13 February 2014

Raptor Rapture

golden eagle

I had not shot much wildlife prior to our Wave trip, so I didn't notice my "big gun" camera wasn't set properly when we encountered the first of many birds of prey along the way.

We spied a gorgeous golden eagle just outside of Moab on Day 2, and The Lizard immediately pulled the car over so I could get a shot.

We were SO, SO close, but the camera was set to shoot snowflakes on a fabric background. All the photos were fuzzy. I was determined not to let that happen again.

I kept the camera on bright daylight, high speed settings while in the car the remainder of the trip, and while we were in the car, the big gun was typically on my lap, even if I was crocheting or sleeping.

Outside a tiny Utah town called Mount Carmel, we spied a bald eagle. My heart soared, and the bird did not, even though I got one step closer, then one step closer, then one step closer... This guy (or gal) literally posed for me. Guess he or she wanted to make sure I knew the belly was full.

poser

Wipe your beak!

Outside of Kanab, en route to White Pocket and The Wave, we found another bald eagle, this one perched upon a fence post, with crows on surrounding posts. All were intently watching the road, just waiting for their next meal to untimely meet a fast-moving vehicle.

These birdies, however, were camera shy and took off before The Lizard could get pulled over safely. What a great shot it would have been to see an eagle hanging out with crows!

We saw the Mount Carmel eagle (or perhaps its mate) again on the return trip, but it was too far away for a decent photo, and on private property to boot. No photos.

As we approached the area where we'd seen the golden eagle the second day of our trip, I got the camera ready. I would get that bird this time, and the shutter speed would be just perfect, even if the bird took off. The Lizard slowed so we could scan every single tree as we passed.

Finally, we found a golden eagle in a tree just far enough from the road, I assumed it knew it was outside of harm's reach. I got a couple of very distant shots, but I didn't want to harass it, and we had a lunch date to keep with relatives in Grand Junction.

Alone

As I slowly made my way back to the car, I noticed rime on trees and bushes I hadn't noticed as we were driving along looking for the eagle. Now the sun was hitting the jagged tufts of frozen overnight fog on windward exposed surfaces just right as I walked in the opposite direction from which we'd been driving. I asked The Lizard if I could get some shots of the rime.

rime

He wanted to make sure we didn't disturb the golden eagle, plus he wanted to pull the car off the shoulder and into a more suitable stopping area for what might be an extended photo shoot. He knows me well! So he asked me to get in the car, and he drove just a bit further to an actual pull-out.

I hopped out of the car and began shooting happily away when I noticed a golden eagle feather frosted into the ground's overnight collection of frozen mist.

frosted tiger stripes

And then I noticed another...

zebra stripes

...and another...

downy fluff

A trail of feathers led all the way back to near where The Lizard had pulled over for me to shoot the eagle. A very sad tale I would not have known had I not noticed the rime, had The Lizard not pulled over where he did, had we not seen the raptor in the first place.

Now I realized why the golden eagle didn't fly away when I got out of the car.

Eagles mate for life.

There was no body, only feathers. A coyote may have made off with the road kill. This was recent. Some of the feathers still glistened in the sun with evidence of life ended too soon.

The lone golden eagle still perched in the distant barren cottonwood and watching our every move was mourning its mate.

standing guard

3 comments:

  1. Poor eagle sitting there mourning all through the day. got some great shots indeed, the first one was good if it only had one wing lol

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very sorry to arrive at the sad ending to this story, but I'm inspired by your sage teachings about camera settings and preparedness. The eagle was one very handsome bird.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh so sad... I cannot imagine.

    Beautiful bald eagle photos.

    ReplyDelete


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