While I was in Bosque del Apache there were two bald eagles that I saw repeatedly, one was an adult with regal white head and tail, and the other was an immature bird with a speckled head. Bald eagles are like a lot of men, they don't start life bald, they grow into it. One morning I set up a composition of the adult eagle on roost looking over a flock of cranes. I lucked out because right then the immature bird decided to land on the same tree and I ended up with a sequence of shots of the younger eagle soaring in on locked wings and the older bird launching from the roost at the same time. Here you can see the youngster with out stretched wings and talons just coming into the tree on the left and the adult just starting to unfold it's wings to take off.

In the evenings in NM I finished reading a book on wolves. Wolves will frequently test their prey while hunting. Instead of exerting a lot of wasted energy on healthy animals wolves will study and test an animal to determine it's health. Most wolf kills of larger animals are made on animals that are sick, injured or in some way infirm. The eagles that I watched seemed to hunt in a similar way. The eagles didn't hunt when there were thousands upon thousands of snow geese on the water, they didn't dive into the large flocks of birds taking off in the morning. Instead they sat on roost for a very long time, watching the birds left behind and evaluating which prey are worth spending the energy to hunt.

One morning I saw the adult eagle on roost for a long time on a dead tree. They have incredible eye sight, good enough to see a fish a mile away. This bird was just patiently analyzing the ducks and geese left on the water. I moved around to get better light and again I lucked out. After I made a couple of images the eagle launched off (below), soared into the reeds and made a kill on a duck. There was no drawn out chase, no waste of energy, and no suffering of the prey. It was all over in a fraction of a second.

The immature eagle was soon on the scene, landing next to the adult. I was ready for the adult to fly up to a perch with the duck which would have been interesting, eagles are notorious for snatching prey out of the grasp of other birds. But instead the adult eagle ate what it wanted and left the rest for the younger bird to eat, which is exactly the way wolves feed too.

Charles St. Charles

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