Of Life and Death on the Kettle River

Of Life and Death on the Kettle River

Page Type Page Type: Album
Additional Information Image Type(s): Wildlife

Bald Eagle and Buck

An image I recently posted, Life & Death, showing a bald eagle feeding on a partially submerged buck carcass, generated a lot of interest in comments, private messages, and off-line conversations. I’ve decided to edit a few of the other photographs of that series and post in an album.

Disclaimer; these were shot during a snow storm, in fading afternoon light, with a small telephoto lens, thus the lack of focus and snow-streaks across the images. Still, there is a story here. As the album and lead image are entitled – Life & Death. Nature at one of its raw moments.

Eagle landing...

Situational Awareness
Eagle Landing

As mentioned in the intro, the challenging light, falling snow and camera style limited the quality of the images but there is a story in these photos. The feeling of the eagle landing on the ice flow, mid stream of the Kettle River is captured here.

Landed and surveying it’s environment the eagle is still tense. What I hadn’t noticed at this point but I’m certain this eagle is aware of, is another, larger bald eagle perched in a nearby cottonwood.

The Prize...

Making Leverage
The Prize

While lacking clear focus this image still imparts the sharpness of beak and talons as the eagle prepares to engage the carcass.

As the eagle fed it used its wings to gain leverage and pull at the flank meat of the buck. It repeated this tactic often. Even over the sound of flowing water and the whisper of heavy, falling snow I could hear the tearing sounds as the great bird fed.

Unwanted Company...

New Kid in Town
Whitetail Does Arrive

While the eagle fed a cluster of three does slowly walked up the ice covered gravel bar and into the frame of the camera. Although the eagle didn’t pay them much attention the does were very wary, watching the eagle closely. It may have been recognition of the visible antler that caused the does wariness. Soon the three of them bolted into the cover of the nearby brush leaving the scene behind.

What the initial eagle I witnessed knew, was a larger bald eagle was perched nearby watching all the action. Something spooked the does and after they darted off, flagging their whitetails in a warning of danger, the bigger eagle landed and made challenge for the territory. Of course, I fumbled the camera and didn't get a shot off during the entire wing flapping and squawking. Here the new victor is about to start the process over again.

Robo-cam - buck on shoreline, eagles on buck

Lone eagle - buck in river
Lone eagle - landing on buck

A week or so ago I posted the first six images of this photo album of bald eagles feeding off a buck in the Kettle River. I’ve since set up a remote game camera where the buck wedged into the ice. Here are some of the images from the robo-cam.

An eagle landing on and working the carcass of the dead buck in the Kettle River. While eagles often get wet fishing and scavenging, as in this case, they don’t like it and afterwards will spend hours preening themselves, drying and straightening feathers.

A lone bald eagle facing the game-cam with the dead buck in the background.

Composition at the feeding grounds...

A Temporary Truce
Two eagles in territorial dance

Another bald eagle enters the picture. Eagles will sometimes grudgingly feed side-by-side, but in this case with most of the body of the buck submerged and the added component of getting wet, co-op feeding isn’t very comfortable.

After the shoreside dance each eagle stakes out their turf, one temporarily claiming dominance over the feeding ground. The other bird will have to back off and await it’s turn.

Bald eagles nocturnal feeding

Eagle at night...
An unexpected discovery...

The robo-cam turned up something I wasn’t aware of; the nocturnal side of bald eagle feeding. I did not expect to catch a shot of an eagle after dark, thus this, and the next image, came as a total surprise.

Another night shot of an eagle on the feeding grounds at night. This has certainly been a lesson in eagle behavior for me. Hope you’ve enjoyed as well…


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