During the middle of November we saw a spike in Bald Eagle activity at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston SC. This is my view of what happened. It started with the gulls.
We had some unseasonable weather that week; cold, rain, and wind. I hadn’t ventured out with my camera for a few days, but by Saturday, November 16th I was getting cabin fever. I bundled up and ventured out.
Parking in the lot, I made my way across the plantation to what we call the boat landing. It is a lagoon on the large former rice field which is now a wildlife preserve. Two pontoon boats used for tours are slipped there. As I walked down the dike, I saw an unusually large number of gulls feeding on schooling bait fish. They were really going after them, but many of the fish appeared to be too large for them to swallow, so they would drop them back into the surf. I didn’t think too much of it at the time.
My wife and I came back on Sunday and decided to climb the observation tower in an attempt to get some eagle shots. That’s when I first noticed there appeared to new eagles in the area.
The above bird in particular caught my eye. Magnolia has a resident population of eagles, including some juveniles. But, I had never seen this one before.
We got several close shots at passing eagles from the tower.
We went home very happy that day. I came back Monday morning, and again started out in the observation tower.
Again, on Tuesday.
The action in the tower slowed down for a bit, so I decided to walk over to the boat landing to see what was going on over there.
That’s when it dawned on me what the attraction was for the eagles. They would let the gulls find, catch, and drop fish, then scoop down to pick them up! They were serving them up on a platter for the eagles. Pretty smart!
The action continued Wednesday and Thursday.
I came out Friday morning, and it was all over. The gulls were gone. The migrating eagles were gone, leaving our resident birds to their home once again.
Magnolia’s ecologist, Stacy Turner and photographer Guenter Weber sighted 10 eagles in the sky at one time during that week. Many photographers came out to get incredible shots of these beautiful and majestic birds.
I doubt I will ever forget that week, and I am extremely grateful to have been able to witness it.
I didn’t have plans to go out with the camera today, but after breakfast I asked Kathy if she was interested in a walk through the Magnolia Audubon Swamp. Nancy MC had posted a nice shot of a Green Wing Teal the other day, and I was hoping to get a capture as well. She opted to stay home.
Pretty colors in the swamp these days, as I made my way to the rookery.
The first duck that I pulled up on was indeed, the Green Wing, but it was backlit and there was no way to get in a better position. I headed to the boat landing lagoon. I’ll be back for it another day.
I had just stepped on to the dike at the boat landing when I caught a bird in the air to my left.
I watched as it headed toward the eagle tree, then veer to the right at the last minute. I had seen it take this route before; it usually meant it was going across to the other side of the Ashley River. Not today. It took another right and headed directly toward me.
You can bet my heart started to beat a little faster as I realized it would fly right over top of me.
Now, it headed to the eagle tree.
Once my pulse was back to normal I headed to the area below the tree to get another perched shot to add to the thousand I already have.
I was taking some shots when a family of three walked by. I motioned them over to point out the eagle.
They were ooohing and aaahing over the above shot when the husband said to me, “I wish I could do that.” I said, “you can!”
He was holding a Nikon D850 with a wide angle lens. I offered to let him use my telephoto to take a few shots. You’d think those three had just won the lottery. He took his shots, gave my lens back, and as I left I looked back to see the three huddled around his camera, looking at the eagle shots. More ooohs and aaahs. lol
One more image from the other side, and I was off to find a hawk.
It was sitting in the field that they frequent, very close to the road. I was close enough, but this bird was back-lit too. I moved as far as I could to get at least a side-lit shot without spooking it.
To say the least, I was satisfied with the day and headed home to make my Mom’s stuffing recipe.
Not sure which was the bigger thrill: Having the eagle fly over my head or watching that family being ecstatic at the chance to get their own captures of the eagle.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I did my usual biking route this morning, starting and ending at the swamp parking lot. I do like that bike trail! And this way is easy on the feet.
I saw two different nests occupied by Great Blue Herons today, one at the small rookery down by the river and one in the swamp. The swamp bird was even picking at branches. Claiming the nest or just resting there on a nice day?
There were a lot of white birds in the large Perry’s Field marsh. Stacy has dropped it down a bit, and more mud flats are exposed. Whether that had anything to do with the number of birds there, I don’t know. Also some Tri-Color and GBH along with ducks, Ibis, and an occasional Wood Stork.
And, this little guy who loves to sit on trunks.
I found a new spot to sit that overlooks the big marsh. It seems to be on a natural flyway between the private cabin area and the boat landing lagoon. It’s a good view and a pretty good hide. I will be sitting there in the future trying to get a better shot of the Harrier.
I spend some time in the tower and saw one Osprey, but not close enough for a good image. Great view from up there.
Not much going on at the boat landing lagoon, but I didn’t stay for long. I met Brent who told me he had seen an eagle in the tree earlier. Plenty of GBH around these days.
The Peacock Cafe was serving up Chicken and Wild Rice soup, and it was delicious.
Up to the swamp and lots of ducks. Nancy MC posted a beautiful portrait shot of a drake Gadwall earlier today in the Audubon Swamp Garden FB page.
And this guy again. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but it sure looks like he means business. 🙂 By the way, is it just me or is there more fall color this year than most?
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That’s it, not sure if there will be a Thanksgiving Day edition or not. Have a great holiday and let’s see pictures of your birds!
My luck was good this morning, so I returned for seconds this afternoon. An eagle on the perch; I waited almost two hours but it finally left in the fading light of the day.
Caught this little lady just a tad too far away. Too bad, what a beauty!
I was popular with the Great Blue Herons this afternoon; I thought one was going to land in my lap.
Started off with a couple of Golden Hour shots this morning, the river and boat landing lagoon at Magnolia were like glass.
The usual crowd…
Some new visitors too.
I saw an eagle flying away when I approached the lagoon, but haven’t seen one since. So, on to the tower.
The Tower: I calculated it is about 43 feet tall. 3 stories, yes, but 17 steps per story instead of the standard 13. So, 51 ten inch risers, plus a 12 inch riser at the bottom and top makes it 42.5 feet. Beautiful from up there this morning, and plenty to see. Lots of white birds and a few other favorites.
Did you know spell check wants to give you “ungainliness” instead of Gallinules? lol Maybe not so far off.
The best shots I have to date of the Harrier. Not great, not even really good, but proof one exists out there.
And then, coming from my left, bursting out from behind the trees, a juvenile Bald Eagle. I was fiddling with my camera, and almost missed it.
Time for a walk down to Perry’s Field.
Preening, and looking beautiful as always, Little Blue Heron.
A long walk back to the truck, and on the way out…Red Shouldered Hawk, juvenile. Guenter and I stalked the same bird, from opposite directions. lol
Junior could maybe find a bigger branch on which to perch.
That’s a good day! And it’s not over yet.
It appears Eagle Week is over, at least for now. There are still eagles at Magnolia, but it seems like some gulls and Bald Eagles have migrated on through. They did share a relationship; the gulls would find the fish and serve them on a platter for the eagles to scoop up. Unfortunately, the pelican that put on quite a show appears to have moved on too. Maybe we will see more migrating through here in the coming days.
Moving on, there is still plenty to photograph at Magnolia! There are Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Anhingas fishing, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Kingfishers that frequent the boat landing area as well as other areas at the plantation. The swamp is beautiful right now with the fall colors. Always something.
Saw this Anhinga with a fish. I looked up to see every camera at the boat landing trained on it. lol Good times.
Tomorrow we head to another location in the Lowcountry to see what else is going on.
Wave bye, Big Blue.
Some of my images from this past year, most taken at Magnolia Plantation.
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All proceeds go to my photography addiction. 🙂
Another great day with the eagles, pelicans, wading birds, and friends at Magnolia. I suspect all these eagles won’t stay around forever, so I’m trying to get as many good captures as I can.
Early morning is definitely the best light for photographers, as the afternoon sun creates some deep shadows. I left at about 11:00 today, and that was already happening. But, any time of day is a great time to just watch these beautiful birds feed.
I tried some different camera settings today. A faster shutter speed, as these birds are close when they’re over the water. And, a new metering setting. Nikon calls it “center weighted average.” That helped a lot, but some of the whites are still a tad overexposed. Tomorrow I will try the same setting, but use Exposure Compensation to take it down a stop or two.
In between eagles, the lone Brown Pelican put on quite a show for us. It definitely is NOT afraid of people, as it did a couple of flybys in front us about 20 feet out. It was a thrill to see a bird that big and beautiful fly so close to us.
Always a gator around, of course.
But, this is about eagles, right? Ok. More eagles.
Adult not happy with the juvenile taking over it’s fishing hole.
Can never pass up a shot of a Wood Stork…
…and, on the way out: Everyone’s favorite, the lovely Turkey Vulture.
Tomorrow’s another day, get ’em while they’re hot!
Great time today, not only with the birds but with the amazing photographer friends that joined me. Great weather too! What else could a person want?
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