Ma Berry

This past Sunday, Joyce and I made the trip up to Rome, Georgia to visit the Bald Eagle nest at Berry College.  We were invited to join the North Georgia Photography Club and their special guest, David Akoubian for the morning.  I must say, it ‘s not my favorite thing to do getting up early enough on Sunday morning to arrive in Rome before dawn but it was worth the effort.

David had informed the group that the eagles are usually most active right around sunrise as they go out hunting.  There are now two chicks in the nest to feed and they are getting pretty big these days so, they are HUNGRY!  The eagles do not get named since they are wild creatures.  People refer to the adults as Ma and Pa Berry and we saw both of them out hunting.  The male was first to return to the nest with a squirrel followed not to long after by Ma Berry with a duck.

NGPC-BerryCollege-0789

After the chicks were fed and the adults ate what they wanted, Ma Berry decided she needed some water so, she flew to the field that is between the nest and the main entrance of Berry College where there is a little spot that collects water.  We followed the experienced eagle addicts that had joined the group for a rare opportunity to catch a few eagle ground shots.  This image is my favorite from that time.

Berry College Bald Eagle Nest viewing area
Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM
500mm @ f/14 –  1/250 sec – ISO 320

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Get my good side

We went out to the Chattahoochee Nature Center last weekend in hopes of spotting the wild eagles but it was a dreary day and no luck there.  I guess the resident eagles took pity on me as one of them came right up to the perch at the near edge of the enclosure to pose for head shots.

The challenge with trying to get shots like this are shooting through the enclosure so it doesn’t block your subject and trying to get a background that does not look like you are at a zoo.  In this case, I have applied a gaussian blur to the background and I think it has worked pretty well.

Chattahoochee Nature Center
Roswell, Georgia

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
300mm @ f16 –  1/13 sec – ISO 200

Right in my own backyard

So, this bird is majestic and absolutely amazing.  I have to say though, I am a bit disappointed.  This is one of the pair of eagles in captivity at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.  It does not make her any less beautiful but, I was hoping to see her wild cousins that frequent the area.

We had heard that the wild eagles were in the area and seen other photographers images so, Joyce and I made the trip over yesterday.  Well, it was a very short trip as the Nature Center is only 15 minutes or so from my house.  Anyway, it was a beautiful day with the temperature around 72° so how could it be bad?

We met up with a fellow photographer who comes to the center all the time.  He had seen one of the wild eagles just a short time before we met up with him.  That one had gone off to hunt along the river and unfortunately, didn’t return while we were there.  At least now I know where to look for them so, maybe we’ll get lucky next time!

Nikon D7100
Sirui P-204S Monopod
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
300mm @ f13 –  1/20 sec – ISO 200

Berry College Eagle

Finally, I got over to Rome, Georgia at the right time to see the bald eagle nest at Berry College!  It didn’t look like this was going to happen at all.  When I first arrived on the campus, there were two photographers standing around and looking up at the nest.  They weren’t pointing camera, just looking.  I asked one of them if there was any sign of the birds and he said no, he had been waiting since sunrise (it was after 11:00 when I got there) and had not seen any eagles.

I decided to drive out and see what things looked like at the Old Mill (actually, that was pretty nice – more on that later) and then came back to the nesting site.  Apparently, the one eagle (I think this is the male) had just returned to the nest with a stick to continue the construction work.  After a bit of housekeeping, he popped up out of the nest and perched on a branch in the pine tree to allow us to take portraits.  He then flew to another tree across the parking lot from the nest and stayed there for quite a while.

It was quite a treat to see this magnificent bird in the wild.  I discovered two things on this outing – First, I always wish for more focal length when shooting distant subjects.  Secondly, I discovered that it is VERY hard to follow a moving subject with a 500mm lens zoomed all the way out.  It’s also nearly impossible to use auto-focus when that subject is whizzing by.  Probably need more practice!

Berry College
Rome, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
[Pro]Master Professional Gimbal Head GH-10 #5111
Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM
500mm @ f/11 –  1/1000 sec – ISO 800