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Feb 06, 2021
I spend upwards of 20 weeks on the water each year, and that means I'm in a position to see all kinds of wildlife. Birds are my favorite — namely, eagles and ospreys.
So I decided to put together my Top 5 list of bird photos captured while working with Bassmaster. Here we go!
I was working a Bassmaster Open event on New York's Lake Oneida when I saw this eagle flying by. I shot a couple of frames, but the bird really was too far away so I went back to paying attention to the angler I was supposed to be shooting.
And then my boater said, "Look, that eagle is getting ready to grab a fish!"
I immediately swung my Nikon 300mm lens around, found the bird and just held down the shutter button as I tracked it through the swoop!
The photo at the top of this blog shows the end result — the eagle flying away with a huge bream — but this photo of the eagle with its talons out, staring intently at the unsuspecting fish, is my favorite from the series.
Just so much action here!
So this is one that I've never shared — mainly because I was a little worried about how close this eagle got to us. But I couldn't get away from it!
I was working the Bassmaster Elite Series on Florida's St. Johns River in 2019, and my boater and I were running back to the landing when we saw something splashing in the water.
We came off plane near the splashing to discover it was a bald eagle literally doing a breast stroke.
At first we thought the bird might have been tangled something or had a fish too large to pick up, but the eagle swam close enough to see there was nothing in its talons.
I kept running away from the eagle with the trolling motor (it's a federal crime to mess with the national bird), but it kept swimming at us. Finally I just put the trolling motor on high and pulled as far away from it so we could get back on plane.
I shot a series of photos, but honestly never shared them because of the concerns about the incident. I even lost track of the hi-res files, so this photo isn't even available on my gallery.
The last we saw of the eagle before we lost sight of it, the raptor was still breast stroking toward the bank. We could only surmise it had dived for a fish, gotten too wet to get out of the water and was trying to find somewhere to dry off.
Ospreys usually build nests high above the water, but I found this huge nest built on a log in a shallow area of Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga. I could see one bird in the nest, and I shot a few frames while we passed it on our way to take photos of a Bassmaster Opens competitor.
And then my boater and I spotted a second osprey circling the nest. Once our boat was far enough away, the bird began its approach — with another stick for the next clutched in its talons.
I let my camera rip, and captured the entire sequence. This is my favorite of the photos, however.
I just love how the osprey's wings are thrown forward over its nested mate, as if it was coming in for an embrace. And the stick really speaks to how much work it is to build these large nests.
This also was pretty much the first time I had such a great opportunity to shoot ospreys, which have become one of my favorite birds.
I was on the Harris Chain of Lakes in South Florida last year, and there were these raptor-like birds flying everywhere. They would swoop down to the water to grab something, and my boater and I finally realized they were snatching large snails.
We thought they were hawks, but neither of us had ever seen a hawk feeding on snails. I determined to get a shot of one to have a good photo to make an identification.
Fortunately, this bird was happy to oblige. It was perched atop a dead tree, and refused to move as we trolled closer on our way to shooting a Bassmaster angler. We literally were less than 20 feet from it when it finally decided to take off.
I was looking through my camera as it leapt into the air and spread its wings.
You can feel the intensity of those wicked red eyes.
So what is this amazingly beautiful bird? Well, turns out it's a snail kite, which is endangered (although we saw dozens of them). They are in the hawk and eagle family, which is why we mistook the kites for a hawk.
So it was the first Bassmaster event following the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown, and I was on Alabama's Lake Eufaula working with Bassmaster. And while shooting one of the anglers I kept hearing this chattering behind me.
I finally turned around to discover we had drifted fairly close to a nested osprey that was none too happy about our proximity. After turning and shooting a couple of shots, I ignored the bird and continued with my assignment.
We soon were running across the lake to finish up my on-the-water work. But I really wanted to get back to that osprey. So once I wrapped up my final gallery of the day, I told my boater to run the 10 minutes back to that cove.
I got on the trolling motor and started easing up to the nest. The osprey was really unhappy, even though we stayed at least 30 yards from the treetop. The reason probably was two-fold: These aren't the most cuddly raptors to start with, and we could hear chicks peeping in the next.
Finally, the bird took flight and started circling, calling at us the entire time.
I just waited her out, and she finally couldn't take it any longer and landed. I was hammer down on the shutter the entire time to ensure I captured a nice sequence.
Honestly, I just thought I had captured cool shots of the mother bird landing — but when I pulled up the photos on my laptop later that evening I realized there was a bonus in this photo.
Can you see it? Yep, that's right: One of the chicks is looking up at its mama!
It doesn't get a lot better than that!
My wife and I were going stir crazy during the 2020 spring Covid-19 shutdown, and we finally hooked up the boat and headed to the nearby Maurepas swamp.
Don't worry: Such a trip was in keeping with Louisiana's guidelines at the time, since it was just me and Yvette in the boat.
We were just looking to get out, but I always carry my camera gear. That paid off when we rounded a curve in Blind River and saw a bald eagle perched atop a tall cypress tree.
I just kept going, since coming off plane too close is a guarantee that the bird will spook. Once I was around the next curve, and shut down and jumped up on the trolling motor, and worked my way back to the eagle.
It was pretty patient with us, but finally had had enough: It jumped into the air, and I caught this beautiful photo of it spreading its wings and tucking its legs.
Normally I hate a bluebird sky for photos, but the contrast really works here.
To share the experience with my wife made the photo that much more special!
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