Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 09/13/2018

Photo taken on August 21, 2018

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Anne Elliott
© All Rights Reserved
Southern Alberta
wildlife ambassador
Alberta Birds of Prey Centre
tethered outdoors
wet feathers from hosepipe shower
© Anne Elliott 2018
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Bald Eagle
front view
bird of prey
21 August 2018

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Birds of a feather

How dare you take a photo of me looking like this?

How dare you take a photo of me looking like this? 

My thoughts are with all those living on the east coast and inland, who are facing or about to face the force of Hurricane Florence.

What a relief to wake up (very late) this morning and discover that the forecast overnight snow flurries did not arrive here, at least not in my part of the city! Around 1:00 am this morning, the temperature was -1C (windchill -6C)! I am SO not ready for this!

My actual destination on 21 August 2018 was the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre, near Lethbridge. I know some people feel that photographing birds that are not out in the wild is cheating. I kind of agree, though I think it's fine as long as someone says where it was taken. I have seen and photographed many wild Bald Eagles in their natural habitat, but I still love seeing them at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale - up close and personal, at least when zoomed. This adult had just done a flight display and had been given a hosepipe shower to cool him down. Poor guy, he seems to have lost his regal look.

"Once a common sight in much of the continent, the bald eagle was severely affected in the mid-20th century by a variety of factors, among them the thinning of egg shells attributed to use of the pesticide DDT. Bald eagles, like many birds of prey, were especially affected by DDT due to biomagnification. DDT itself was not lethal to the adult bird, but it interfered with the bird's calcium metabolism, making the bird either sterile or unable to lay healthy eggs. Female eagles laid eggs that were too brittle to withstand the weight of a brooding adult, making it nearly impossible for the eggs to hatch. It is estimated that in the early 18th century, the bald eagle population was 300,000–500,000,[118] but by the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs in the 48 contiguous states of the US. Other factors in bald eagle population reductions were a widespread loss of suitable habitat, as well as both legal and illegal shooting. DDT was completely banned in Canada in 1989, though its use had been highly restricted since the late 1970s." From Wikipedia.

On the spur of the moment the previous night, I decided that I might just try and get up early the next morning and go for a drive. The smoke from the British Columbia wildfires hasn't been hanging around the last few days, so I knew I really should make the most of a clear day.

It turned out to be such a great day, with some much-appreciated sightings. I must have spent about 8 or 9 hours driving and almost every inch of my body ached like crazy. Now, each summer, I try and do two or three longer (for me) drives, making sure I don't lose confidence to get there. I left home at 9:00 am, just a bit later than I had hoped. Arrived back home somewhere around 8:30 pm.

Weather-wise, it was around 24C, so not too hot. Unfortunately, I discovered that it was still smokey from the British Columbia wildfires, making distant hills barely visible and deleting mountains from view, but it didn't have too much effect on closer photography.

It was a good day for Hawks, seeing three on the way south and a few on the way home. I almost missed two of the hawks, as the hay bale was way out in a large field. At first, I thought there were three hawks together, but when I stopped to take a few photos, I realized that there were only two - one looked almost like two hawks close together, but then I saw that it had its wings mantled. I guess it wanted to make sure that the second hawk behind it couldn't steal any of the food from it.

A lone Common Nighthawk also helped make my day. For several years, I had longed to see one of these unusual birds and, finally last year (2017), I managed to find four of them. That time was almost two months earlier than my recent find, so I wasn't expecting to see any in late August. I would still love to find one lying on a wooden railing rather than a metal railing. Last year, I got a photo of one on a fence post, but the angle was not the greatest. These birds are 9½ inches from the tip of bill to the tip of tail.

A Horned Lark, a Vesper Sparrow, a Mourning Dove, and a Western Meadowlark gave me the chance for a photo or two and, to my delight, a hawk I spotted way in the distance did turn out to be a Ferruginous Hawk. A happy sighting, as they tend to be few and far between.

Elena M, Frans Schols have particularly liked this photo