Wednesday, July 02, 2008
A Passing Sea Eagle
Over the last several weeks I've been sent a number of shots of White-bellied Sea Eagles, and I've had a few close encounters myself. But the weather has been indifferent to awful (but we badly needed the rain), and any chance that I've had to photograph them has been minimal. All that changed recently on a drive round Bellerive Bluff. There was a strong, gusty, South westerly wind blowing, with occasional passing squalls, and in those conditions, I often try my hand at photographing gulls in flight. These conditions often mean that the larger gulls, Pacific and Kelp, will "hang" in flight, just off the bluff, giving me a chance of reasonable results. I had taken several shots, when a passing shower made me take cover back in my car. The shower appeared to have passed so I got out, this time without camera. I scanned the sky for a break in the clouds, satisfied that a break was imminent, and casually looked up as I wandered back to my vehicle to get my camera. Aha! High above me was a solitary adult White-bellied Sea Eagle, soaring majestically, almost stationary as it rode the wind. Magnificent, but far too high for any worthwhile shots, so I contented myself with watching it through my binos. I momentarily took my eyes off it, and when I looked back the eagle was in a near vertical dive, wings folded back, and traveling at considerable speed. I panicked at this point, unsure of whether to grab the camera or just watch, and I tried to do both! I was most interested to record its possible victim, which I fondly assumed was a fish. Wrong! It was in fact a 1st year Kelp Gull flying past some hundred metres away. It saw, or perhaps heard, the eagle's approach, and jinked at the right moment (right if you're the gull!), and the eagle flew on towards Bellerive Beach and out of my sight. Cursing that I'd not even got a record shot of the, albeit, distant event, I consoled myself that I had at least witnessed the exciting episode. Standing there, still mulling over what might have been, I had failed to notice that, like the gulls I had been photographing earlier, the Sea Eagle was now just in front of me, drifting past into wind. Snapping back into reality, I just had time to take a few shots, one shown here. It then hung in the updraught at the edge of the bluff, not more than 30 metres away, but tail on to me, before sliding away along the coast. I really must stay more alert!