Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eagle family, you are mine

Over the past two seasons I have enjoyed viewing the home of a pair of Bald Eagles along the St. Croix River. Their nest could only be described as majestic… resting high in a Jack Pine, composed of sturdy branches and stretching perhaps six to eight feet wide. (These dimensions are “my best guess,” from the vantage point of my kayak, floating perhaps 60 to 80 feet below.) For those of you who paddle, the sight is revealed about 15 minutes downstream from Thayer’s Landing, on the Wisconsin side of the river.

Consistent with our goal of focusing not only on pollution, but also sharing some of the beauty we’ve seen on our voyages… I have attempted to both film and photograph this breathtaking sight. The efforts have met with mixed results. As you can see in the photo to the right, I’ve captured the creatures, but in a lighting and color combination that almost camouflages the mating pair. (Note: Click on the photo to enlarge, and look closely; you’ll see two Bald Eagles on a branch about four feet above the nest.) This commitment to sharing the beauty, as well as the beast, becomes even more important now that the St. Croix has been stamped with the “endangered” label. People should not assume this gorgeous river is a lost cause… because that is absolutely not the case. The St. Croix River remains one of America’s great treasures.

A while back, Julie gave me the gift of a Nikon digital SLR, which is the camera I’ve used to capture most of my river scenes. I added a modest zoom lens, but that still didn’t have the power to climb the Jack Pine. I’ve long wanted to get my hands on a 300-milimeter lens, but the Nikon version of it runs nearly $600… a sum that has been a little out of reach. (I have to be careful about spending money on this project, as there is no revenue model for what we’re doing!) But yesterday, we stopped at a Ritz camera store that was having a going out of business sale… and I was able to get a knock-off brand for less than $150. I jumped on the deal, and added a polarizing filter which should provide more contrast between the eagles, their tree, and the clouds or sky behind.

Perhaps I’ll discover some reason that this lens is sub-standard in some way, and regret the purchase. But perhaps not! (If you’re a photography whiz and have used a Quantaray-brand lens, drop me an email and let me know of your experience!) But from our kitchen window, I can focus on individual pine cones high in the tree at the back of our lot. I think it will work.
Eagle family, this year you are mine.

To review some of the scenes we’ve enjoyed on the St. Croix River, enjoy the video below.

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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