Tough Love

My wife Beth and I were on our way to photograph puffins on Machias-Seal Island off the coast of Maine, when we got the call from the operator of the boat that the trip was canceled due to weather. We were 4 hours into a 6-hour drive from Gloucester, Massachusetts to Jonesport, Maine. Looking for a new opportunity, I remembered an article in the Boston Globe about an eagles nest on Lake Umbagog near Errol, New Hampshire. Only 3 hours away, we redirected our trip to Errol with a new goal in mind. Errol is in the northeast corner of New Hampshire near the Maine border, near the intersection of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Canada. Lake Umbagog spans the New Hampshire-Maine border.
On The Magalloway

On The Magalloway

We arrived in Errol in deteriorating weather, which soon turned to rain. We hung out in a local motel for 2 days waiting for the weather to clear.  Finally, on day 3, with a rented canoe and high hopes, we started down the Magalloway River to Lake Umbagog.

Magalloway Reflection

Magalloway Reflection

After about an hour of paddling, we broke out into the expanse of Lake Umbagog.  There, by the mouth of the river, stood a lone tree with an eagles nest. The single tree was on an island surrounded by a barrier with signs to provide a protective zone around the nest. Fortunately, we were able to land on a nearby island with a good view of the nest.                                    

I set up my tripod with the 500mm lens and focused on the nest. The nest was vacant at the time, but we could hear and see the eagles flying above. So we waited.

The parent eagles were out teaching the fledglings how to fly. We hoped to see and photograph something interesting, but the nest remained empty. We waited and waited. The hours passed, and we were running out of time. Beth reminded me that we were past due to return our rented canoe.  Just a few more minutes, I asked. Finally giving in, I began to pack up my gear. Then, of course, it happened!

One fledgling returned to the safety of the nest, expecting to be fed.  A parent flew in, bringing a fish. The parent flipped the fish over the side, enticing the fledgling to leave the nest and fly after the “flying” fish. The fledgling lunged after the fish, but lost its courage and landed on a branch below the nest. All this happened while my back was turned, as I was packing my gear. I did not see it. Fortunately, Beth witnessed the event through her binoculars and alerted me to what was happening. Excitedly, I tried to “catch up” to the situation by reassembling my tripod, lens and camera, but by then the action had passed.

Timing is everything!

The fledgling was frozen in place, cowering on its branch, and was not about to fly:

Reluctant Flyer

Reluctant Flyer

The parent eagles were flying about, screaming at the juvenile to “move its tail feathers” and get airborne. But the fledgling would not fly. The parents landed in a nearby tree and continued to squawk. Beth was watching them closely with the binoculars, sure that something was about to happen. I had not a clue. Then one of the parents launched from the nearby tree and flew straight for the fledgling at high speed.

I was ready this time — though not sure for what, exactly.

I was focused on the young eagle. Beth said it looked like a collision was imminent. I summoned all my skill and used my tried and true technique – “press and pray”.  My camera responded, clicking away in rapid fire.

We watched in amazement as the parent slammed into its offspring, forcing it to fly. My technique worked and I caught this seldom seen event (at least, never seen by me before).

Time to Fly

Time to Fly

 

Collision

Collision

 

A Not So Gentle Push

A Not So Gentle Push

Finally Flying

Finally Flying

Timing is everything.

~ by richardseeley on November 11, 2010.

2 Responses to “Tough Love”

  1. ,

    It,s snowing in Denver. Do not rush back. Races will start at Vail in 2 weeks. We have eagles on the Ranch in Carbondale. come visit.
    Tom Maytham

    Like

  2. Extraordinaires photos. Beaucoup de patience et de talent pour arriver à saisir ces instants du difficile apprentissage pour voler.

    Like

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