White-tailed Eagle catching fish in Norway

White-tailed EagleWhite-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) are now at least in the eastern part of Middle Europe (as East Germany or Poland) a familiar sight . Nevertheless, it is not easy to photograph an eagle on close range. The animals are not extremely shy towards people, but they show respect and thus quite a distance from people , as it should be for wildlife.

So if you want to photograph wild eagles in Europe, you have several opportunities (including one in East German) or you do it right the first time. As far as I find out, there’s no better place to go than the Norwegian fishing village Lauvsnes near Flatanger in the province of North – Trøndelag, 200 km north-west of Trondheim. Here in the middle of Norway, Ole Martin Dahle has managed to gain confidence of some White-tailed Eagles. For several years, he offers with his company Norway Nature boat trips where you can watch the White-tailed Eagles during prey capture. Ole is noticeable in his many years of experience and he offers a professional service.

After I had observed and photographed the impressive Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) at the bait on a winter feeding place already, I also wanted to take pictures the eagle of the sea. The yield is noticeable. The trip was very productive – as you can see in the gallery.

One morning at 10:00 we took the boat out on the water. Soon after we left the small port of Lauvsnes, the first gulls approached the boat. Ole feeds them with bread to attract the attention of the White-tailed Eagle. If you get out with Ole Dahle in his open aluminum boat on the fjord in front of Lauvsnes, it’s not long until the first White-tailed Eagle is flying towards the boat. The eagles seem to hear the sound of the outboard motor. That gulls are close, seem to attract particularly. Therefore, Ole Martin Dahle always takes a few slices of stale bread out to the sea to lure the gulls. Then, when the White-tailed Eagles fly in, Ole Dahle throws a dead fish – in this case a Pollock – into the water for each White-tailed Eagle.

The White-tailed Eagle can see these fishes from a very far distance, and then a small dot in the sky very quickly transforms into a giant bird of prey swooping down from a great height and grabs the fish from the water surface with incredible precision. The gulls are not really disturbed, as they scramble for the loaves of bread. Only when the White-tailed Eagle flies directly over them, they flutter disturbed in all directions.

It had taken almost a week, until we were finally able to venture out to this great photo experience. Now that the storm of the previous day was in fact only a wind, that did rock the waves in the sheltered fjord too much. However, wind is an important factor- not only from the photographic point of view. Especially wind from the right direction is a must. The other important factor is the exposure to light. Now, in the winter you do not have much choice. But after the heavy storms of the previous days the light that broke through the clouds was just amazing. Now it was all about controlling other important factors when photographing White-tailed Eagles. One is, that no gulls disguise the flying eagle, 2nd that the distance to the object (eagle), 3rd that the speed can be anticipated with all zigzags in flight and 4th that you shoot against a proper background.

This is all not so easy. But Ole Dahle is a true professional and – let the weather aside, which he cannot control – do the right thing. Legendary is Ole’s cry out: ” Fish is out – Eagle is coming ” . In this way, to photograph the White-tailed Eagle at the very moment in which he attacks the fish out of the water is a challenge, of course. With spraying water it is a real action photo. But, with the EOS 1 DX not as big a problem. You should start focusing the approaching eagle and gently press the shutter button so you have still enough memory buffer left when decisive moment has come, and the White-tailed Eagle catches – its impressive claws already widely stretched forward – the fish with much splashing forming spray and pull it out of the fjord. To see how a White-tailed Eagle approaches and then catches the fish, is an incredible experience!

This day tour lasted about three hours. During this time, more as a dozen White-tailed Eagles showed up. Above all, the adult eagles were very cooperative and started sometimes several attempts to grab the fish from the water surface. The juvenile White-tailed Eagles were still cautious  and turned to be not always quite so successful to grab the fish. They tried to compensate for this by begging emphatically the parents to share the prey. To photograph the eagle a focal lengths up to 400mm is useful. I used my Canon 400mm f4 DO, whose qualities showed again during the hand-held shootings of the flying birds. But a zoom is ideal, too. I used a 70 – 200mm as some very hungry and / or tame eagle come in different (close!) distances. With the 400 lens you may get the wingtips “cut off” . As exposure time to time I have used down to 1/3,200 sec. Then the water splashes are frozen very photogenic. In the winter the light this has been coupled with high ISO values. In addition, White-tailed Eagle Photography is photographing in high-contrast environments, as they occur often on the seas. Consequently a camera that has appropriate reserves in noise performance and dynamic range is highly recommended.

A complete success: The White-tailed Eagles were overall very cooperative and showed some very photogenic approaches to the fish. Ole invested a total of over 30 pollacks.

In order to meet the growing demand for top images of the rarer species of Palearctic Bird Lens.com has specifically made ​​trips to remote places like the coastal mountains of western Norway or tourist spots like the island of Norderney. This was done, to enhance the portfolio of excellent photos of the Birds of the Western Palearctic. The results of pictures – also of rare – Western Palearctic birds is very good. The beautiful pictures that you see in the gallery, are just a first impression of what you will find in the tab “Picture- Shop” very soon. Just give me a note, if you need a picture of a bird before the new images are online.


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