February 17 - March 14, 2009 Squaw Creek NWR

*Eagle Action - Viewer Discretion Advised* Page 1

I'd never seen Eagle's doing their thing before this morning. I guess I wasn't exactly prepared for how hard it would be to watch or listen to. I wasn't shooting it at first because it was just sad. I then figured I'm here, it's going to happen either way anyway. The first one I saw getting killed was the hardest and I don't know that I shot any of that. It wasn't far away and I could clearly hear it crying as it tried to fend off several eagles. The vast majority of the geese had gone out for breakfast, so there was no noise to drown anything out. Just this duck crying as it jumped up at approaching eagles. I quickly got pissed, just because I wondered where his buddies were to help him out. The eagles will take their time too, wound the thing and then let it sit there and suffer for a while as it weakens. I then realized, well if his buddies stuck around, they'd never get to eat. I thought, well this would be better than a slow death of starvation in the cold. In the end though, I'm not terribly sure what they went through would be better than a slow death of starvation. Anyway here is some of that action. I think this whole page is from that one morning with the next page from a different day.

These are almost all 100% crops or near that. When it is cold and direct sun is out there's just a lot of heat wave action out there above the ice. It distorts the crap out of the image, making it blurry, sometimes extremely. The same happens if you run the heat in your car and try to shoot out your open window. That heat mixes with the cold outside and gives you those same distorting waves(just like you see on far off blacktop in the middle of summer).

This morning was around 10-15F with winds rather constant at 30mph or more. It was brutal out. I'd try and get out of the car to shoot, to avoid the heat waves thing from the car, but after a while I couldn't stop shaking I was so cold. The wind was moving me around too as I knelt down. Your eyes will water up too as you try and look into the eyepiece facing into that wind. I tried to open my car door and lean on it as it blocked some of the wind, but then the wind would just rock it and it would rock me.

Nature is not kind.

This was far enough out you couldn't see things so clearly. This is a 400mm shot with a 12 megapixel camera and about a 100% crop of those pixels. I know I took many from my car, which made the waves of distortion that much worse, because I simply could not stand out in the wind any longer. It didn't help that you had to shoot right into the wind either. 10-15F with 30mph winds that do not let up out in the open like that, does a number to ones fingers, in a hurry.

I thought they mostly just killed the dying or weak. It really didn't seem to matter this morning. If it stuck around as the rest went out to eat it was fair game. This is 3 images taken in a row then merged onto one frame. Goose(I think) took off, trying to fly away, but the eagle just chased it down and took it back out of the air.

Pretty certain this was the same goose taking off again, with 4 eagles after it now.

I cheered it on, but did no good. Adult eagle catches it and takes it down again.

Now in the water as they land around it.

I'd never seen the eagles like this, maybe because usually they do it further out where you can't get to. I think it was mostly because of how cold it was all night, and windy. They needed to eat and weren't messing around. That strong wind also surely helped them with their lifting ability. The wind would blow them around as they tried to just stand on the ice.

Eagle in the bottom right has probably killed that goose by now and in the background you can see another eagle that just dropped a goose it had.

It was damn windy, he's simply trying to not blow away.

Wind is getting the better of him yet again.

Pretty unreal how fast the eagles will take over once the main flock leaves for breakfast. I'm not sure how well the eagles would be able to lift like that without the really strong winds they had going for them. With that wind, this seemed rather effortless for them. I don't remember them even needing to flap to do that. Just hold the wings out, grab ahold and go up.

March 4th now on a few of these. They seemed to really favor these Coots. The Coots however seem to be really good at ducking under the water and shooting up somewhere else. But I again got the impression that when the eagle decides it wants one, it can just go into a bigger group and grab any of them.

These are again extreme crops around 100%.

It's nuts how big that makes the eagle look, which they are I guess.

March 5th on this one. This got harder to watch again, but like the others it was way out there and not easy to see well. This one and another seemed to be drowning the snow geese that couldn't fly or didn't fly away with the rest. He was sitting there on it like that for quite a bit and I don't think it was him trying to grab anything. All you could see in the water out there, other than a few mallards, were several left behind snow geese all isolated. They had no chance besides maybe being a very lucky exception as the eagles had enough others.

Same day somewhere else on the lake. This was at the south end and this one just got a Coot.

It is amazing though, you won't see any eagles anywhere in the trees or on the lake, but the second an eagle gets something they come out of the woodwork to try and take it from him. The one that got it took off and dropped it back in the water. It's in the water on the right between those two.

It did not take long for an adult to come in and snatch it up.

The adult bald eagle that just snatched it up wouldn't keep it for long either.

Now another younger eagle has it.

Not a lot left. I think that adult eagle on the left here is the one I have pics of in the other eagle section with this, the close up ones in the tree as he eats then dives off.

March 11th now. About 30 eagles had two small piles of Coots surrounded. I didn't get the feeling the Coots could leave if they wanted. An eagle would decide it wanted one and go in and get one. Then the other eagles would chase it down. There were always a couple eagles that stayed and seemed to be keeping the Coots there. It has to be horrible for the Coots, as this was an entire day deal. I saw them snatch out at least 4 of them while I was there watching.

Fighting over it and dropping it.

Nothing caught it, but they'd all soon be diving after it. It usually looked a lot like a soccer game as fast as it would switch between birds. Rather comical at times. Many times they'd catch things in flight.

An eagle on the left in the air has one. They'd just come in from the right side, hover over slowly, then dip down and 75% of the time they'd have one.

If we're reborn I hope I'm not a Coot.

It appears the eagles are highly wasteful. There are dead geese all over the place in there. The ones that have something eaten from them often not much is gone. Many have nothing eaten from them. I just never understood that part. They have these dead ones all over the place, yet they'll chase each other forever and a day trying to get part of something. As easy as they can take those Coots when they are grouped up like that, I also don't get why they put the effort they do into chasing another eagle down.

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