I’ve mentioned several times on my blog how photography has made me more aware of the cycles that the natural world goes through each year. One thing I really look forward to each year is when the bald eagles move into Kansas in larger numbers each winter. There are bald eagles that nest in Kansas with over 100 nesting pairs now, so it is possible to see bald eagles in Kansas at any time during the year. In 2021, the first photo I made of a bald eagle was in April. The winter when the eagles are moving south is when activity really increases though and you can more reliably spot eagles around the reservoirs in the state. This season it seemed like the eagles weren’t that active for very long and most of my time with them was in December.
The photo above of a juvenile bald eagle was taken on December 11th as the eagle was coming off the water after an unsuccessful attempt at grabbing a fish.
This next photo was from later in the day on December 11th and shows a juvenile bald eagle with fish that it had just successfully taken (maybe a black crappie?). I’m not sure if this was the same eagle from the first photo or not (there were 8-10 eagles active on this particular morning).
It is always a treat to see the bald eagles no matter when or where and I love seeing them soar overhead. However, what I really enjoy is having a chance to photograph them fishing. Seeing an eagle suddenly pivot in the air and then dive towards the water with their talons out in front at the last minute is an incredible sight to see. I love the challenge of photographing them at that moment as well. This photo of an adult bald eagle coming in for a fish on December 19th was one of my favorites.
The eagle in the previous photo was successful at grabbing a fish, but as you can see in this photo eventually dropped the fish as it was flying away.
December 19th was a good day for me having opportunities to photograph the eagles fishing. This was my favorite photo I got from December. This eagle seems to be very determined and I love the position of the body and the talons (the eagle would come away without a fish on this pass though). I have a 30”x20” metal print of this photo hanging in my office and love the way it looks when printed on metal.
Watching the bald eagles fishing is fantastic, but their acrobatics after catching a fish are also impressive. Many times once an eagle has grabbed a fish, other eagles waiting nearby will move in and try to steal the fish. In the case of this next photo, the bald eagle that had just successfully grabbed a fish had done a barrel roll as another eagle flew over the top of it. This was amazing to witness, especially through a telephoto lens.
A few days later on December 21st, I also got to witness bald eagles interacting after one had successfully gotten a fish. I liked the subdued tones and backlit feathers on the eagles in this photo.
On December 22nd, I saw this adult bald eagle come off the water with the largest fish I saw one catch this year. The eagle had a difficult time getting this fish secured in the right position as it flew off.
A bit later on December 22nd, I had a great chance to watch as bald eagles soared pretty close to me overhead. I still will always like trying to photograph the eagles as they fish the best, but it is pretty cool to watch one through a telephoto lens as it drifts overhead.
This next series of photos taken on December 24th shows a juvenile bald eagle coming in to grab a fish. These photos were taken in the span of 5 seconds. In this first photo the eagle has its talons out to grab the fish. You can see the fish floating out in front (to the left) of the eagle (the small white blob on the surface). This eagle was fishing below the outlet of a lake and was grabbing fish that were dead or stunned when they came through the outlet of the lake and were floating on the surface.
In this next photo in the series, the eagle has just grabbed the fish and appears to be looking down, maybe to check and see if it has successfully gotten the fish.
In this final photo, the bald eagle has the fish secured in both talons and is leaving the water with the fish. What a great experience this was for me to watch (not a bad Christmas Eve present for me!).
I’ve written about photographing the bald eagles before (here and here) and each year it seems like I enjoy my time watching the eagles more and more. I’ve met a few photographers while out looking for eagles and made some really good friends and have really enjoyed visiting with them when eagle activity has been slow. I spend a lot of time just sitting and waiting for the eagles to show up which is good for me, patience is not one of my virtues. It can also be meditative to just sit outside and watch the world go by and you get to see a lot of interesting things, especially watching the other birds that are in the area. I’m really looking forward to the eagles coming back again next year and seeing old friends again.