Bald Eagle – A Welcome And Unusual Visitor To My Yard

It isn’t often that I don’t even have to leave my yard to photograph an eagle.


bald eagle 9574b ron dudley1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, not baited, set up or called in

Yesterday morning this adult Bald Eagle spent some time in an elm tree in my yard on the east side of my house. I live in the suburbs of Salt Lake City so a Bald Eagle in my neighborhood gets my attention. I believe it was attracted to my area because there’s a fishing pond within about a quarter-mile of my home and the Jordan River is nearby. I live at the top of a hill and this tree is a huge one, the largest and tallest in the area, so it provides a relatively safe haven for the eagle far above the ground. Here we see less than half of the tree and my house is just out of frame at bottom.

I zoomed back for this shot to provide some perspective.


bald eagle 9569 ron dudley

1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 400mm, not baited, set up or called in

I couldn’t get any decent images of the bird because it was buried in branches, the angle was steep and my 500mm lens is in the shop but I thought its presence was worthy of reporting here. An adult Bald Eagle has made a brief appearance in my tree several times in recent years – always in January. I wish I knew for sure if it’s the same eagle or not but of course I don’t – if it is, this bird is a little late.

I reported  the first eagle appearance in the tree on January 28, 2011 and another one on January 9, 2014 (this one had some ominous undertones). We watched for another eagle appearance all last month but when February arrived and we hadn’t seen one we had all but given up so it was a wonderful surprise to find this bird yesterday morning.

I figured that today would be a good day to report this sighting which features only mediocre images because many folks are going to be thinking about football instead of birds and image quality anyway. If you’ll be watching the Super Bowl I hope you enjoy the festivities and that your team wins. As for me, I haven’t watched a Super Bowl in almost 20 years – there’s just too much hoopla and too little sport for my tastes.

I’ll spend much of the day culling images and daydreaming about the return of my 500mm lens.





More Lens Woes

Feathered Photography is under stress at the moment.

Some readers may recall that about a year ago I had to send my 500mm lens in to Canon because of sharpness issues. A malfunctioning primary lens is never a pleasant experience and mine was compounded by the fact that Canon had my lens for a very long time.  Their eventual diagnosis was that it had been “shock damaged” which never made any sense to me because I baby that lens. It had never been dropped or even bumped hard. There was no physical damage to the lens, only electrical adjustments had to be made, and when it was finally returned to me it worked perfectly again so I thought my lens woes were behind me.

Then several weeks ago I began to notice sharpness issues again and they perfectly mimicked the problem I’d had the year before. So, long story short, Canon now has my lens, my 7D Mark II (my primary camera) and my teleconverter (extender) for diagnosis and repair. In the meantime I’ve been wracking my brain in an effort to figure out what’s causing the problem and I may have solved the mystery.



lens caddy 2132 ron dudley

Much of my shooting is done from my pickup, largely because birds are more easily approached from a vehicle than they are on foot. I’ve built what I call a “lens caddy” that mounts on top of my folded-down center seat console. The lens with camera attached mounts securely in the caddy but can be lifted out in an instant when I need it. But this is a hard mount with very little “give” on bumpy roads and I’m now thinking that the jarring it receives is likely causing my focusing issues as those sensitive electronic parts slowly go out of adjustment.

The extreme bumpiness of many of the dirt roads I drive on for photography cannot be overstated. Farmington during winter and the Centennial Valley of Montana are the worst but there are many others that rival them.



Yesterday morning I made this video clip at a foggy Farmington to illustrate my point. I’m trying to keep the camera steady as I drive but it’s simply impossible to do so. You’ll see that I was only traveling at 11 mph but the bumpiness was still bone-jarring (if you listen carefully you may also notice that it even affects my breathing). The rumbling sound you hear in the background is the contents of a storage box in my pickup bed rattling around. At the end of the clip I point the camera to my empty lens caddy – it seems so lonesome there without the lens!

And on most winter days the road is even rougher than this – yesterday morning it was cushioned somewhat by a fresh layer of snow.

At this point I’m pretty much convinced that the incredible jarring my lens receives on that hard mount is causing the problem over time. I should get my gear back from Canon late next week (I now belong to Canon Professional Services – CPS – which significantly speeds up the repair and shipping process) so we’ll see if their diagnosis fits my suspicions. I’ll report back either way.

I’m reporting all this here for two reasons:

  • To let you know that unless I get lucky with my much smaller lens and older cameras my posts will likely consist of older images for a few days. Please bear with me.
  • Perhaps some others may benefit from my mistakes – don’t allow your expensive lenses to be jarred for any reason if you can help it and if you’re a Canon shooter consider joining CPS if you can qualify (Nikon has a similar program but I’m relatively unfamiliar with it). I wish I’d joined CPS much earlier for many reasons – I’ll report more on that later.


PS – Yes, I believe I’ve figured out a way to “shock absorb” my lens caddy and hopefully prevent this problem in the future…