“Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.” I don’t think British economist, E. F. Schumacher was really discussing the kind of eagles my wife and I saw perched in trees along the river, but his quote perfectly describes a picture Linda took of three eagles
Winter is on its way and eagles have been moving west along the South Thompson River towards the warmer feeding grounds on the pacific coast.
My commute to Kamloops from my home in Pritchard is on the Trans Canada highway that runs parallel with that wide river and this year it has been fun to see how many eagles we can count before reaching Kamloops.
After counting 35 eagles on our way to town the previous week Linda mentioned that she’d like to try taking some pictures. So after waiting until the sun was high to the south last Wednesday we made the drive to see what we could find.
The traffic on the Trans Canada is constant and fast moving with lots of big, transport trucks. But with some preparation it isn’t that big of a deal to quickly pull a safe distance off the road to photograph eagles in the tall, dead trees along the river in which the eagles like to perch to watch for fish. In one tree alone we counted fourteen eagles, some mature but mostly adolescent.
My job is to drive and my wife’s is to photograph eagles. I pull over, stop and turn off the car to reduce vibration caused by the engine, and Linda rolls the window down, plops a beanbag on the frame and positions her heavy 150-500mm Sigma lens out the window and starts shooting.
It would have been nicer if we had a way to get closer. However, even if one got out of the car, struggled through a deep ditch, crossed the railroad tracks and climbed over farmers’ wire fences, I am sure the skittish eagles would just fly off anyway.
Linda had a pretty easy time of photographing those eagles from the car anyway. She had selected Shutter Priority on her camera with a shutter speed of 1/650th of a second and 650 ISO. Yes, there were some shots that didn’t turn out, the car would shake when big trucks passed by and every so often clouds would block the sun. But she got some great keepers.
As exciting as it is for those of us here in the BC Interior to see 40 or 50 eagles in the trees along the river, in a few days lots of those big birds will be making their way down the river to join many, many more eagles congregating on the Harrison River to feast on spawning salmon.
The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival began 20 years ago and this year it will begin on November 28th at Harrison, British Columbia. This is an annual event with the migration of thousands of Bald Eagles returning to the Harrison Mills area to take advantage of the spawning salmon.
For photographers the place to be is where the Harrison River widens with shallow gravel bars for the returning salmon to spawn. Organizers say it is possible to see up to 10,000 Bald Eagles feasting on salmon.