Bald Eagles at Big Beef Creek

Photographers go to Big Beef Creek this time of year to get shots of Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. I’ve been there twice so far and have managed to get a few nice shots of Bald Eagles, but so far there seem to have been far fewer Bald Eagles than in previous years. On our last visit I didn’t see a single juvenile Bald Eagle and only saw five or six mature Bald Eagles.

Most of the shots I got were of this pair of Bald Eagles

who showed up early and stuck around only long enough to fill themselves up.

This eagle caught its own fish rather than stealing it from the Great Blue Herons.

I use the word "caught" cautiously, though, because the sculpin was stranded in shallow water and the eagle swooped down and swept it up.

It was a still a thrill to have it swoop so close in front of me that I could see the mud on his tail feathers.

The only other sequence I caught was this one of a Bald Eagle flying almost straight at me

before veering off to my right and flying over my shoulder.

Though I liked these shots I was disappointed at how few Bald Eagles there seem to be, and particularly that there didn’t seem to be a sing juvenile eagle. The older Bald Eagles have learned to get food with the least fuss whether by harassing a Great Blue Heron into dropping a fish or just picking a stranded one off the beach. Immature Bald Eagles, on the other hand, seem to enjoy harassing the older eagles or harassing the herons simply to be harassing them. Like human teenagers they crave action, just like wildlife photographers.

Springing Forward to Summer

I was shocked to learn that it had been a month since my last visit to Theler Wetlands . Not only had the grass grown ridiculously high due to all our rainfall, but many birds had left while new ones filled the void.

I was greeted by lots and lots of Barn Swallows which seemed quite willing to pose for me in the brilliant morning sunshine.

A month ago we had seen lots of Tree Swallows and Cliff Swallows but very few Barn Swallow.

I caught a glimpse of a small flock of Cedar Waxwings, the first this year, but they kept their distance at the top of a tree.

I saw my first Swainson’s Thrush of the year though it seemed even shyer than the waxwings.

Luckily, my favorite Marsh Wren was more than willing to pose while protecting his nesting area.

We saw a lot of nesting Canada Geese on our previous trip to the refuge and, as expected, I saw several goslings on this trip.

Spring quickly becomes Summer.

(Un)Common Yellowthroat

Although I often hear the Common Yellowthroat while birding Theler, it’s rare that I get a chance to take a shot of one so I was amazed Saturday when this little guy landed on a (relatively) nearby branch,

let me snap off four or five shots

before flying off into the shrubbery

where it could be heard off and on for the next ten minutes but was not seen again.

A Few More Shots

Sometimes photography reminds me of dieting. Everyone knows how hard it is to lose that last 5 lbs compared to the first 5 lbs. In the same way, the longer you take pictures the harder it is to get a better shot than you already have. That’s certainly true of getting shots at Big Beef Creek. I’ve gotten so many “great” shots that it’s harder and harder to get new shots I am satisfied with. Expensive new equipment has helped to get better shots, but so much depends on pure chance that it’s hard to improve on past shots.

If I’d taken this shot of a Great Blue Heron land on the rocks the first time I was there, I would probably have been thrilled with it

because it’s a pose I never see at Theler or Ridgefield.

I usually get shots of GBH hunting prey, not flying casually overhead as in this shot.

I can remember being thrilled the first time I got a shot liked this many years ago when I was shooting with a 400mm lens and a Canon Rebel. Now, not so much.

The real reason photographers go to Big Beef Creek, though, is to capture the interaction between the Great Blue Herons and the Bald Eagles and between the various Eagles that gather there. There was only four eagles the day I was there and the only interaction between GBH and eagles took place so far out that the pictures had to be heavily cropped, which means a serious loss of detail, though they still convey a sense of action lacking in the other pictures I took.

Hopefully I’ll get better shots on my next visit this week.

Bald Eagle Catching Fish

I’ll have to admit I have so many shots of Eagles sitting in the trees around Big Beef Creek that I usually ignore them after they’ve landed, but I was bored enough at the beginning of this visit that I took several shots and got the chance to see this Bald Eagle swoop down and pick up a fish.

The sun even peeked through the clouds long enough to provide some excellent light for the short time this took.