Fishing Eagles

I stood at the water’s edge, alone, and long before the sun would even think about making an appearance. Being here was not an uncommon situation and one familiar to me. I knew the eagles would arrive shortly, and I hoped they would go fishing. The only question was would they beat the sun, or would the sun sneak out before they appeared?

The answer, surprisingly, was neither! Instead, the blue herons flew from nowhere, and before I knew it, they were there in front of me, foraging in the shallow water for breakfast. There wasn’t enough light to make any photographs, but there was enough for me to enjoy the scene, so I did.

They were quiet, intent on finding their meal, and kept to themselves. The morning was tranquil, and it was too easy to become enraptured in the scene before me, never moving again. I almost forgot about the eagles. Almost.

It wasn’t long before the eagles appeared. The sun rose simultaneously, and I wonder if this was by coincidence or design. Alas, I’ll never know. One moment, the herons were alone in the water, and the next, the sun bathed the eagles in its rays, and the birds soared high overhead, gazing intently at the water below them.

Eagle Catch

In the blink of an eye, an eagle dove headlong into the water, looking for its first bite of breakfast. With a barely heard splash, the eagle quickly rose again into the sky, now with a fish grasped firmly in its talons. Eagle Catch is the moment the eagle heads skyward. The vignette would repeat throughout the morning. Dive, then catch, the soar, over and over.

Incoming Eagle

However, the eagles and the blue herons didn’t exist peacefully at all times. Now and then, an aggressive eagle would fly right by a heron, who almost always objected. Incoming Eagle shows us one of these moments, and the heron is not pleased with the eagle bearing down on it.

The eagles would circle high above, always keeping one eye on the water. They would fold their wings and streak toward the water when they spotted their prey. The term “eagle eye” means something. Most of the time, they would catch a fish, but they would also miss it from time to time.

And some eagles would attempt to steal another’s fish, apparently thinking this was easier than catching it. This effort seldom was successful, but it must be a good enough strategy to keep attempting it. Sometimes, a fight would break out over the endeavor, and the fish dropped back into the waters below. The food was plentiful, so the battles were brief and not intense.

Eagle Dance

The wiser, older eagles grabbed the fish, tucking it close to their body, making it harder for another eagle to see and harder to steal. They are, quite literally, pretending as if they are flying around empty-taloned. Even though I knew there was a fish in the talons, it was hard to see and challenging to be sure. The younger eagles would fly with their fish readily exposed, inviting another eagle to take it from them. Eventually, they all learned how to hide the fish.

Despite the drama between the birds, sometimes a lone eagle soaring in the sky created a decisive moment. Voyaging Eagle shows us exactly what I mean. The eagle, wings outstretched as broad as they can go, sweeping across the sky, remains one of my favorite eagle photographs ever, and I could not be more pleased with how it turned out.

Voyaging Eagle

Eventually, all the birds had their fill, and gradually, so slowly I barely noticed, began drifting away. Before I realized it, I was alone once again. With a sigh but not a heavy heart, I packed up and headed out for the day. It had been a fantastic day with the eagles, and the blue herons, and who could ask for anything more?