Bald Eagles Nesting

Bald Eagle 7568 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle taking off, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Since I was a child, I have always been drawn to bald eagles for their beauty and grace as they soar through the sky.  When I was told that there was a pair nesting nearby in Sarasota, I was eager to head out to photograph them one morning with Leslie and another photographer friend, Roxana.

Bald Eagle 7551 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle on its nest, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

When we arrived, one eagle was on the nest while the other was hiding behind some branches.  There was not much activity for awhile, but we waited patiently and the eagle on the nest began calling out with a high-pitch screech.

Bald Eagle 7446 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle calling, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

This seemed to wake up both of the birds and soon one of them flew off the branch, grabbing needles from the pine tree in its talons as it began its quest for nest building materials.

Bald Eagle 7492 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle taking off, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

I didn’t know much about the nesting season in Florida since I was only familiar with the life cycle in Arizona.  I have since learned that Florida has one of the densest populations of bald eagles in the lower 48 states with approximately 1500 nesting pairs.  They typically begin nest building in the fall and lay 1-3 eggs in December to early January.  Roxana had been watching this pair now over several days and was beginning to become familiar with their habits.

Bald Eagle 7490 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle taking off, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

The eagle we saw leave the tree quickly flew by the top of another tree and grabbed ahold of one of the top dead-looking branches.  It continued flying and snapped off the branch, carrying the whole thing with it as it flew back towards the nest.

Bald Eagle 7507 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle flying with nesting material, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Unfortunately, during one of its turns in the sky, it lost the branch. It didn’t retrieve it and instead headed back to the nest without any vegetation.

Bald Eagle 7527 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle taking off, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

We were hoping for some more nest building activity similar to what Roxana had seen in previous mornings; however, our entertainment was short-lived.  After this one flight of collecting nesting material, one of the eagles flew off and did not return.  Shortly thereafter, the second flew away.

Bald Eagle 7567 September 29, 2018

Image: Bald Eagle taking off, Sarasota, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

We guessed that the eagles left their nest in search of food, as their nests are typically within 2 miles of water to allow them to hunt for fish and waterfowl.  We waited around for another 20 minutes before leaving since the raptors had not returned.

For my camera settings, I chose the typical f/6.3 for aperture since the birds were far away.  I wanted a fast shutter speed of 1/1600-1/2000 for the birds in flight and possibly could have gone even faster when they took off.  My ISO was adjusted to 400 to 800 to ensure that I exposed correctly for the white head without blowing out the highlights.  It was a fun quick shoot and I hope to go back for more!

For more information on Florida’s bald eagle population, please click: here

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

12 thoughts on “Bald Eagles Nesting”

  1. Amy, I so look forward to your postings. They are always incredible. I was pleasantly surprised seeing Bald Eagles today, which became my personal favorite when I began working for USPS long, long ago. Thank you always for brightening my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful captures!! I SO love the shot of the one sitting in the nest…so “stately” looking and posing for you! Great fight shots too…love the one of the talons almost “pushing off”. SO glad they started their nest-building early so you could see them!

    Liked by 1 person

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