Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon

Bald Eagle Series – “Get Off My Branch!”

As promised, here is the Eagle flight behavioral series, from which I posted one image yesterday in my previous blog post.

Here’s the situation:  I’m in my vehicle parked at the edge of the road at the Ridgefield NWR (near marker #11), Feb 14, 2014.  [Refuge rules require us to stay in our vehicles during this time of year].  Out the passenger side of the truck is a tree 275 feet away.  A 3-year old Bald Eagle is relaxing comfortably on a nice perch in the tree.  I was shooting my Canon 500mm lens where I normally like to add the 1.4x to it from this distance for 700mm.  But the day started off foggy and dark and one of my goals for today was to keep my ISO in the lower range, so I couldn’t have done that for flight shots with the 700mm set up.  I had a bean bag in the window to rest the lens on and a foot stool on the passenger seat to rest my elbows on as I lean over.

My hope was that this eagle would take off in my general direction and give me some flight opportunities.  I waited around for a while and thought I should start up my engine and take another loop around the refuge.  I figured this guy would probably still be here when I came around again in a half hour or so.  Just as I was about to start my engine I saw a flying dark object out of the corner of my right eye.  I quickly looked back out the window and this other Bald Eagle was circling the same tree the young eagle was still perched in.  I grabbed the camera and began firing bursts as the older eagle came around the tree from right to left (the perched eagle is on the left side of the tree).  Exif data: 5DM3, 1/1000, f4, ISO 800, 500mm.

This first shot is of the younger eagle about 3 minutes before the action started.  He had his eye on me and he looked comfortable there.  [Be sure to click once on the thumbnails to get the “real” large view of these eagles].

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There were actually two frames prior to this next one that I decided not to use.  I’m starting this series with the image below because it is the first frame that includes both birds.  The elapsed time for the images that show both birds in them was 2 seconds.

The young bird (Junior) is well aware that the older bird (Baldy) may be coming to pay him a visit.  No more relaxing for Junior!

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The concern on Junior’s face is hilarious and gets more pronounced in each image.

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Here Baldy flies right between me and Junior at a 45 degree angle.

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As luck would have it, we’re able to see Junior’s face over Baldy’s wing.  I’d love to know what Junior is thinking about now.  Baldy’s talons are now down which means he doesn’t intend to make this just a fly-by.

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Baldy momentarily pulls in his right wing to give us a good view of a very concerned Junior.

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Things are getting serious now.   Junior is thinking, “This guy looks big!”

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Junior now realizes that this would be a good time to begin panic mode.  Baldy’s talons are coming forward and he means business!  Junior begins to crouch down in preparation for a quick departure.

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Junior says, “Oh my,” as he begins to lift his wings for what has to be an unplanned exit.

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Junior’s wings are now up and and his mouth is wide open.  Lift off is imminent.

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There is no more time to waste!  Baldy’s talons are forward and he’s saying, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here, Junior!”

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Junior takes the hint and lifts off as Baldy comes in for the landing.

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Junior is “outta here” as Baldy’s left foot lands directly on the perch that Junior was on.

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I love watching this kind of behavior from these amazing birds!

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Here’s a shot of Junior as he leaves the area.  His pride will recover and he will grow to be an awesome mature bird.

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Baldy now sits proudly where Junior used to be.

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I’m really happy with the performance of the Canon 500mm lens, especially at the distance this series was shot at.  On nearly every frame, Baldy is pretty much tack sharp as he flies between me and the tree.  The lens stayed locked on the eagle even though it passed in front of all those tree branches.  Of course, Junior is out of focus until the last couple of frames because I was focusing on Baldy.

Thanks for stopping by to check out this series.  Until next time, take care!

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 16th, 2014 at 2:31 am and is filed under The Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Bald Eagle Series – “Get Off My Branch!””

  1. Christy says:

    AMAZING!!! AWE-INSPIRED by these photographs and the one you submitted to FeederWatch for wk 15! Excited to begin following your blog!!

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for the nice comment, Christy! Glad you enjoyed the series and hope to see you as a fan on my Facebook page, too. And thanks for the kudos on my feederwatch entry–my first entry to that contest.

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