As I may have mentioned in the past, I am pretty fond of eagles. I especially like Bald Eagles. There is a National Wildlife Refuge about a two-hour drive from my house. It is actually two refuges that are separated by a hill. Combined they are the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges, but individually they are Lower Klamath NWR and Tule Lake NWR.
The land which includes the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges was home to paleolithic peoples for thousands of years. This area is still infused with cultural and spiritual importance for many modern people of Modoc and Klamath descent. Native Americans consider the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle to be sacred. Because eagles are the highest flying birds, they were seen to be nearer to the Creator.
Every winter, a bunch of Bald Eagles and some Golden Eagles come to these wildlife refuges. They mostly can be seen at Tule Lake, which is next to a large water source. I don’t know what the official attraction is, but I don’t really care as long as they come. Either way, I look forward to their arrival so I can go and check them out and of course, try to photograph them.
What I have found is most of the eagles are a little timid. There are several telephone poles put up by the US Fish and Wildlife so the eagles and other raptors can perch on them while looking for food. The eagles typically won’t let me get too close before they fly off – of course always away from me. Every once in a while a bird will let me get closer than normal. If one is more brave, I usually try and stay in my car and take a photo out the window or sunroof so it doesn’t fly away.
I also like to explore the refuges on a weekday when possible. The main ‘Auto Route’ I use is a road on top of a levee and it is mostly about a lane and a half wide. So the fewer people/cars on the road, the better it is for me. Plus there are not a lot of people scaring birds off as they drive by. So knowing the ‘season’ the eagles typically show up at these refuges is starting, I thought I would go and see what I could find.
My wife and I ventured to the refuges on a Monday. There were only a few cars and well spread out mostly. We did not see as many eagles as I had hoped, but it was still a little early for them – maybe. There were some eagles out on the ice but of course too far away for any decent photos. We did see a few on the poles I had mentioned and most would fly off if I got too close. But the weather was clear and not terribly cold (this area is very cold when the wind blows through in the winter).
As we were returning from our turnaround spot, we saw another photographer stopped by a pole with an eagle perched on top. I stayed back so I didn’t interfere or scare the bird away. I noticed the photographer was standing pretty close to the pole and the eagle wasn’t leaving. The photographer took his photos and then drove off. Still the bird did not fly away.
Typically I would not have the same luck. So I parked ‘near’ the pole and the eagle remained. So I got out of my car and slowly walked to the pole. The eagle was definitely watching me but not leaving. I eventually was able to get right up to the pole with the eagle just looking down at me. So I took this photo while the bird was keeping an ‘eagle eye’ on me the whole time. I’m glad he didn’t want to attack me because I was so close he would have been on top of me before I could move. Without a doubt, this was the closest I was able to get to an eagle to date. Needless to say, I was very thrilled!
I hope to return in a couple of weeks and maybe more eagles will have arrived. Just in case you were thinking this – no, I can’t get enough eagle photos.