Get right up close to 12 colorful new bird galleries, featuring photos from My Shot members and classic art from the NG archives. How does a bald eagle population change over time at a winter migratory stopover and which factors influence its abundance?
Guided Approach: Students will generate questions about bald eagle numbers influenced by weather and food availability. Open-ended Approach: Students will generate their own hypotheses of interest from the larger bald eagle data set.
Student Data Guided Approach: Contains a subset of the data for students to use in the guided approach.
Student Data Open-ended Approach: contains all data for students to reference and use at will. Student Research Proposal and Glossary: contains the elements of the scientific process and experimental design to guide students in the activity. Faculty Experiments for Guided Approach: Table 1 that includes the scientific process and experimental design for the three experiments described in the guided approach. Faculty Data Analysis for Guided Approach: contains graphed data and data analysis for the three guided approach questions. Faculty Sample Experiments for Open-ended Approach: Table 2 that includes the scientific process and experimental design for five possible student experiments.
Student Graph Rubric for Guided Approach: contains a rubric to aid in grading student created graphs and answers to discussion questions. Student Short Checklist for Guided Approach: contains an example of an assessment tool for a short report. Student Full Checklist for Open-ended Approach: contains an example of an assessment tool for a full research report. This data set was developed for Biology 323, Conservation Biology, at Gonzaga University and was improved by input from students in that course. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) is a project of the Education and Human Resources Committee of the Ecological Society of America.
This page was originally published on 1 February 2011 and was last revised 1 February 2011.
This season of eagle photography in Alaska, my 11th straight year, was full of amazing experiences and opportunities I will never be able to forget. The weather really has been a big issue world wide over the last couple years and in Alaska things have really been affected by climate change with a lot less cold days and a lot more unusually warm days but the amazing thing is that the eagles could care less.
Thanks to the constantly changing weather in this part of the world the five days of the tour will usually offer shooting conditions from clouds, to rain, to sun and everything is between, sometimes all in one day! The first day of the eagle tour can be really hard for new people as there can be so many eagles coming from all directions that concentrating on getting a good image can be difficult. Two participants were able to bring the new Nikon D5 on the tour and I was able to try them out a couple of times. There are not that many places out for wildlife photographers that offer almost unlimited opportunities that are not degrading over time with almost no pressure from crowds. Tour size is limited to 4 participants so there will always be plenty of time for personal assistance and instruction from the leader.Each and every day I will strive to put you in the right place to make the very best images possible.
The warmer weather we have had over the last couple of years did create one benefit this year. The sheer numbers of eagles at our locations this year was just great, the opportunities have been getting better and better over the last few years.
This year with the addition of my new Bama boot socks my arctic sport Muck boots kept me warm and toasty even on the coldest mornings.
The higher than normal temps over the last couple of years has a huge influence on the eagles behavior. The weather this year was not the best due to the lack of snow and warm temps but each and every group was able to experience amazing dream like eagle shooting sessions that made everyone more than happy so my rating for this year is an A+. If you would like to join us next year my 2016 dates are available but act quickly so you are not disappointed. Within minutes of arriving at our shooting location at first light this eagle flew directly at us and banked across our bow. Wildlife photography is challenging but sometimes everything falls into place and makes things really really easy. Over the last 9 years of leading eagle tours in Alaska the photo opportunities have been getting better and better but this year the opportunities were unprecedented. For most of the time this year light levels were high enough to allow ISO levels in the hundreds (not in the thousands) with plenty of shutter speed. As a display of aggression some eagles when landing near a group of others with bank hard and call when landing. Eagles usually prefer to land on something above ground level like this driftwood log on the beach for example so preparation and patience always pay off with images like this. Eagles really seem to enjoy radical maneuvers in flight, like this upside down flip right before a dive. One afternoon my group was treated to an air-show when a sub-adult eagle blasted barrel roll after barrel roll miles above the tree line. With stiff offshore winds, perfect late afternoon light and 50 eagles in the air your available memory card space seems to evaporate into the cold air. A stiff breeze will keep eagles up in the air hovering then when they want to dive they stick out their talons, flare their wings and tail out slamming on the air-brakes before they pitch forward into a dive. Soft light and lots of eagle roosting, this is exactly what you want to see when you arrive at a photography location first thing in the morning.
2015 dates have been confirmed so if you would like to join me next year contact me as soon as possible to avoid being disappointed since the 2013 and 2014 tours were sold-out. Over this past week my first tour group and I have been super lucky to see everything Alaska has to offer in terms of photographic possibilities and some of the most challenging shooting conditions I have seen up here.
Over the next few days after the blizzard we had great opportunities with clouds, snow, wind and even beautiful sunny conditions on the last day of the tour. When an individual eagle lands near a group they sometimes land with wings straight up, beating only the tops or tips of their wings while calling.
Even though I have shot this for what seems like the millionth time, I still love the fully extended wings forward eagle bank. More images and details coming soon in the second part of this report including 2015 tour dates! Every year we hope for at least a couple of days of snow during a tour because for eagle photography a day with snow is about as good as it gets.
Each week this year had at least one or two days of snow with a couple of days with decent snow accumulation.
This uncropped bank image was made with a zoom at 95mm on a full frame camera, but there is more to the story than the super short focal length.
With literally dozens and dozens of eagles to choose from you need to concentrate on something specific to get results. As soon as one eagle lands others will almost always follow as they instinctively gather in groups this time of the year. Even after all my time photographing eagles this year I am already looking to get back up there next year.
Last year’s tour series was so unbelievably good I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work and a little luck to match the opportunities this year. Over the course of the tour series each week had distinct weather patterns and photography opportunities. This first image was made at one of my favorite and most reliable spots we visit during my tours.
On a dropping tide newly uncovered gravelbars are really attractive to the eagles as they like to gather in group. A 21 foot hight tide peak coinciding with the best light of the day means awesome opportunities. This year we had an unusually high number of sub adult and juvenile eagles, some years there are almost no young birds. This behavior is always interesting and will never get old since it is not very common and when it does happen its usually off in the distance but sometimes it will happen close enough to shoot. On the way to a shoot I saw these clouds in the distance before any color started to show and immediately I rushed to this area with the low tide mud flats.
The first ten days of my eagle tour series are now history and with just one week to go Alaska has delivered again. Wish I could share more right now but I need to prepare for a shoot this afternoon so lots of images coming soon and a full wrap up report including 2014 tour dates and prices. For many decades, bald eagles were hunted for sport and for the "protection" of fishing grounds. Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S. This approach is encouraged for upper division ecology students in conservation biology, wildlife management, or population ecology classes.
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Coeur d'Alene Field Office, archived data. My tour participants really made it all possible so a big thanks to everyone that joined me in Alaska this year. Actually it seems like there are more eagles and this year it seemed like there were more sub-adult eagles than ever.
This year the only weather phenomenon we missed was a snow storm, otherwise the weather couldn’t have been better.
Even after all these years I still find it amusing when first timers on my tour cant hardly believe their eyes when the eagles just show up when we arrive, going from 2 to 25 in a few minutes and up to 50-75 or even more within an hour of arriving. I think the auto AF fine tuning and touch screen were useful, the additional speed and high ISO capabilities at least for eagles were also nice but nothing groundbreaking over the D4S as far as I am concerned. I feel lucky that I have been able to visit a place like this to share it with other photographers thanks to my tour participants for making it possible. Its a privilege to have such wonderful tour participants that made all the 4 tours a big success, a special thanks to all of this years participants.
My first group had unusually low temperatures hitting -5 F all the way down to -15 with lots of wind and only one short period of snow.
The stress of the warm weather caused a bumper crop of mature spruce cones. They really add a nice touch of color in an otherwise monochromatic spruce background. In all four of my groups we had magical shoots that made all the expense, time and effort to get to Alaska worth it.
This is a protected tidal pool with distant spruce trees and snow covered mountain tops in the background and offshore winds in the afternoon.
My favorite images made on the tour this year were from 90mm to about 350mm on a full frame camera.
Over 5 days we have seen everything from a full blizzard to perfect sunny conditions and almost everything in between. They will often throw themselves into an upside down position at the top of a climb, as you can see above, to redirect straight down into a steep dive. On the last shooting session of the tour the participants had enough of shooting and literally called it quits completely worn out by all the continuous action over the last couple of days. This threat pose is always great to see but can be very hard to catch unless you are looking out specifically for this pose. The low light makes it possible to use low ISO levels and the dark background in the image above makes details in the eagle really stand out.
Last year we had too days of heavy snow but this also gave us a few feet of snow on the ground to work with. Right after I made this image while looking through the viewfinder I felt something slam into the right side of my head. I have been making annual trips to this location to lead photography groups since 2005 and I have never experienced anything like this before! As I pulled back a little dazed I could see a brown blur out of my left eye in my peripheral vision right before the eagle smacked into our boat! I like to concentrate on certain behavior and when presented with a choice I always target certain individual eagles. When our craft turns up at the photography locations the eagles will sometimes turn up and land close by to check out the action.
There is not much to add to an image like this, eagles of all ages in great soft light, wind at your back with gorgeous mountains in the background. With special permits we have access to private areas that other groups cannot visit legally and our special landing craft boats make easy landings really easy and very safe.
Looking back now I think that overall the opportunities this year even surpassed last year, it was truly awesome tour series. On sunny late afternoons the sunlight hits a wall reflecting on the smooth water below bathing everything in golden light. I really like the younger sub adult’s plumage like the ones in the image above although sometimes they have very worn plumage so you have to be careful which birds you target.
We pulled off the road just as the colors started to intensify so we had time to experiment with framing. Lots of eagles, pleasant weather, beautiful habitats and five other keen photographers in your group, what more could you ask for? After a few days you will learn to recognize and predict the eagles actions, like the inversion above, and things really start to get easy. The flexibility of the zoom with the speed of a prime lens are just too good to be true making it one of the best low light wildlife lenses out there. If you have ever dreamed about shooting eagles in a natural environment think about joining my tour, you wont regret it. My second goal is to make sure you return home safe and sound with images that are better than expected.
Some of the areas that are normally very productive were unusually quiet this year but since there are so many spots available we worked alternate locations that offered amazing opportunities. The winds were what bird photographer dreams are made of, SE wind in the morning and SW wind in the afternoon, which are ideal. For only the second time since 2005 I had to cancel a shoot in Alaska due to a blizzard that slammed into the area with 45 mph winds, 10 foot waves and snow and ice coming down sideways just as we were gearing up to leave for a shooting session.
Sometimes if you are lucky to be close enough you can hear the wind rush off their wings in a low roar as they shoot by.
The group all had huge smiles on their tired faces as we headed back on the last session of the tour.
After years and years photographing eagles I have only been able to capture this behavior a half a dozen times or so I was really happy to see this opportunity for my group. As soon as we reached our photography site, you wouldn’t believe how amazing it looked, every tree limb and log was covered in snow and the soft light was amazing. Thankfully the eagle wasn’t even slightly slowed down and seemed to be in a-okay shape even after hitting our boat.
I target individuals with clean while plumage and good undamaged feathers on my target birds when I have a choice.
Sometimes I have to stop and think about how lucky I am to be able to do this each year with good friends and colleagues.
The areas we photograph on this tour every year are the very best in Alaska and have proven to be very reliable year after year. I always keep my group sizes limited to 5 photographers so everyone has plenty of space and one on one help when needed. Trying to share my experiences and images from 23 days of shooting into a few paragraphs is a bit challenging so I will have to split this report into a few parts so I can share as much as possible. Nature has delivered everything we have come to reply on, changing weather, sometimes in a single day, tons of eagle photography opportunities and much more. Immature birds lack this easily identifiable characteristic and can be confused with the golden eagle.
I strive to put you in the right place to make the very best images possible and your image making will always be a priority over my own. We had superb action in gorgeous light with perfect winds for 12 straight days, unbelievable! Once I found an interesting snow covered perch to stake out, all the group had to do was wait for an eagle to land and fire away. This has not changed at all over the years, we still have superb numbers of eagles, sometimes we can even have too many targets at one time.
This moment was so nice it was easy to forget the temps are in the 20s without the windchill factor.
I have been all over Alaska photographing eagles and I have never been able to find a place that can rival our locations.
So if you have ever dreamed of photographing bald eagles in Alaska think about joining me next year for the trip of a lifetime. Please let me know right away if you have any questions or would like register for next year.
The next tour had lots of variable weather, we had clouds, rain, snow, wind, fog, then sunshine all in the a single day. In a split second everything can come together and an eagle will swoop down directly at our boat and strike the water a few feet away and fly right at us in the reflected golden light.
For a couple of minutes there were great opportunities, like the image above, then a moment after this image there were 8 eagles crowded on the perch. I have never seen any eagles hurt doing the this as the spiraling seems to slow the fall to a safe speed. We were lucky to still have some snow and ice from the night before the tide washed it away.
Exploring the population dynamics of wintering bald eagles through long-term dataTeaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol.
For this kind of image the eagle should face the camera with talons out, wings up and falling snow really adds a nice touch as in the image above. In the case of Nikon a 300f2.8 can focus to seven and a half feet, a Sigma 50-500 can focus down to 2 feet. You wont regret it, this year I had at least 5 returning participants, for two people 2013 year was their third year in a row. The biggest problem in this situation is the sheer number of eagles make it difficult to concentrate on any one type of action. Since DDT use was heavily restricted in 1972, eagle numbers have rebounded significantly and have been aided by reintroduction programs. If they possess access to open water, they will remain at that nesting site year-round, while those that do not have access to water leave that area in the winter and migrate south or to the coast.Food HabitsFish is the main diet of the bald eagle including herring, flounder, pollock and salmon.
Sunny days sound great and they can be but in Alaska north winds mean clear skies but really challenging photographic opportunities but thankfully the weather changes almost constantly. To give you an idea of the distance, this lightly cropped image was made at 240mm on a full frame camera.
Bald eagles may also prey on waterfowl, small mammals, sea urchins, clams, crabs and carrion.
Fish and Wildlife Service has upgraded the birds from endangered to least concern.Habitat and DietThough their numbers have grown in much of their range, bald eagles remain most abundant in Alaska and Canada.
Like other birds of prey, bald eagles regurgitate a small pellet containing undigested bones and hair after they eat.LifecycleBald eagles often use the same nest each year. These powerful birds of prey use their talons to fish, but they get many of their meals by scavenging carrion or stealing the kills of other animals. Nest trees are usually close to water, provide a clear view of the surrounding area, and provide sparse cover above the nest.
A pair constructs an enormous stick nest—one of the bird-world's biggest—high above the ground and tends to a pair of eggs each year. Immature eagles are dark, and until they are about five years old, they lack the distinctive white markings that make their parents so easy to identify. When the young hatch, sibling rivalry is common and the weaker, usually younger chick, does not survive. Florida birds have been spotted in Michigan, and California eagles have traveled all the way to Alaska.
Bald eagles in Alaska seem to be reproductively healthy, but contaminants have been recorded in Alaskan fish populations and in bald eagles.
This act made it illegal to kill or possess an eagle, alive or dead, or to posses any part of an eagle, including the feathers.Bald eagles were endangered or eliminated throughout most of the Lower 48 states as a result of habitat destruction, illegal shooting, pesticides and poisoning.
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