bald eagle against dark

Bald eagles, a trip to Haines, AK.



My main goal in this trip was to photograph interaction between bald eagles. Despite the abundance of salmon and relative reluctance of birds for confrontation, we did observe some spectacular scenes with multiple birds engaged in aerial chase and battles. Action usually happened later in the afternoon. Given that the effective light was gone by 3:30PM we had only a 30min window to attempt photographing the interaction. One particular interesting behavior is when an eagle buzzes another bird on the ground, either to try to bully them and claim their fish or just to play. In a split second the incoming bird extends his talons while the standing bird jumps up in the air, extending his talons in an inverted position and tries to fend off the attacker. This symmetrical position is quite impressive. Of course it is a challenge to capture this behavior as many things have to be in the right place at the same time. Most of the time the vantage point allows for eye contact from one bird only with the other facing away from the camera or in a non-ideal position. With a wingspan of more than 6ft, it is often very difficult to get both birds in sharp focus at the same time unless action happens in plane parallel to the back of the camera. The other challenge is the sheer speed of action. In fact, I observed this behavior in my finder a few times but it happened so fast that the camera’s 10fps shooting speed was not fast enough to capture the right moment. I ended up with the frames before and after the peak-of-action, which were dramatically different to what I had hoped for. After many unsuccessful trials for the reasons mentioned, I had a moment of joy and relief when I saw this frame on the cemera’s LCD. I am happy to present it to you.

Eagle boxing

Boxing, bald eagle style. Incoming bald eagle buzzes the standing bird which has turned upside down trying to use his talons to defend against the aggressor. 1D4 600mm f/4 1/1600sec ISO 1600 handheld. Click here to see an HD file. ©2012 Arash Hazeghi, all rights reserved.

Sometimes the eagles engaged in battles even without a salmon at stake, although this was less frequent

I am going to get you

Bald eagles, the hind bird is chasing the front bird. 1D4 600mm f/4.5 ISO 800 1/2000sec handheld. ©2012 Arash Hazeghi, all rights reserved.

Eagle chase

Bald eagles chasing. The eagle on the right is morphing into full adult plumage with some dark patches remaining in the head/tail areas. 1D4 600mm f/4 1/1600sec ISO 2000 handheld. ©2012 Arash Hazeghi, all rights reserved.

During the last day of the shoot we witnessed a dramatic aerial chase between two eagles. The bird who had the fish flew with it as fast as he could while the chasing bird was able to reach him from behind and grab a chunk of his salmon in flight. I am including three frames from the action sequence, the 2nd frame was my personal favorite of the trip. I hope you enjoy these images.

Aerial battle I

Bald eagle aerial battle. The holder doesn’t want to lose his salmon. 1D4 600mm f/4 1/1250sec ISO 1600 handheld. ©2012 Arash Hazeghi, all rights reserved.

Combat in the skies.

Combat in the skies, Bald eagles are battling over salmon in mid air at high speed. The holder tries to fly as fast as they can to save the fish, the aggressor has to fly faster snatching the fish from behind and then dive below the holder. 1D4 600mm f/4 1/1250sec ISO 1600 handheld. Click here to see an HD file. ©2012 Arash Hazeghi, all rights reserved.

Combat in the skies II

Bald eagles aerial battle, neither eagle can let go of salmon. 1D4 600mm f/4 1/1250sec ISO 1600 handheld. ©2012 Arash Hazeghi, all rights reserved.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing the photos, if you would like to see more please visit the bald eagle gallery on my website. Please check back for more news, stories, tips and equipment reviews.

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