scott bean photography

Time with the bald eagles at Tuttle Creek Lake this winter

Bald eagle fishing

Each winter I really enjoy watching the bald eagles when they migrate into the area. Kansas does have a number of nesting pairs of bald eagles and it is possible to see them year-round, but in the winter the eagles are concentrated around the lakes. When I first started photographing the bald eagles, I would typically drive around area lakes looking for the eagles and photographing them when I could. The last couple of years however, I’ve spent more time sitting in one position where the eagles are likely to fly by, and hopefully catch fish. This winter I spent almost all of my time out photographing the eagles while sitting at one location at Tuttle Creek Lake (near Manhattan, Kansas).

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle beginning its dive for a fish – ISO 2000, 700mm, f/8, 1/1250

I was fortunate to be at a location where the bald eagles were fairly active and provided some interesting photo opportunities. At the peak of the activity in late December there were 15 or so bald eagles regularly in the area.

Immature bald eagle with a fish
Juvenile bald eagle with a successful catch – ISO 500, 700mm, f/8, 1/250

The highlight of watching the eagles is of course when they come down to the water to grab a fish.

Immature bald eagle coming in for a fish
Juvenile bald eagle coming in for a fish – ISO 800, 700mm, f/8, 1/1600
Adult bald eagle making a grab for a fish
Mature bald eagle about to make a grab for a fish – ISO 800, 700mm, f/8, 1/1600

On several occasions the bald eagles would fish close enough to me for some good photos. It is always exciting to see them begin their approach to the water and then position themselves with their talons out in front for the attempt to grab the fish.

Bald eagles display in-flight talon grabbing behavior
In flight acrobatics – ISO 320, 700mm, f/8, 1/1600

I also got to watch a lot of other behaviors including fighting over fish and talon grabbing in mid-air. I would have missed a lot of behavior like this if I had been driving in my car looking for eagles rather than sitting in one location. Another good reminder for me about the importance of patience.

Adult bald eagle
Bald eagle on a close flyby – ISO 400, 700mm, f/8, 1/1250

The eagles weren’t always fishing of course and having them fly overhead is always a great experience as well. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to see these majestic birds. Getting to watch and experience wildlife is pretty amazing and any time spent out in Nature is well worth it (even if it means sitting on a cold, uncomfortable rock). As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to see more of my work, please visit my photo galleries.

Scott (249)

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