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And Then There Was The White-Tailed Eagle

Always during my hikes, I hoped to see an eagle, and today I had luck and it happened. We have a few different eagles and birds of prey in Schleswig-Holstein, and I saw osprey, white-tailed eagles, the red kite, the western marsh harrier and the common buzzard in the past, but at a time when I was not into photography. Now that I like to take photos, I never had the luck to see any of these birds, but talking about eagles, I know I would have a good chance to see osprey and white-tailed eagles in Travemünde or during a hike through the Schellbruch. Since I am in Reinfeld, I remember someone told me that I could find both birds of prey here too, and I think I have read it on a sign too and they mentioned that both birds would sometimes hunt fishes and smaller birds in the pond, but still I thought the chance would be very small. I was wrong, I practiced birds in flight photography with gulls and ducks today, but then I noticed another bird in the air, the white-tailed eagle…

White-tailed eagle - sea eagle - seeadler - photo 1

I must admit that the photos that I can show you are of low quality, but they are still a trophy for me, because I never took a photo of an eagle before. The photo above was the closest I could get with my lens and with cropping later on, but the photo was one of the last shots and I had real luck that the eagle came that close to me, because with the other photos you will see that the eagle was far away at first. Of course, I did crop all images a little bit, because my Tamron lens was set to 300mm and it was definitely not enough. But let me show you another one first, one of the last shot images where the bird was close enough for a shot with a bit of details…

White-tailed eagle - sea eagle - seeadler - photo 2

It was one of the convincing moments again where I thought that I will definitely need a fast and long prime lens and a teleconverter at some point. No matter how much time it will take, but the more photos I take, the more convinced I get to really save for a prime lens. Anyway, it doesn’t mean that I dislike my Tamron 70-300mm, it’s definitely a nice lens to get into birding, and you can do some things with the lens unless you are pixel peeper, because cropping will of course decrease the quality of your images. But as said, I didn’t only have luck to see the eagle, I also had luck that the eagle came closer, because at first the eagle was quite far away as you can see in the following photo gallery…

When I saw the small point in the air, I was not interested at first, but a second later I noticed that it must be an eagle and my full attention was there. When I saw white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) in the past, they rather had a grey neck or they were completely brown, and when I saw my photos at home, I thought the bird also looked like the American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). However, I found out that the older white-tailed eagles look very similar, the younger ones not, and that the eagles like other birds can have different plumage. But then I have read that there were two cases of bald eagles gone astray, two sightings of this bird in Germany, so, you never know, unless you are a bird expert. Anyway, it’s probably very unlikely, and since older white-tailed eagles look so similar, it’s probably our domestic eagle.

By the way, the white-tailed eagle is also called white-tailed sea-eagle in English, or just sea-eagle. In Germany we call them Seeadler, and that is basically also the literal translation of sea-eagle. It’s funny, I didn’t really expect to see one here where I am right now, I would have expected to find them somewhere else as mentioned earlier. But now that I saw one here, I hope that I get another chance on my next hike, even if it will be difficult to take a photo if the bird is too far away, but I’d like to have another chance!

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8 Comments »

  1. Well done to capture a photo of an eagle even if it was not the quality you would like. I think they would be one of the harder types of bird to photograph. We have eagles here too and I have seen them but usually from a distance.

    • Yeah, you don’t see eagles every day, I think that is the problem, and the one you mentioned, the distance, unless they are sea-eagles and hunting fish, or other eagles that hunt mice… but then you need even more luck to see one hunting for food. I got some tips and I have read about the local eagles… as soon as I am back in my hometown, I will hike through the Schellbruch, or drive to Travemünde, because there is the coast and it’s said that the chance is higher to see white-tailed eagles or osprey there. My grandparents said they do often see Osprey over the rivers in Ratzeburg, that would be another option, because I could stay for a weekend on their campground when I am not too busy anymore. 🙂 I hope that I can save enough money for a prime lens, I think I could purchase one next year, that would be fun, meanwhile I look at Ebay, maybe I can find a deal.

      I am glad you like the photo, I was standing on a footbridge, and I had luck that the eagle came closer at the end, probably searched the water for fishes or ducks to attack, but it didn’t happen… anyway, the eagle was then close enough for an ok shot 🙂

  2. It does look very much like an American Eagle. They are no doubt closely related. Our American Eagle is really a fish eagle (like the osprey), but of course much bigger than an osprey — but much smaller than the Golden Eagle. The biggest eagle I’ve ever seen, bigger than the Golden Eagle (which I saw up in the Golan), is the California Condor which IS an eagle, albeit misnamed. They are absolutely gigantic!

    Getting pictures of birds is so much a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right camera and lens. You’ve gotten some great pictures. I have seen many many birds and gotten remarkably few pictures!

  3. The Golden Eagle looks very beautiful. I never heard about the California Condor and typed it into Google and will give the Wiki page a read, but searching Google images, I saw one image with a human and a California Condor, and yep, that bird looks gigantic!

    You are right, I noticed bird photography is mostly about being in the right place at the right time. I think my long hikes do help me, and since I have my cheap Tamron lens, I noticed that our federal state is actually not too bad for bird photography. I never expected that we would have so much beautiful birds, I just knew those city birds, but now I learned we do definitely have a lot more birds. While my Tamron 70-300mm is not the greatest lens, it allowed me to try out bird photography, but I assume I will have to uprade at some point to increase my chances, but it’ll take some time. Anyway, the 300mm on a APS-C camera are effective 450mm, and everyone wrote it would not be a birding lens, but with a little bit of luck, time and patience, I was able to take a lot of bird photos with the lens. Improving my sneak-technique helped too (laugh), so that I could even take some funny photos of little birds. I am glad you liked the photos of the eagle 🙂

    • That’s sad but I know what you mean. Happened to me a couple of times now… I go out without camera because I am up for something else, and then I find birds I never taken pictures off… when I go out with my camera, I can wait and wait and don’t find any special birds 😀 The most hilarious joke was when I saw in Eagle sitting at the river almost in the city, where you wouldn’t expect an eagle to be (laugh)… but it was too far away to take a picture with a phone. Another day I have seen a wolf on a field, too far away for the phone camera, but close enough for a 300mm lens… that was last year. The wolf photo would have been very important, because just over the last years they came back to Germany, and authorities and newspapers do look for photos and evidence of wolfes in our federal state Schleswig Holstein. Would have made me a couple of Euros I guess. Wolfes are definitely back in the east of Germany, but there are not much reports from the north near Lübeck, but almost everyone in the family saw one over the last two years, which means they are back and you could find them in a forest or on a field around Lübeck. I bet the local newspaper would have paid me a couple of hundred dollars (in Euro of course) for the wolf photo, but of course it happens when you don’t have your camera with you 😀

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