55 bald eagles communing over the Nooksack River in Washington state were photographed during the salmon run- and all in one tree!
In 2011, photographer Chuck Hilliard went up the Skagit River in the state of Washington to observe and photograph bald eagles. With the weather being what it was at the time, the water flow had increased dramatically putting the salmon out of reach of the bald eagles in the area.
With very few of the beautiful birds to observe, Hilliard would have to change gears and find another area to photograph, and find them he did.
Hilliard told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
“I learned that eagles also gathered on the Nooksack River, which is in a valley about 30 miles north. After mapping out my plans, I spent several weekends locating different areas to access the Nooksack River to find the eagles.”
“One of the places I found,” he said, “after accessing the river, was this area with the tree. While there were other eagles around, the tree stood out. Not just for the number of eagles, but also the fact that there were none in the trees directly surrounding it.”
Communal behavior in eagles shows how social the big birds really are. Their communication comes in the form of shrills and screeches, but they are known to warble amongst each other as well.
Hilliard added, “The group family behavior was interesting to watch. As a wildlife photographer, when I watch family groups interact, it is easy to see human like behavior between them. Eagles are no different. But this was the first time I have witnessed a more neighborhood watch mentality.”
There were adults and juveniles in the group. The photographer said that this particular tree gave the eagles a great view of the area where the salmon were gathering, and that when the fish start to die off the parents and young took full advantage.
Up-close experiences like this with our national symbol is the stuff of pride and fervor, but conservation efforts have to be maintained.
Because of the USFWS Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act future photographers like Chuck Hilliard will be able to observe and provide ample proof that our national bird is alive and well.
All photos by Chuck Hilliard/Light Of The Moon Photography