“C’mon open your eyes!” murmured the young wildlife photographer who had just arrived at the scene. The words hit me like a bucket of ice water. The eagle had its eyes shut?
My attention had obviously been focused elsewhere that early June day.
Fifteen minutes earlier I had been trying to figure out where a black bear had disappeared after giving me some great opportunities. Standing at the lookout point at Medicine Lake, AB, I was scouring the shoreline when my concentration was suddenly interrupted. Jasper park staff pointed out the location of an eagle’s nest – a tiny speck in the distance. Great news!
All I could see through my lens was a tiny patch of white – a nest high up a tree collecting falling snow. The bear was gone so I drove up the road for a closer vantage point. I found an opening in the forest and located the nest with a barely recognizable eagle given the distance.
The snow continued to fall and I was starting to feel wet and worried about my increasingly damp gear. After a few photos that I knew would not make me particularly happy, I stopped to look around at the falling snow.
Suddenly I noticed an eagle standing high up on a much closer branch. Where did it come from? I quickly fired away while racking my brain for appropriate camera adjustments in dimly lit snow.
I was soon joined by a photographer who set up a tripod and threw a thick blanket over his lens, camera and head. Ingenious water protection! Then he mentioned the dreaded shut eyes.
I quickly zoomed in my last photo and saw nothing but eyelids. Why would an eagle shut its eyes while standing on a branch getting soaked from falling snow? Setting impractical philosophical questions aside, I focused on the eyes with my finger ready to fire.