During our annual pilgrimage to welcome Trumpeter Swans that winter in the La Conner area we also come upon migrating hawks, falcons, and eagles, especially along the Skagit River watershed.

The lighting on this day was lousy, obscured by clouds and intermittent rain. Nevertheless I had Julia pull over to see if I could catch a shot of this young eagle, perched high in a tree near the highway. I usually avoid shots against open sky, which invariably turn out more like silhouettes with little color or detail, but given the chance, I’ll snap something to see what happens.

The young eagle, with scruffy head feathers still not quite white, took notice of me approaching the tree, but didn’t seem too perturbed until a series of cars sped by. Increasingly irritated, he began shifting his weight on the tree limb, facing one direction, then another, before flexing his wings (captured here). In the time it took to refocus, he launched out through the branches and glided over the road into the next series of fields.


Farther down the road, on our way home, perhaps a mile or so from that last photo, another eagle sat at the very top of a dramatic skeleton of a tree, boldly outlined against the sky, but with far fewer intervening branches and limbs. A terrific, unimpeded shot if I could just maneuver into the right position below the tree.

As I came around a bend, the eagle leaned, every so gently into the headwind, and hovered motionless, for what seemed like an eternity, wings fully outstretched, a mere inches from the branches upon which it had just been resting. And then, as I fumbled for my camera, he leaned slightly to the right to catch the wind, wheeled 180 degrees and rapidly soared a half mile off into the distance.

Knowing the local currents and how to ride them can make some work a whole lot easier.