Summer is like that. Sometimes it’s just too hot and too dry. . .even for an eagle!
The water levels are still very low at the National Wildlife Refuge, but it’s breezy and cool out in the marsh, much more so than on the hot and dusty Wildlife Drive that encircles it.
So, it was no surprise to find an eagle resting on a muskrat lodge. Even at a distance of about 350′, I could see it was an eagle, and an adult one at that.
The afternoon sun was positioned behind the bird and was rather harsh, even late in the afternoon. None of this bodes well for the newbie photographer, but I wasn’t scared. Besides, there was some good news: The sun’s angle provided some great reflections in the water; the bad news was it also provided some not-so-great reflections off the eagle’s very white head. So, I had to settle for rim light and fuzzy features as long as the sun provided backlight.
I’ve got to get a polarizing filter for this lens!!
At first I thought this eagle was drying its wings. Cormorants often strike this pose when drying out — they have to, they are almost always in the water, but eagles not so much. I thought it was unusual enough to stop and watch.
It rested on the muskrat lodge for maybe 20 minutes, sometimes posing with wings held out and sometimes not.
Ooops, got an itch!
And then it was up, up and away. . .
. . .to the Eagle Tree, a mostly dead tree on the Seneca Canal (east) side of Wildlife Drive that provides a safe roost for herons and egrets but mostly for eagles. . .
. . .it’s where this eagle resumed its unusual posture. But now it was no longer 350′ or so out on the marsh, it was maybe 50′ away.
And now the sunlight was working with me, not against me 🙂 Yay!
I could see that the eagle wasn’t drying its wings, or drying anything else for that matter.
Its beak was open, exposing its tongue,
I never knew eagles had tongues!
It was panting.
Eagles don’t sweat, so they hold out their wings and pant to cool off.
(They also lose some body heat through their unfeathered legs.)
Poor thing was hot! Too hot to fish. . .
It was so hot that all it could do was rest in the eagle tree and pant.
In fact, this eagle was just as hot as the gaggle of photographers that now surrounded me, struggling to get the best spot to capture a digital glimpse of it, resting, panting, and otherwise cooling off high above us.
But I was the lucky one! I had been the first to notice the eagle sitting on the muskrat house, and I knew about the eagle tree nearby. I suspected that if this particular eagle didn’t end up in the tree, another one would likely do so.
So, I already occupied the best eagle-viewing spot on the Drive, long before anyone else noticed a brown bird-like silhouette off in the distance and pulled over to investigate.
Plus, I had my EM5iii with me, with its remarkable five-axis in-body image stabilization, and the Panasonic Lumix 100-300 O.I.S. lens — no need for a tripod at only 50′!
All that my east-side eagle tree photos needed was a little cropping. A good day!
Some flight views. . .
It’s not the only eagle to take advantage of muskrat lodges:
Even juvies know all about the eagle tree:
The outstanding reflections were not limited to wildlife: