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3 1/2 Month Baby Bald Eagle Catching Trout
Photo By Ed Bonkowski

  • Title: 3 1/2 Month Baby Bald Eagle Catching Trout
  • State/Province/Region: Arizona
  • Country: United States
  • Nearest Area: Payson
  • Nearest Town: Payson
  • GPS Longitude: 110
  • GPS Latitude:
  • Best Season: Summer
  • Description: I took this photo of this baby, 3 ½ month old (brown) Bald Eagle on Sunday 8-29-2010, at 1618 hours, at Woods Canyon Lake located about 33 miles East of Payson, Arizona. My son Kameron, girlfriend Dee, and myself, arrived at Woods Canyon Lake around 0830 hours. We fished all day and caught nothing. Around 1530 hours, a storm came in and it started to hail and rain for about twenty minutes. We all were soaked, but I kept my Nikon D-SLR D-700 (12 mp) with a Nikon 200-400mm F 4 Lens, which I had at a 400mm focal length, dry underneath my shirt. Just prior to the rain, this baby eagle landed about ninety feet away from me where I saw it land about a week earlier. As it was raining, I captured some photos of it as wet as I, ha, on a branch it chose to sit on. At this point, I had believed this was the ONLY survived baby Eagle from the newest birth of the 2nd week in May 2010. (apparently, two were in the nest but I had only seen one) This was what made this photo so special, THE FIRST OF IT’s KIND, and of course, possibly the first professional quality (the way the photo was taken in camera) of it’s kind as well. Eagles usually take about six months to fly, yet to my surprise, this baby was already flying. As the rain stopped, another baby Eagle landed right next to this one on the same branch. Imagine my surprise. The two babies from this years birth on the same branch about a foot away from one another, WOW. I took numerous photos of the two of them over the next forty minutes as my arms began to tier from the weight of the camera and lens, ha. Once I decided I took enough photos of the two of them on the branch speaking to one another, (about 150) I changed some of my settings in case they flew off. I always shoot in manual mode, so I took a few shots of the shadowed water to get an accurate meter reading in case they attempted to catch a trout (which might have been promising) after the rain fall. About one minute later, one flew off in front of me and attempted to catch a trout out of the water. Of course I obtained numerous photos of this action, but they were all from the back end. However, the Eagle did catch the trout but lost it’s grip in the process. One of the series or photos I took showed the trout slipping out of his grip as he landed on a nearby log on the ground where we were previously fishing. It should be noted, the rain caused the medium amount of people who were fishing at the lake, to leave. Where the Eagle landed on the dead tree which laid on the ground, was where numerous people, including myself, were fishing just an hour ago. I took several photos of this beautiful animal on the log which really showed how big this Eagle was. After taking about twenty more shots, I noticed the trout he attempted to catch was floating in the water. I believed he might make another attempt to retrieve it, so I moved backwards to a point where if he tried again, I just might obtain what I call my “money shot” from the front view. About one minute later, the other Eagle flew off the tree branch and circled the floating trout. I said to myself, oh no, I am going to get another rear “butt” shot. To my surprise, this Eagle landed in a nearby tree in front of me as the other was still standing on the log. I sat down on the rock I was standing on (Indian style) made a few more adjustments in camera in hopes one attempted to catch the trout. Once again it was a shadowed area, so I made my manual settings to 1/1000 sec Shutter speed, F 4.5, ISO 2500, with spot metering and spot continuous auto-focusing. For the full framed D-700, this ISO setting had no problem avoiding digital noise. To my surprise, WOW, off flew this Eagle from the log and came straight towards the floating trout. I tracked him until he put his claws out ready to go fishing. I took about fifteen photos within a few seconds, always concentrating on the spot focusing on the face of the Eagle. If you have never shot moving animals before, it does take some time to master the art. I had been shooting for the past few years and believed I had it down pretty good. The number one tip to remember, is always get the face in focus. Easier said then done, ha. Once he caught the trout, I reviewed my photographs knowing I captured several “money shots.” I put a few on my IPAD, and showed a few bystanders. They were amazed with the shots. It ended up my son was busy fishing for crayfish, and my girlfriend had walked to the truck to warm up from the average sixty degree weather. Neither observed this action, but at least my son had seen this before with the adult Eagles at this lake. I figured as long as my girlfriend kept me around, ha, she would have more opportunities to see this wonderful animal catch fish again. After contacting Arizona Game and Fish, I was told the baby Eagles are bigger than the adults because they have not lost all their feathers yet. They also told me how extremely rare this photograph was because baby Eagles don’t usually leave the nest and gain flight until roughly six months of age, and they are very clumsy when it comes to fishing. This of course is why this Eagle dropped the trout the first time when he attempted to catch it. I’m glad he made a second attempt which gave me the opportunity to get this photo. I opened up this 14 Bit RAW File in CS3, made some level and curve adjustments, and saved it in layers. GPS of Lat 34,19.9951N, Long 110,56.5733W, Alt 2306.00m. I actually preferred this shot with the baby Eagle than the adult because to obtain this photograph of a baby Eagle in Arizona catching it’s own trout, was one in a million. Respectfully, Ed Bonkowski (Photographer)
  • Gear: Nikon D-700 & a 200-400mm F4 Nikon Lens
This Photo Has Been Viewed 442 times
Keywords:  Animals
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