An osprey goes through the motions looking for a meal.
Being in the right place, at the right time, with the right subject, with the wind blowing in your face. Three out of four is okay, but sometimes you need all four things to get the shot you want. Still, good practice on taking pictures of an eagle diving for its meal.
I finally had the chance to visit Huntley Meadows after a few weeks of not having the time to do so. It is a familiar place, but every day brings a different experience. Today, it was a river otter swimming in the first pond. And then, a surprise.
It was early in the morning, on an overcast January day. Haven’t seen this one before.
The osprey was cheerfully eating its meal when out of the blue (sky), a bald eagle tried to lay claim to the half eaten fish. Instead of working for its own food, the eagle would rather have a meal that someone else worked for. And so a duel begins – the larger eagle chasing the osprey as it moves to the sky.
The osprey dropped the morsel of fish and the eagle’s chase proved futile. All the energy the birds spent fighting over the half eaten fish went for naught. The eagle flew back to a tree still hungry; the osprey, spent, landed on a tree trunk exhausted, readying itself for the next catch.
For an osprey!
Twenty four hours later, I am back at Huntley Meadows. And the place looked different, not only because the algae moved but because of the fundamental truth that lies beneath our existence. Every moment is different, change is constant, so embrace the challenges that this brings.
I think I am going to have to take pictures of other birds, whether at Huntley or elsewhere. My heron and egret quota are full. Now, if only I was better at spotting birds.
(Here’s the thing. If you want to say that you’ve reached some sort of quota, then you are not living life to the fullest. Familiarity does not need to lead to contempt. It should lead to further exposition and deeper knowledge.)
I wanted to go to the same place, on two consecutive days, at almost the same times, to see what kind of pictures are there for the taking. So off I went to Huntley Meadows last Saturday and Sunday. Yes, more bird pictures.
Years ago, in the third season of Star Trek the Next Generation, an episode with this strange title aired. I had to look up the synopsis of the actual episode since I haven’t seen it in years. Unlike my favorite Star Trek episode of all time, “The Inner Light”, I had only retained the most basic of remembrances of this particular episode. And why bring this up now?
A few days ago, on an early Sunday morning, I took another early morning walk at Huntley Meadows. There were quite a few photographers out there at half past six in the morning. What were people taking pictures of? Birds, birds, birds. More specifically, egrets and herons. I had the feeling that there would be quite a few people at the wildlife area.
The day before, I also took a morning walk at Huntley. For a Saturday morning, there were more than a dozen photographers at the start of the day. Normally, you see five or six photographers in the early morning but last Saturday was different. Someone had taken a picture of a fox walking on a log to take a drink of water on the wetlands. It probably happens quite a bit all over the world. In suburban Virginia, fifteen miles from Washington, you don’t see that very often. And someone posted the pictures in the Huntley Meadows Facebook page. Needless to say, there were a lot of people looking for the fox. Alas, we saw nothing that looked like a fox. Saw quite a few birds, but the fox was AWOL.
Sunday came and I went back to Huntley to look for kingfishers. The water is getting shallower as the rains have not come and the heat of the summer is taking its toll on the wetlands. I heard the kingfisher’s call, but I could not find it. There were, however, a lot of egrets and herons in the wetlands. Like everyone else, I took a lot of pictures of a fairly large group of birds in the water.
About an hour and a half after I got to Huntley, I was looking at a group of photographers when one of them exclaimed “it got a fish!” Instinctively, I walked over by the group of photographers and saw heron catching its morning meal (probably one of many). A good picture taking opportunity, but the photographers were so engaged in photographing the bird that for five or so minutes, all we could look at is this heron with a fish.
The heron, with it’s catch.
The fish was quite active and the heron wasn’t quite ready to eat its meal. It lifted it up, as if to see if the fish was still actively moving. It was.
The heron turned around and started to brush the fish over the log.
After a minute or so of this, the fish had “calmed” down and the heron was a happy fish eater.
This was the first time I actually watched the whole sequence of “catch and eat.” It was “fascinating.”
Somehow, an eagle with a fish, being chased by another eagle, makes dull colors really interesting. Or not. These two juvenile bald eagles seem unaware of the bland coloration around them. There are (a lot of) fish in the water, meals to eat. Action. Lots of it. In bursts. Sometimes, you can wait for hours and see nothing but the bland brown color of rocks in a river. Then suddenly, an eagle dives for a fish, sometimes almost in front of you. Conowingo, in late November and December certainly is a place not lacking in excitement. If you wait.
If you want to see Bald Eagles in the East Coast of the United States in late fall or early winter, Conowingo Dam is one of the best places to visit in November and December. Don’t come on weekends – you probably won’t be able to find a good parking spot unless you get there early. On the weekdays, however, the crowds are still plentiful and there is parking to be had. Just be careful when you back out of your parking space. As I was backing out of my spot, a Ford F150 owned by a crew doing work on the dam barreled through the road and took my bumper off. Now, how a truck going at the supposed speed limit does that (especially since I didn’t see him when I looked behind before driving backwards) does that kind of damage is unexplainable (actually, the driver claimed I backed into him – I said that must be why there is a puncture on the bumper from impact and how the bumper detached itself from the car).
Still, it was a good day to visit. As with everything, unexpected things happen. One tries to have a balance in life so that the unexpected does not totally thwart one’s plans. Things happen. Deal with it. But gently, if you can.