She does everything with flair and it didn’t take me long to latch on to her morning routine.

eagle over lake mortonFirst she pops up over the horizon from the east, between 8 and 9am, and you have to squint into the sun a bit to see her as she banks into a quick fly-by over the lake before landing atop her favorite observation site.

eagle landing in tree

eagle landing in treeAfter such a majestic flashing of talons & feathers – she doesn’t just perch on a branch, she occupies an entire oak tree – she still feels the need, oddly enough, to further announce her presence with several quick high-pitched chirps. It’s as if, like some kind of crazed wild-eyed Jack Nicholson character in one of those Stephen King movies, she is taunting the seagulls and the coots and the ducks below:

“I’m not gonna hurt ya!”

eagle perched in tree :) “I’m just going to eat you alive!” :)

eagle in treeOnce in her tree, that’s when the waiting begins. She’s plotting the perfect murder and I’m trying to anticipate when & where to position myself for the perfect photo.

The lake spread out down below her is probably a mile in circumference and maybe 300 to 400 yards across. She doesn’t fish; she snatches coots off the ground, seagulls out of the air, and ring-necked ducks from the water.

A couple of photography buddies and I will stand long minutes – often half an hour or more – with our arms rigidly extended and our cameras focused & poised, waiting for her to spring into action. Yes, fatigue sets in; muscles begin to tremble, concentration lags. But the thrill of that sudden leap into space is palpable and three finely-calibrated cameras instantly rattle into action like Gatling-guns at 7-8 shots per second.

eagle leaping from treeeagle emerging from treeShe will circle the lake, sometimes doubling back and swooping low for a second look at a possible victim. Flocks of birds and ducks in her path flutter and screech and panic, moving in all directions at once like spectators doing the “wave” at a football stadium.

eagle glidingOften as not she will return empty-“handed” from her first aerial recon to perch on a nearby steeple for another 30 minutes or so, resting and sizing up the situation. eagle perched on steepleAgain the wait. (Photography is mostly about waiting.) But sooner or later she will once again reward patience with a sudden display of beauty & power.

eagle leaping from steepleeagle leaping from steepleOne of my Flickr friends described these steeple images as reminiscent of a Sergio Leone film. He’s the Italian film director who invented the so-called “Spaghetti Western,” although I am not sure I quite get the connection yet.  Framed by that cross in the background I just call her the ‘Angel of Death.’

What I am sure of, however, is the murderous intent behind that hungry eye of hers when she swoops down low & mean beneath the radar.

eagle skimming low over lakeIt’s all about the killin’, now – ‘snap, crackle & pop’ time!

eagle with wings extendedeagle hoveringeagle dragging dead muscovy duckeagle eating Muscovy duckeagle eating Muscovy duckAnd when her belly’s full – well, it’s time to fly the friendly skies again.

eagle lifting off of seawall

The good news?

:) She’ll be right back here tomorrow for another photo shoot! :)

eagle with black background