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Bald Eagles in the Snow

    It was always a dream of mine to photograph Bald Eagles in the snow.  After one super lucky morning in Sullivan County, I can safely say my dream came true.

    Many photographers will agree that snow adds such neat composition to wildlife photos.  I happen to be one of those photographers.  I always find that photos with falling snow stand out from the others, especially photos of Bald Eagles.  I could just never picture a scenario that would put me in the position to photograph it for myself.  Well, a little patience and a lot of luck made it happen.  

    Generally speaking, the majority of the Bald Eagles in our region start to show up in the fall and disperse towards the end of spring after nesting season.  There are always quite a few local birds that hang around the full length of the year, but I consider this time the best for seeing eagles in bulk.  With the whacky winter weather this year, I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t get an opportunity to shoot eagles before I headed back to school, but a cold snap only a week or so before the end of my break provided me with just that. 

    A few cold days in the forecast meant the majority of the rivers in the region would freeze up, forcing the birds to find open water for the time being. With this on my mind, I waited a couple days then and headed upstate to Rio Reservoir, one of the few places that doesn’t frequently freeze over in the winter.  The results were fantastic.  I made the trip to the reservoir twice that week, getting a great amount of eagles both times.  I estimated around thirty or so eagles on the first visit and only a few less the second time.  It was truly awesome to have so many birds right there in front of me.

Eagle Rio #1.jpg

    After my first visit early in the week, I could not stop thinking about eagles.  I knew I would have to make one more trip to fulfill my eagle fix for the season, and boy am I glad I did.  The forecast looked perfect; nice and cold with a big bright sun in the sky.  Little did I know, I would be in for a super treat that morning.  

    When I got to the reservoir it was just after sunrise.  The light hadn’t hit the water yet, but the sky was bright enough to shoot.  Luckily, the second I pulled up I had two adult eagles hunting right outside of my window.  I snapped away as the birds made repeated attempts at grabbing fish from the water.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, snow started to fall.  And when I say snow, I mean huge, fat, fluffy snowflakes.  The best part was, there was still a ton of light coming in.  It was almost as if the snow was falling from a bright blue sky!  I had to stop and think for a second if there was actually snow falling, or if I was imagining it.  

    The eagles continued to cooperate for a solid half hour or so, only perching briefly every once in a while.  Ironically, it seemed that the snow stopped falling right around when the eagles finished up.  Finally, my heart stopped beating out of my chest and I had a second to review my shots.  I could not believe it.  The birds filled the frame in the majority of the images, and the snow was frozen in mid air as if it were painted.   Absolutely a dream come true.

    I’m sure some day I’ll have another opportunity to photograph eagles in the snow again, but until that happens these pictures will be implanted in my mind.  What a truly amazing experience, and a great way to end winter break!  

Thanks again to Kevin Kreischer for the heads up on the action.  Keep shooting everyone!

Kyle