I headed out with the EF 500mm f/4 L IS II lens again today. This time, instead of my original haunt, I visited Chatfield State Park. Chatfield is a beautiful place, and a critical stopover for birds during migration seasons. During the winter, it is home to a variety of raptors, and I was hoping to see some more Bald Eagles. Well, in winter, Chatfield is a very empty place. Very little sound, ice everywhere (it sits right at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains Front Range, and all that cold air sweeps right into the basin where Chatfield Reservoir stands…everything remains frozen solid most of the winter.) Chatfield is a big water management reserve, with lots of gravel ponds dotting the landscape south of the big lake. These are usually used for various recreational purposes, however during the winter it’s just birds…usually geese.
Today, however, I found another type of bird: Golden Eagles! I spotted some larger, dark raptors from across one of the gravel ponds. I actually spotted them because there were about five, all squabbling over some meal…I think it may have been a Canada Goose, actually (evidenced by an injured goose I saw later on…not sure if it was the eagles that injured it, or whether they were simply opportunistic and took whatever meal they could get their hands on.) I headed around the pond, hoping to get on the sun side of the birds (sun was setting, and it wasn’t going to be long before it set behind the looming mountains.) I kept low, however I did not have any kind of camouflage on the giant lens, and when I got sufficiently far enough out of cover, two of the eagles took off. The other three continued to fight over the remnants of what was certainly a bird, given the fluffy, feathery evidence drifting across the ice. I got as close as I could, and set up my tripod (to which the camera was already attached.) When I stood up to put my eye to the viewfinder, even though I tried to be as slow and un-obvious as possible, two more eagles took flight. Just one remained, not being harassed by Magpies for the final morsels of the kill. I managed to creep a bit closer, get the sun to my back, and capture the photos I’ve featured in this gallery. First time I’d ever been that close to a Golden Eagle. Just like the Bald Eagle, they are truly amazing, beautiful creatures. My photos don’t do them justice, and I hope someday to get some more flattering shots.