home for some Bald Eagle photography on the Susquehanna River with great expectations.  It has become an annual pilgrimage with the memory of some very active feeding, when conditions are right.  The action can be so fast; it is like batting practice for a ball player.

Well, this time it was pretty slow. My practice was limited to a few feeding passes by lone Bald Eagles. Not very exciting.

The ideal is some action involving either grabbing fish from the water, or the attempts of one eagle to steal another one's catch. Finally had a few successful catches, but, the birds were pretty distant or in poor light. Below is the about the best I could do.

Sometimes you get desperate for anything to photograph, if for nothing else than practice.  A Ring-billed Gull will do.

On day two, we'd had enough, and headed home with a stop at a Pennsylvania natural area that sometimes has ducks and geese.  Wasn't much going on there either, until we pulled into a turn-around near a closed gate and saw some Ringneck Pheasant cock birds. The light was brilliant and in a good direction. Since we were sitting in the car, the birds were unaware of our closeness, and proceeded to feed in a heavy tangle of vines and  dead goldenrod.  The brilliant colors make a cock inclined to stay inside cover for safety.

Patience does eventually pay off, however.  The birds seemed to have exhausted their search for food and headed out of the cover for a nearby corn field. In a flash we had a nice set of images.  The color is amazing in perfect light.

The lesson is that practice has its reward, though sometimes in unexpected ways.