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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk 
Thread started 29 Dec 2017 (Friday) 06:55
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Where to go to photograph eagles?

 
Fordsabroad
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Dec 29, 2017 06:55 |  #1

Having been bitten by the wildlife bug and having had some very positive comments on the white tailed eagle pictures I posted on here a day or so ago I am now hungry for more opportunities.

Where can I go to photograph bald or golden eagles preferably in large (ish) numbers and what time of year is best?

I am based in the UK but happy to plan a trip to the US/Canada or elsewhere to achieve this. I would prefer to avoid the expense of a workshop as I think I have the skills to get the shots when in position, having said that I am not against the idea of a workshop if the cost is reasonable.
I am a "senior" and reasonably fit but would not wish to undertake hikes into mountains or dangerous areas and would probably be travelling on my own.
I am a regular visitor to Florida but my thoughts are I will need to go much further north to achieve this - or am I wrong.
Any suggestions would be appreciated




  
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ShadowHillsPhoto
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Dec 29, 2017 08:11 |  #2

Not sure for goldens, but you can't really beat Haines, Alaska for bald eagles. There are other good west coast locations, but nothing in the US tops Haines. If you want to stick to the east coast then you should take a look at Conowingo dam in Maryland.

I posted this thread after a trip to Conowingo last December: https://photography-on-the.net …/showthread.php​?t=1472366




  
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Sideshot
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Dec 29, 2017 09:36 |  #3

I have gone to Barr Lake State Park Colorado in the winter and spring and seen 70+ bald eagles there. On the Nth East corner of the lake you can get very close to them sitting in trees from the road, great shots.

https://www.google.com …39.9418341!4d-104.7651833 (external link)




  
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teekay
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Dec 29, 2017 11:11 |  #4

You can see bald eagles almost anywhere on the British Columbia coast all year, but for guaranteed watching of hundreds of them you probably can't beat Brackendale (part of Squamish, BC) at certain times of the year. It's on the road to Whistler Ski resort - a very easy scenic day drive from Vancouver.

Here's one web site - lots more and video on the Net.

http://www.exploresqua​mish.com …Fnr7SRjoXR1RoCp​igQAvD_BwE (external link)




  
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Fordsabroad
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Dec 29, 2017 14:03 as a reply to  @ ShadowHillsPhoto's post |  #5

Thanks for your reply. Haines looks good but Conowingo dam looks easy to get to and find. Are there eagles there all year or is it far better in the fall?
I note you used a 600mm lens, which I also have, does this fill the frame or are extenders beneficial?




  
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tomj
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Dec 29, 2017 14:53 |  #6

In past years my experience has been that activity at Conowingo starts to slow down around now. A few years ago I stopped there in early February and all I found was just one bird perched in the trees by the parking area. That said, however, I've talked with people who were going there last August and getting good shots. There's a Conowingo Eagles Facebook page that may give you an idea of what the current status is.

You'll be fine with 600mm. I use a 400mm lens on a 7d2 and find it's too short most of the time, but I still get good pictures - I just just don't get as many opportunities as a longer lens would give me. Most of the people I know are using 600mm, and still crop a lot. I get a lot of fly-by shots, but the birds picking up fish tend to be too far out.

One word of caution - it seems to be getting crowded there. For years I've been going multiple times each fall, and even on holiday weekends, the most crowded days, there was never a problem getting a place to park, no matter how late in the morning you got there. I went just one time this year, on a Tuesday, and when I got there at 8:15 the parking lot was filled and closed. The guard directed me back about a mile to where there was additional parking and a shuttle bus, but the bus was pulling out as I got there. I scrubbed the mission and went somewhere else.


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ShadowHillsPhoto
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Dec 29, 2017 15:46 as a reply to  @ Fordsabroad's post |  #7

I had the 1.4x III on most of the time I was there. I mostly shot with a 1DX but also used a 7D2 from time to time with the same lens. A lot of times you will need to crop even at 840mm on a full frame, and there will be some shots that are just too far away even at that focal length. Every once in a while you will have a bird come down and take something close to shore and then it's all a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The easiest way to get frame filling shots is from the road/parking lot after they have grabbed a fish and are flying up into the trees to feed. They like to perch in the trees on the south shore and they will pass right over head. Because they are starting much lower than the road and trying to get to trees above it there is often a point where they are coming straight at you right at eyeball level.

As I understand it the action typically starts to ramp up in November and peaks in early December, I was there during the second week of December last year. You can also go earlier in the fall while there is still color in the trees which will give you a very nice backdrop but the activity will be much lower. I was there for two and a half days when I went and I would suggest going for at least that long if not longer. The more time you put in the more likely you are to have luck swing your way, and you also start to learn the behavior of the birds. If you do happen to make the trip next year let me know, I didn't have a chance to go back this year so I may try again in 2018. I'd be happy to say hi and chat if we end up there at the same time.

You can check out the full set of images from my trip that I posted to Flickr here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk​zwWbbT (external link)




  
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Fordsabroad
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Dec 30, 2017 09:33 as a reply to  @ ShadowHillsPhoto's post |  #8

Thanks to everyone who responded to this thread, it has given me much food for thought. I like the thought of Haines but am not sure if it is doable on my own as a first visit, is it the kind of place you just turn up and there are eagles everywhere or do you need to know where to go and are the places hard to find. The workshops are charging around $3000 for a week which when added to the cost of getting there would make it an expensive trip.
Conowingo on the other hand seems reasonably easy to get to, I think flying into New York would be the easiest bet (please correct me if I am wrong) and if I can use the Virgin Atlantic air miles I have would be quite cheap. All I would need is a hire car and a hotel to stay in neither of which are too expensive. I think I would plan to stay there for 1 week that should give plenty of opportunity to get some decent shots.
ShadowHillsPhoto - I will certainly let you know the dates If I book the flights, it would be good to meet and chat if you happen to be in the area.




  
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Tom ­ Reichner
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Dec 30, 2017 19:11 |  #9

There are Bald Eagles all over around my area. . They hang around the landfill a lot, and the dump, and along the local rivers, and feed on roadkill any time they can find it. . They're actually not nearly as glamorous a bird as many people imagine them to be ....... they prefer to be scavengers instead of hunting for themselves. . But this makes them easy to find because they tend to congregate where food is easily obtained.

You are more than welcome to come here to my area, and I'd be glad to show you where the eagles hang out. . The landfill is just a couple of miles south of me (like, literally, just 3 miles away), and the place where the state highway department dumps the roadkills is 15 miles north of me. . Both places are rife with Bald Eagle activity during the winter months.

I don't spend dedicated time trying to photograph the eagles, but I sometimes attempt images when I happen upon them, and have gotten some decent results. . This usually happens when I am out for waterfowl or gamebird photography. . If you went specifically for eagles, and put the time into it, I am sure you could do quite well.

There are also a couple of areas within a days drive of me where Eagles can be successfully photographed. . These would include the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge System (11 hours south of me) and Lake Coeur D'Alene, 4 hours southeast of me. . The Skagit River is also known to be a real good eagle spot, and it is about 150 miles west of me. . I can get detailed, eagle-specific info for any/all of these areas, if you'd like me to.

Photographers from far away areas have come to my area before, and I enjoy guiding them around. Sometimes they stay here at my place, and I have no problem with that - in fact, it is a joy to get to know other wildlife photographers from faraway lands! . January and February, and possibly March, would be the best times. . Just let me know if you're interested.


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Jan 01, 2018 16:40 |  #10

Fordsabroad, you have received an awesome response from Tom, that would be hard to pass on if you are considering traveling such a great distance to photograph Bald Eagles.
I also agree with Tom's assessment of the Bald Eagle, though very majestic in flight or perched high in a tree in the Wild they go to where the food is easy to obtain and it is often not a glamorous scene.
There are a few Bald Eagles year around where I live but they remain very cautious and hard to get close to, a good photo can take weeks to obtain. They tend to feed on carrion and are scattered over a huge area, avoiding close human contact so making plans to photograph them is next to impossible.
Finding concentrations of Eagles on a good and easy food source will reduce the time involved and add many images to the memory card. Those places are often where small areas of open water can be found in extreme cold weather, behind locks and dams on major rivers, in Wildlife preserves with large numbers of waterfowl,or in places like Tom is describing in his answer.
Some of the more popular places here in the Midwest will not have Eagles in great numbers until the weather cooperates so it can be a hit or miss from day to day.
I've been to Haines twice and the numbers were high within walking distance of town. The birds were feeding on a Salmon run, the fish nearing the end of their life cycle are lying along the river banks everywhere and the Eagles and Brown Bear feeding on them with little to no effort. I've seen many Eagles through out Alaska but photographing them can still be difficult unless a concentration of birds can be located.


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Snydremark
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Jan 01, 2018 17:09 |  #11

In the winter time, late Nov to mid-Feb, the Pacific Northwest is a great place to come find Bald Eagles; the migration from Alaska occurs with the fish runs and the congregate in fairly large numbers on the Skagit and Nooksack Rivers a couple hours North of Seattle. If you come the Seattle direction, with a bit of a head's up, I'd be happy to lead you out to a couple of the areas and/or give you some pointers on where/when to go. There are a couple of viewing areas that tend to give access to some really great viewing and photo opportunities. Tom's probably your best bet on the East side of the Cascades.

There is also the Bald Eagle Festival in early November up in the Frazer River Valley in British Columbia; many thousands of BEs congregate up there for some spectacular viewing. Especially from one of the many tour boats that ply the rivers up there during these times. BC, in general, up around Surrey/White Rock have a huge presence of eagles, especially around this time.

Even if you come this direction later in the year (Spring/Summer/Fall), there is a relatively good sized resident population of the birds and you can find them all throughout the region most of the time, in pairs and singles.


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Fordsabroad
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Jan 01, 2018 17:40 as a reply to  @ Tom Reichner's post |  #12

Tom
Thank you for posting. I must admit I had a bit of a blinkered view of the BA imagining it to be a glamorous bird, but even if it does feed on landfill refuse I still think it looks great in flight and would love to get the opportunity to photograph them. Your invitation to show me the best locations for them is very generous and I would like to take you up on it. From a quick look at the areas Virgin Atlantic fly to it seems like Seattle is the closest international airport to you, please correct me if I am wrong. You mention the best time is Jan, Feb, or March. I am reasonably flexible are any of those months better for you?




  
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Fordsabroad
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Jan 01, 2018 17:51 as a reply to  @ Grizz1's post |  #13

Steve
Thanks for your reply, I agree that Toms offer is awesome and I intend to take him up on it if I can fit in with his availability. I have to say that the response from everyone on this thread has been fantastic, what a great community.
One question about Haines, you mention Brown Bear feeding on fish - does this make it unsafe to be on your own when looking for eagles to photograph.




  
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Fordsabroad
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Jan 01, 2018 18:03 as a reply to  @ Snydremark's post |  #14

Snydremark
Thanks for you post. I have asked Tom if I can take him up on his offer to show me where the eagles are in Omak. Looking on the map it seems that you are very close to Seattle airport which is where I would fly into to see Tom ( I think). It would be great if I could meet up with you during the same trip and get two bites of the cherry - so to speak. If is OK I will keep in contact with you and see if I can link the two visits together.




  
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Tom ­ Reichner
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Jan 01, 2018 19:16 as a reply to  @ Fordsabroad's post |  #15

.
The airport in Spokane is only 3 hours from me, while the Seattle airport is 5 hours away.

BUT ....... it may be better to fly into Seattle because Eric is close to there (I mean Snyderemark). . And there are eagles over in that part of the state that he will know about and be able to help you with. . So if you flew into Seattle you could work with the eagles over there, then drive over to my side of the state for our local inland birds.

January, February, or March are all good for me - they are actually the only 3 months of the year that are slow for me, and they happen to be the times when the eagles are around most.

If you were interested in a few-day-long side trip to the Klamath Marshes, I may be interested in going along with you, as late winter can be a good time for the waterfowl and pheasants there, which I especially like to photograph.

My recommendation would be to plan a trip for as long as you can, because sometimes it can take several days just to figure the situation out and find out what methods, locations, and techniques will work best when it comes to getting in range for nice frame-filling photos. . Or else the weather conditions may not be conducive to good Eagle photography, and you may have to wait a few days for the weather to change. . Not that it's impossible to have success in just a few days, but your odds increase dramatically the more time you can spend afield, and I'd be glad to host you for as long as you'd like to stay.

.


"Your" and "you're" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
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"Fare" and "fair" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one. The proper expression is "moot point", NOT "mute point".

  
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Where to go to photograph eagles?
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