A Bald Eagle Flight|
from Flapping to Soaring
at Bald Eagle State Park, Pennsylvania
|March 19, 2005|
After seeing a bald eagle in the far distance while on Tussey Mountain, Sue and I were both very curious about seeing one closer. We were told that there was a nesting pair at Bald Eagle State Park (BESP). (According to an article by Mark Nale in the Centre Daily Times, the nesting pair are as recent as 2003 and had their first successful young in 2004.)
Yesterday, it was very quiet at BESP during the morning, although flight after flight of numerous tundra swans passed overhead. I was photographing them when a park ranger drove over and got out of his vehicle. He told us that one of the bald eagles was perched just out of our sight. I went where he directed, and sure enough, a huge bald eagle was perched on the top of a bare tree.
Between photographs, I got within 250 feet or so of him (or her) and sat down on a park bench. After forty-five minutes of my taking photos of him sitting, preening, and stretching, Sue and I decided to leave. He could be sitting all day. But as we were leaving, he took off.
At first he flew beneath the tree line but then headed toward open sky.
The first two photos aren't particularly sharp, as I was desperately trying to reach camera focus; however, they're good demonstrations of an eagle flapping. The first is a rear view.
The second shows a full body and flap.
He apparently reached a favored altitude, because he settled his wings in a sharp V (or dihedral).
His circles weren't directly over us, and I had alternate views of his stomach and back.
As he went higher in the sky, the wide V began to relax.
This one was right before soar proper.
The last photo of this sequence shows a classic eagle soar.
The first bald eagle I ever saw in the wild was a little over a week ago. I had photographed a very distant bird on Tussey Mountain and didn't think much of it until, when Sue and I were leaving the hawk watch that day, Chuck Widmann asked whether we had seen the bald eagle.
At home, I inspected the photos (enlarged to 200 percent), but I couldn't decide. Fortunately, Dan Omabalski (of the Tussey Mountain Spring Hawkwatch) offered to try to identify the raptor by photo, and I sent him the following image:
Here's his diagnosis:
Photo note: I used a Pentax *istD, with the SMC reflex 400-600mm lens at the 600mm end.
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