Sunday, February 21, 2010

Golden Eagles in Winter

Winter is tough time for bird photography when you live in a cold climate. Like a lot of places in the Northern hemisphere, Sweden is covered with snow and the migrant birds are all enjoying a well deserved rest in Southern Europe or Africa. Bird photographers on the other hand spend their winters chasing the birds in the South or sorting through the tens of thousands of pictures they took during the year, hoping to find a jewel they hadn't noticed earlier, or more likely deleting pictures that just didn't make the cut.
But there are a few special opportunities during the winter that you won't get during the rest of the year; golden eagles will accept a meal that they would snub their noses at the rest of the year.
200km North of Trondheim Norway, Ole Martin Dahle one of the pioneers in Scandinavian hide photography has created an environment that allows viewing and photographing the eagles in their natural habitat, but there are no guarantees. Getting to the hides means entering about an hour before the first light, to avoid being seen by the eagles. And once inside the lights are extinguished, conversations are held at a whisper, and camera lenses stuck through the wall of the hide are not to be removed until leaving the hide. Thankfully a Primus heater keeps the temperature closer to 0C than the -15C outside, but after 10 hours of sitting still, it can still feel pretty chilly. Five days in a hide can yield from 0 to 5,000 images, and the lower the number, the colder it feels and the slower time passes.
As luck would have it the eagles were being cooperative this year and Johan (17) and I got about 2,000 photographs each. Most taken with either the Canon 1DmkIV + 500/4IS or the Canon 7D + 300/2.8IS
Taken during an earlier visit (2007) to the the same hide

And if Scandinavia is too far away, there are also some great opportunities in Alaska during the winter. For more of my eagle images see:

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