Juvenile Golden Eagle In Flight

Plus my first Merlin of the season.

This is the same eagle I posted photos of earlier this week. When it took off the first time (the images I posted four days ago) it didn’t fly very far, only to the side of the next mountainside down the line. Since I was traveling in that direction on the road I soon encountered the eagle again. This time it was further away but I stopped and watched it through my lens anyway and once again it gave me a good angle at takeoff so you can bet your patootie that despite the distance I took the shots. Below are two of them.

Keep in mind, due to thick clouds it was dismally dark that morning so to get sufficient shutter speed for flight I was shooting at ISO 2500 – not the best of conditions for quality images, especially at that distance.



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 2500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is the first shot I got after takeoff and as always I like the dynamic pose resulting from push-off. As you can see the mountainside was fairly steep so the eagle launched downhill to make gaining airspeed easier and that meant it was getting slightly closer to me with each wing-beat. In these situations their inclination is to turn away from me but the nearby mountainside discouraged that evasive maneuver.



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 2500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I took 26 shots of the eagle in flight but there were problems with many of them including a soft bird, poor wing position, distracting background and of course not a lot of detail because the eagle was so far away. This is the last shot I got and I chose to include it for three reasons – the eagle is sharp, it’s as large in the frame as any in the series and I like the yellow rabbitbrush in the frame (but I’m definitely not fond of that old sunflower stalk in front of the face of the bird).

By now the eagle was really moving down that hill so I was happy to get it as sharp as I did in that light and with the background so close to the bird.



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 2500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Ok, back to the previous series of the same bird I posted four days ago. In reviewing the images I posted in that series I realized I’d inadvertantly left out one of the better ones so I’m including it here.

Better late than never, I hope…



And on an unrelated note…


Yesterday morning at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area I saw my first Merlin of the season. Sadly it was about 40 miles away so I only got documentary images of the little falcon in an ugly setting but my first Merlin is always a memorable experience for me. And it even provided a little drama, albeit at great distance.

See that little mound at lower left? That was the Merlin’s perch and it seemed quite content with it until all these pesky American Pipits landed nearby. The pipits weren’t happy with the presence of the Merlin and they kept coming in closer, pushing their luck until the pride of the fierce little predator just couldn’t take it anymore.



The Merlin made several attempts to snag one and/or chase them off, both on the wing and on foot (a raptor running on the ground is far from graceful, or quick) but the pipits were persistent and kept coming back. I don’t know the final outcome but it sure was fun to watch some of the encounter through my lens. Damn, I wish I’d been closer!

At first I thought the Merlin was carrying something in this shot but when I zoomed in on the bird it was only its talons forming a circle.





31 comments to Juvenile Golden Eagle In Flight

  • Wayne Reynolds

    Absolutely love these photos of this eagle! I’m partial to eagles anyway and appreciate your every effort to share your craft with so many. Your narrative adds so much to my viewing experience as well.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, it is hard to find words for the beauty of the Golden Eagle. The wing span is impressive as well as the feathers at the end of the wings. It makes me think of an airplane and the parts on the wing that give speed, control and help slow it down. I think that there are similarities here.

    BTW, just love your word ‘patootie’, which I heard when I was growing up. Now I know how to spell it!!! Thanks, Ron for the word and the amazing photos.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Thanks for more beautiful and educational photos. Really enjoyed those distant photo’s of the merlin and pipits!

  • Magic. Aweinspiring magic. Which I needed to see this morning. Megathanks.

  • Laura Culley

    Oh what a wonderful day you had! There’s just something super special about a golden. Among other things, that golden nape is simply glorious! I love these shots very muchly! And the Merlin…YEAH! I love it when I get to see these powerhouses, and with my eyesight, that’s not very often! Love that the pipits get their own sometimes, too.
    My guests are gone and I’m firmly in nap time, but THANK YOU for this glorious peek into The Great Out There!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I keep going back to these images…getting more and more snockered on them each time…love the first and third, particularly, but the second is really growing on me…those wing pisitions, with the right wing down so deeply and the foreshortened left one are so unusual…and I love the open beak…can almost hear its cry….these are so beautiful and bring back so many special memories, they bring tears…thank you so much!!! Would love to paper my walls with these and the one I have and love so much…would also like the one of tge bird flying overhead…would mount that one one my ceiling…no kidding…have thought of that often…it would be great! Who says pictures can only go on walls…I could die happy!

  • Marty K

    Holy cannoli! 40 miles? And you still got all the feather detail in the pipit in the lower left on that last shot? Wowzers! Plus breathtaking Golden images! I’m going to have to start calling *you* Merlin, you photographic magician, you! 😀

  • Charlotte Norton

    Awesome Ron!


  • Susan Stone

    I really like these shots of the Golden Eagle – they show how tremendous their wingspan is. The left wing on the second shot has me completely confused as to what I’m seeing.
    I’d love to see a Merlin. And I’m wondering if what the Pipits were about was a ground-level mobbing behavior? That seems to happen a lot to raptors.

    • Those first two or three primaries on the left wing had me slightly confused at first too, Susan. But if you look carefully you’ll see that their tips are turned upward and shaded so against the very dark right wing it almost looks like they’ve been cut off.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Oooooooooooh!!!!! Holy moly!!! .if I ever hear you call a Golden your”nemesis” bird again, I’m going ti implode!!!…these are fantastic!!! Flight positions, wings, colors, context, composition, detail…you hit all the buttons!!! I especially love the first and third shots…the last one blew my socks off, but so did the first!!!

  • Art

    Ron, you say it is the first Merlin of the season? Up here at 6,600′ in the Wasatch we have them all summer. It is pretty rare – they are quite shy but we have had more Merlin sightings than normal this summer. Are they just passing through the valley on the way to South America for you?

    • Art, I never see them during breeding season. In several range maps I looked at it shows them no further south than about central Idaho during the summer.

  • Sabine janke

    Some very awesome shots, right place right time!!

  • Dick Harlow

    That last eagle image is phenomenal, all the shots of the eagle are super. The Golden Eagle is such a superior bird, no wonder that species was so revered.
    I think on the ground or just above it the pipits have the advantage, plus there are six of them. It would be hard for me to believe it was fun for them, rather I think simply harassing a predator. What fun to watch!

  • Judy Gusick

    Jaw dropping awesome of the eagle and smiles ear to ear! 🙂 1 and 3 with the flared wings REALLY are neat and the background just adds the context – much better than just blue sky……… The Merlin is a cute little raptor as well. Always interesting how ballsy the little birds get when they don’t want one around.:)

  • Lovely. All Your photos are, to me, amazing. I don’t know how you have mixed art, science, experience and magic, but that is what i always see. I wish I could be a fly on the noodle or the tripod.

    • Ha, I’d prefer you to be an ant rather than a fly, Doogs – when I’m shooting I instinctively swat at any flying insects… 🙂

      I very much appreciate your comment about mixing “art, science, experience and magic”. Back in my teaching days interdisciplinary education was always my goal.