Diane Drogowski: My interest in photography started many years ago when I was in high school. I had other interests as well, one being a love of the outdoors and the other a strong interest in law enforcement. Well, photography took a back seat as I combined my other two interests and accepted a job as a Conservation Officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. No regrets, absolutely loved my job! I have since retired, five years ago. Oh the stories I could share!
I never gave up my interest in photography, though. I always had my camera with me on patrol, using it not only for evidence photos, but also to take photos of wildlife when opportunities arose. Then the digital era came. My old 35mm camera became obsolete so I only carried my Department issued digital point and shoot camera. I knew technology in digital photography would get better and better. A couple of years before I could retire, I starting telling (or should I say warning) my husband “hang on because when I retire, I am going to buy a very nice digital SLR camera and pursue my passion of photography”. That is what I have done!
I do senior portraits and a lot of sports photography, but the subject I enjoy photographing the most is wildlife! For the last three years during the coldest part of winter I spend lots of days trying to capture photos of Bald Eagles.
My most memorable day was in my pop-up blind. It was during a major snowstorm. The Eagles were already there when I arrived. Of course I scared them all away as I hiked out, but I didn’t let that deter me. I hustled to my spot, dropped my camera gear in a pile and popped my blind up over my gear as quickly as I could. I glanced out and saw that the Eagles were already back! Wow!
There was one big problem; the wind was so fierce that I couldn’t let go of my blind or it would blow away. I sat there on my stool, holding onto my blind watching these beautiful majestic birds in total awe, trying to figure out how I was ever going to be able to take photos!
Soon it dawned on me, with one hand hanging onto my blind, I pulled some rope out of my bag and tied a piece to a loop at the back of the blind wrapping the other end around my boot. Then I did the same to a loop in the front and to my other boot.
Finally my hands were free to pull out my camera! Next I realized that because my feet were an anchor for my blind that I couldn’t move my legs together or move to the window to put my lens out. I could still see the Eagles soaring, caught in the air stream within 50 feet of my blind! What an unforgettable sight!!
I finally resigned myself to shooting from where I was. I just unzipped one window wide open. The Eagles were not concerned at all about my presence. It was totally amazing! I got many shots that day; I can’t say they are my favorite photos because of all of the blowing snow but it was definitely a day I will never forget!
There are many days I sit for hours and see nothing. Then God blesses me with another unbelievable day!
I am sharing are a few of my photos from those days. I thought I would also share a few Eagle facts.
- Eagles mate for life
- Eagles don’t reach maturity until they are 4-5 years old.
- Immature Bald Eagles are dark brown, mottled with white, and have dark
colored beaks and eyes (See the first three photos).
- Immature Eagles don’t acquire their distinctive white head, tail, orange beak and
light colored eyes until they reach maturity
- At full maturity their goal is to find a mate
- Courting normally begins in early April
- They can lay 1-3 eggs (usually 2)
- Incubation period is 34-35 days
- Incubation duty by both parents, normally 98% by female
- Eaglets break out of egg with egg tooth (bump on top of beak),
can take them 12-48 hours to accomplish this
- Hatch in order layed
- Male provides most of the food after Eaglets hatch
- It is not uncommon for a larger/older Eaglet to kill the smaller one
(parents will not interfere)
- Eaglets grow rapidly – average 1 pound every 4-5 days
- At 6 weeks they are nearly as large as their parents
- At 8 weeks they have their greatest appetites –both parents provide food
- Eaglets are on their own by the end of summer
- Eagles live to be 30-35 years in the wild
- Males are generally 9 pounds, females 12-13 pounds
- Wing span up to 7 feet
- An adult Eagle can pick up and carry approximately 4 pounds of weight
- Initial nest size approximately 5 feet diameter
- Use same nest year after year
- Over the years this nest can get to be 9 feet in diameter and weigh 2 tons
- Nesting territory is 1-2 square miles (keep other Eagles out)