Searching for a great photo of a bald eagle to paint from has been an endeavor I’ve undertaken for what seems like years. This summer at Kentucky Lake and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, I’ve seen more Bald Eagles almost close enough for photos than ever. By pure accident, I was able to catch a photo of an immature Bald Eagle when he came right down by the boat to snatch a fish out of the water a few feet away. It happened so fast I almost didn’t get my camera up in time. It was a thrilling moment.
This photo was so accidental I don’t know if I will ever get the chance again to come so close. I am hoping to make a painting out of this guy. It seems to be fated. So far, I have only begun to explore the painting and how to begin the approach. Will I choose to make him his actual age or will I take him up to full adult status with the characteristic white head. The age estimate of this one is around 2 years. The white head fills in about age 5. Or so I’ve been told. When this one came down to get his fish, I wasn’t sure it was an eagle without the white head visible. I was able to get confirmation from the American Birding Association‘s Facebook page, “What’s this bird?” One of the ABA’s knowledgeable associates quickly identified and explained the markings. The ABA is an invaluable reference for the many birds I’m learning to identify.
By the end of the summer, I was able to get a few more photos of Bald Eagles, though none quite so good, to me, as The Fisherman on Kentucky Lake. He will stay as my favorite example of that special unplanned moment when my camera was fortunately close by. I must paint him soon! I can see some Bald Eagle paintings coming on! There is just something so fascinating about them, and not only because they are our national symbol. Maybe it is the fierce determination on their faces?
Reelfoot Lake State Park and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge in West Tennessee, provide care for injured Bald Eagles. The goal is to treat and return them to the wild. Not all can make it back to the wild. This one is forced to stay in captivity. His face shows no less of the fierce determination as his cousins in the wild. Bald Eagles truly are a majestic bird even in captivity. I didn’t talk to the rangers so don’t know if this one is on the mend and will be returned to the wild or not. From the look on his face, he seems to think he will be.
In The St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida, this bald eagle nest is occupied throughout the winter months. I watched the pair for a photo op when I was spending time near there. They never came close enough for me to get a great shot but still I watched. There is that fascination again! It drove me to check regularly to see if they were flying close enough for a good photo but they never did. That year a hurricane directly hit St. Marks. I worried about the nest. It was out on the tip of a marsh where exposure to the hurricane was a very real danger. I couldn’t wait for a return to trip to see if they were still there and if the nest was unharmed. Finally, I was able to make it back. And yes, nest and birds survived the hurricane. They must know a lot more than humans about how to build a nest to survive a hurricane. Few human nests survived the same hurricane. Maybe we can learn from the eagles. I must paint them soon!
PS: Monday Morning Birds is moving to Tuesdays!