What’s right in front of you

The interesting thing about eagle watching is that you might not even notice at first that you are looking at eagles.
Despite their 6- to 8-foot wing span, they are so high up in the air and so far out above the water, that they blend in with the other birds soaring around. But then, I notice the distinctive way they flap their massive black wings.
I zoom in as far as my largest, 500 mm lens will go. In most other situations, this lens is overkill. But it’s not enough to get a crisp, clear shot of the eagles. I could use something twice as powerful to get a good photo.
When they start to soar, it’s unmistakable. They build up so much power and speed that the momentum allows them to sail through the air in a way the other birds can’t.
They glide along the surface of the water, and even at high speed, their massive talons are able to snatch a fish out of the water.
It’s extremely rare that you would accidentally get a great photo of an eagle. Even with planning, preparation and decent equipment, my photos are a bit blurry. You have to be intentional to land in the right place at the right time with the right gear.
I’ve been intently watching for eagles the past few weeks, even making special trips to some of their likely nesting spots in the area. I finally decided that I’ve already wasted so much time driving around or watching and waiting at places where they might be, that I should just drive a little farther and make the two-hour trip to a spot by the river where I know I’m sure to see them.
Once you’re there, even with seven or eight eagles nesting in a nearby tree, it still takes patience.
You watch people get out of their cars and stare at the sky for 10 or 15 minutes. They don’t see any eagles, so they drive away. Little do they know, that’s the moment an eagle is soaring overhead. At that point, they’re no longer looking up. They’re focusing straight ahead, unaware of what they’ve missed.

It also takes perseverance. Eagle watching, by its nature, is a cold weather activity. Your hands and face are freezing as you stand by the frigid river, waiting for an eagle to get hungry enough to come swooping over the water for a fish.
Why go through all of this just to see an eagle? Other people love to watch a musical or go to a concert. They get inspired by the talent and beauty of a performance.
I have the same feeling when I see an eagle soaring over the water. Seeing its incredible strength, beauty and confidence is inspiring to me. If the dolphins make you cry, you don’t stand a chance around the eagles.
During the first few months of the year, I know that the eagles are in the same spot everyday. I know what I have to do to find them.
Be intentional. Be patient. Persevere.
Even still. You would think it would be easy to spot something so amazing, but it’s not. A lot of people will look up at the sky, squinting their eyes, barely able to differentiate those black wings from the other birds, and completely miss what’s right in front of them.
#eagles #ealgewatching #eaglephotography #naturephotos #enjoyillinois

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