I had just pulled into the driveway, and was unloading groceries, when the Bald Eagle swooped in and alighted on its usual perch high up in Jim’s old Willow tree. I put the bags down, went quietly into the house, came back out with my camera, and began shooting from the front deck. This was the first photo-op when the light was in my favor, and I didn’t want to blow the chance.

After clicking for about a minute, I stepped off the deck to get closer, and the eagle promptly flew off. Did I spook it? Probably, although it had not stayed long in the willow during its last two visits, nor had it seemed bothered by my presence on the ground. It was 6:10 pm on April 2, 2012.

The shot of the eagle departing (right) is blurry because I was intent on getting a good photo of the great bird perching. I knew it would fly off at any moment. To catch it in flight, I would need a very fast shutter, but that would have lessened my portrait image quality. So I forsook the speed, and opted for the quality.

I offer the flight photo, blurry as it is, to convey some idea of the vast wingspan of this majestic bird, some eighty inches for adults. Early one recent morning, the eagle flew directly over my house at tree-top height, just as I was raising a shade. I had but a moment’s glimpse straight up at those broad wings. Only then did I fully appreciate the great size of this iconic bird.

A few bald truths about the Bald Eagle, via my friend, Robin: Not only is it a mighty hunter, but also an habitual scavenger, eating offal, carrion and garbage when available. The male and female share duties on the nest. With eyes larger than most birds,’ and eyesight eight times better than ours, it can spot a field mouse or vole on the ground a mile away.

From my neighbor, Jim: One of the pair we saw back in January must now be on the nest. That makes sense. According to The Sibley Guide to Birds, young Bald Eagles in northern climes (such as ours) are fully fledged and independent by August. The adult male and female look alike — the female being slightly larger — so we don’t know which one is on the nest at any given time, and which we’re seeing in the air.

From my neighbor, Andrea: Squirrels and chipmunks are scarce this spring, in striking contrast to the mobs that shared our yard in recent years. I saw a few squirrels and one chippie a few weeks back, during that early warm spell, but none since — except for one fluffy gray squirrel named “Ham” (above) that showed up recently. There are several reasons, well recognized, why small mammal populations can vary from year to year. The presence of raptors could certainly have a local effect. I hope the little, furry creatures come back; I miss their joie de vivre.

Update: This post was originally published as, New Bald Eagle Photos. Sorry for any confusion.

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From my house, I can’t see the setting sun — it’s hidden by high ground behind me, to the west — but I do catch its reflection off the windows on the opposite shore of the pond. At times, the effects can be dramatic.

Early one evening, I happened to glance out and see a bright, glittery secondary reflection of the sun’s rays off the water. Where the primary reflection was coming from, I couldn’t tell. Following my rule of “shoot first and ask questions later,” I grabbed the camera and clicked away. In another five minutes, the fabulous glitter had faded into oblivion, as the low sun finally fell from grace.

As I was putting the camera away, I happened to look up. For a split second, I caught a blinding flash off a bank of second-story windows on the apartment building directly opposite. Suddenly, I knew the source.

As to shooting technique, I exposed for the brightest part of the glitter, knowing that the brightness range of the scene was beyond the camera’s ability to capture, and that the water would “drop out,” that is, appear dark — which proved true until the last frame, when the glitter paled and the water at last came into view.

The date was March 18, 2012. The times are noted below the photos.

See related posts: Glitter II, Glitter III, Glitter IV*.

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A mood of expectancy pervades this scene, evokiing the fanciful imaginings of a child’s fairly tale.

Shot on March 19, 2012, at 6:26 am, it is finally published, but still awaits the light of day.

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I woke early. I was hoping to finish an earlier post, delayed already for a week. In the quiet hour before dawn, I thought, I’ll get it done. Little did I count on this dramatic event.

As I typed, the sky began to brighten. A massive, dark cloud appeared out of the gloom, and tugged at my sleeve. “Something big is coming,” it whispered in my ear. Try as I might, I couldn’t ignore it.

Suddenly, the sun broke behind the eastern ridge, while the sky above it caught fire, turning bright gold, the color of hot coals. Soon, the sun would top the ridge at its highest point, exactly due east.

As I watched, the colors deepened. The moment had come! I grabbed my camera, lowered the upper sash, and shot eight photos in one minute. By the last frame, the sky had begun to lighten, and the colors fade. I had caught this empyrean spectacle at its peak. Time was 6:43 am on March 30, 2012.

Update: This post was originally published under the title, Fiery Dawn. Sorry for any confusion.

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They had been around for several weeks. I’d twice caught sight of them at first light, dark silhouettes against the pewter-gray pond, their white patterns twinkling in the semi-darkness. Each time, I tried to inch closer to the window for a better look, but each time they spotted me and flew off. Wood Ducks are the pond’s most elusive waterfowl.

This time, they came at a more civilized hour, and I was ready for them. Luckily, I had on dark clothes. I kept back from the windows, shooting through the glass. The photos needed a little touch-up, afterwards, but the strategy paid off.

As usual, they came by water. After several minutes, the female suddenly flew up into the tree, with the male close behind. They perched just two or three feet above my eye level.

The Wood Ducks always spend a few minutes in the maple, when they visit. Like the Bald Eagle which always stops in the willow, they obviously like to look around, out of curiosity perhaps, or to check for danger, or just to get their bearings. People are surprised to learn there’s a duck that spends time in trees. Sharp claws make it possible.

Wood Ducks are about three-quarters the length of an adult Mallard. The male is the flashy one, but the female has lovely, subtle colors that aren’t fully revealed in these photos because of poor light.

The next morning, about 7:00 am, I saw them farther out in the pond, in the mating ritual. They’ll nest here, in a tree cavity by the water’s edge. We’ll keep a lookout for the young’uns.

The photos are displayed in order of occurrence, as usual. Note the time stamp under each. The date of this sequence was March 25, 2012.

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I had just sat down for lunch when a din of honking arose from the geese in the pond. I looked up to see the Bald Eagle fly in from the north, as usual, and alight high up in Jim’s old willow tree. The tree is between Jim’s property and ours, so I had a clear line of sight from my windows. Jim told me later he also saw the bird. It was an overcast day.

At first, the great bird’s attention was drawn to something on the tree limb, perhaps edible insects.

I grabbed my camera and scooted out the back door, furtively rounding the house. As soon as I had the eagle in my sights, I started shooting while walking. When I reached the tree, the eagle flew off in an easterly direction, once again to the accompaniment of loud honking by the geese.

I try to avoid spooking wildlife; I’m usually more discreet. However, my over-eagerness did give me a distant photo-op of the eagle in flight. The date was March 22, 2012.

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