Tundra Swan In Flight And Mating Golden Eagles

That’s a strange combination I know but there’s method to my madness.


1/800, f/9, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Ten days ago I had a blast with Tundra Swans at Bear River MBR. Atypical of the species they were close and cooperative and I still haven’t been able to cull all the photos I took of them that morning. I was able to get 51 shots of this adult as it made a looping turn as it ran across the water, lifted off and then gained elevation and this is one of my favorites of the series. I like the flight posture, the background with phragmites at bottom and layered clouds up top and I even have some light in the eye which I find difficult to get in this species.


Regular readers know that I often go back in my files to see what birds I’ve photographed on the same date in previous years so I know what birds to look for now and where I might find them. In doing so last night I stumbled across a series of photos unlike any others I’ve ever taken.



1/800, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

In over ten years of photographing birds I’ve only seen Golden Eagles mating a single time and that was two years ago today (2/13/16). Just a sighting of a Golden Eagle is a memorable experience for me but to get an entire series of photos as they mated was a privilege unique in my experience. They weren’t particularly close so my images aren’t of the highest quality but I could see the behavior clearly and I have the photos for documentation which brings me great joy.

So, bird aficionados take note – at least in my area mating and nesting season for Golden Eagles has begun. Keep your eyes peeled and you could get lucky. It happened to me.




25 comments to Tundra Swan In Flight And Mating Golden Eagles

  • Very nice swan photograph! Those small dark eyes ARE hard to get right! Nice work.
    Love the “eagle spirits” at work with seeing Golden Eagles mating on the same dates. What a magnificent experience!

    Here in sub-tropical Florida, our Bald Eagles, Ospreys and Great-horned Owls have found nests and many are incubating with several already with chicks.

    Take care of yourself.

  • Marty K

    Oh, if I could read that female Golden’s thoughts… 😉

    As always, fabulous shots, Ron.

    I’m sooooo sorry you’ve got shingles. They are terrible! I had them on my face and near my eye a few years ago and it was NOT fun. Fortunately, we caught them early and the antiviral meds worked their magic before my eye was affected. Both my dad and grandmother had them more than once, so I’m glad Kiersten mentioned the new vaccine yesterday. I hope you can find a comfortable position and that you’re feeling better soon! Don’t worry about us at all — take care of YOU!!! 🙂

  • Marina schultz

    Love it .. still don’t have my rig back .. it has been 3 + weeks . Missing eagles building they’re nests and mating😔

  • Lyle Anderson

    Once again, I had to consult Sibley for the Tundra/Trumpeter difference. Your photo helps to “glue” the image in my brain. Thanks

  • Patty Chadwick

    Gorgeous picture of swan!!! Everything about it is beautiful…including composition and background colors…like the mating Goldens, too…gives me hope it will be successful and there will be more Goldens as a result….can never be enough of them!!!

  • Laura Culley

    I’d ask why you were up working on this blog instead of resting, but there’s that inertia thing going on (a body in motion stays in motion), plus there’s the reality that if you’re resting, it’s far more likely that you’ll pay much more attention to the pain since your brain isn’t doing anything productive, which definitely makes the pain worse. I hate that about big pain, but it’s real.
    I love it that you caught a pair of goldens making more goldens (the world NEEDS more goldens!!). Have you seen any mating flights yet? Those are so far beyond spectacular as to be ridiculous in the limits of our language to describe them. I’ve been blessed to have caught two this year with the local redtails. It’s that time of year when boys and girls do what boys and girls do out in The Great Out There! Of course, it helps a lot that I have big windows looking out to big sky and I’m never far from them.
    The redtails in my neighborhood are doin’ the dance, as are the Cornell hawks who are busily refurbishing one of the nests that’s equipped with cameras, ticking off another one of IFs in the string of IFs with Big Red and her handsome young male. We’re all hoping he continues to check off the final remaining tasks and that we have a new crop of eggs around St. Patrick’s Day followed by a new crop of fuzzball bobbleheads!
    As Mia says, “Life IS good!”
    Keeping you wrapped in my heart!

    • That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do, Laura – distract myself from the pain. With only limited success I’m afraid.

      Nope, haven’t seen any mating flights yet this year.

      • Marty K

        There are some pretty funny podcasts out there and books “on tape” that I hope can provide some distraction for you while not having to sit in a chair.

      • Laura Culley

        That’s #341 of the eleventy bazillion reasons I take Jack out almost every day. It’s just not available to take the time to think about the pain and that’s good. Although today, I wrenched my elbow and it screamed pretty loud. While dealing with that, I found that I’d walked right onto a cactus, standing right above it! That wasn’t good. But then Jack caught a bunny and that made it all OK again. 🙂
        I don’t know what I’d do with your level of pain!

  • Lovely Tundra Swan photograph Ron! I love the graceful length, the light brown underneath (that I did not know about) and the background. Beautiful. I have seen them at Bear River using a telescope 🙂 and when I am in Alaska in the summer — they are big, white, and beautiful on the landscape. Hope you have good luck this year with the Golden Eagles!

  • I was HOPING that your enormous back stock of images might provide you with a distracting focus from your pain–you’re a trouper. For what it may be worth, when I had shingles, the codeine-
    based pain prescription was practically worthless, but prescription strength ibuprofen was very helpful .

  • April Olson

    I hope you are feeling better today. The Tundra Swan is beautiful. I hate culling when I have that many photos. Thanks for the reminder about nesting, It might be a bit early but with this crazy winter I bet they are starting to repair. I think I will plan a trip Sunday to check on a pair I watched for a couple of years now.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful swan and the golden’s mating is priceless! 🙂 Our GHOW’s are “talking”. Male checking out various nesting sites and trying to entice the female to select one which she hasn’t yet. It’s interesting here. We’re about 20 miles from Ft. Benton one way and Great Falls the other yet our GHOW’s nest up to a month later than they do in those 2 places.

    Appears the Shingles haven’t totally wiped you out yet – Good News!

  • Elmer Deloso

    I love these shots of the Tundra Swan, but if i may ask, how do you manage to capture their “whiteness” without adjusting your exposure compensation?

  • Thomas Hamel

    We saw a pair of Goldens in flagrante delicto two weeks ago in San Benito county, California, and our nearby lonely male seems to have found himself a mate. He was seen bringing her a talon full of grasses, like a bouquet a week ago. They are building a nest in a power line pylon. Meanwhile, our resident Balds have been on their nest for at least ten days already. They get started as early at the GHOWs do.

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