Have you ever witnessed a bald eagle, as it soars across a deep azure Alaskan sky, snatch a fish directly out of the talons of an osprey in mid-air?
If you were to join Backcountry Journeys Bald Eagles of Alaska Tour, you might see just that. Rather than doing their own fishing, bald eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. Avian pirates, of sorts!
Each day on this tour, we’ll be positioned just right for a scene as such, on the deck of our privately chartered vessel, floating through the icy-frigid waters of Kachemak Bay; snow-capped mountains framing the horizon off in the distance.
With a population estimated at 30,000, or about half of the total population, Alaska boasts more bald eagles than any other location on the continent. The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey that is only found in North America. For the most part, they call home forests that are near rivers, lakes, reservoirs, marshes and coasts. Bald Eagles are often found along Alaska’s coast and offshore islands where the highest nesting densities occur in southern Alaska in locales such as Homer, and the coastal waters of Kachemak Bay. Precisely where we’ll be on our 2019 trip, which runs March 25-29. This time coincides with peak eagle numbers in the area. Bald eagles are typically solitary creatures, however, when there is abundant food they may gather with others in groups of up to 400. We’ll travel just a bit later in spring so as to allow for more daylight hours which means more time to photograph these large congregations of birds.
With a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet, and body weights between 8 and 14 lbs, these fellas (and ladies) are able to achieve 30 mph in flight, becoming even faster when diving after prey when they achieve upwards of 100 mph.
Interesting fact about male versus female in the eagle world: In fact, female bald eagles are about 25 to 33 percent larger than their male counterparts. They are roughly three inches taller as well as a broader wingspan. More often than not, according to research from Popular Science, the amazing images of bald eagles that we see (precisely like the ones we’re all going to make on this trip) are actually of female eagles.
With all that size and speed we better come prepared with lenses fast enough to capture crisply all that velocity and movement!
Prime lenses like a 500mm or 600mm will provide some seriously good quality, however, these birds move and move quickly. And so does the boat we’re on. Because of this we might recommend a good telephoto zoom lens such as a 70-200mm or a mix of both.
Fish are the main diet of the bald eagle, who also dine upon waterfowl, small mammals, sea urchins, clams, crabs, and carrion. In fact, past trips have provided us with amazing photographic opportunities for much more than just eagles. Yes, this trip is dedicated towards photographing eagles however there can be additional opportunities to round out the adventure nicely. Who knows, you may capture your best image on some other crazy critter such as sea otter, harbor seal, a puffin or even a moose or a bear.
Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying aviation at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald where for 3+ years he wrote and photographed news articles on a variety of topics such as community events, travel and even mixed martial arts for the sports department. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wild lands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart like nothing else could. This realization led to relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, and he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.
Don’t Miss the Next Session of BCJ “Live”
Backyard Bird Photography: Simple Techniques for Wildlife Close to Home
with Russell Graves
Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 at 11 am (Mountain)