Eagles in Norway

March, 2013
 

 

We've just got back from an amazing and breath taking trip from a spectacular place in Norway. Physically we are back in London but all our thoughts are still with majestic Golden and White-tailed Eagles. This eagle adventure was beyond our expectations; all thanks to “Eagle Man” Ole Martin Dahle. 

He is a man with big passion and huge love for eagles and wildlife. He is also well known for his friendship with a gull Charlie who enjoys eating while sitting on his head. Unfortunately we haven't met Charlie as he visits Ole in summer. 

The first days of our trip were planned for Golden and White-tailed Eagle photography from a well-built hide in the mountains. Early start was a must as we had to get in the hide before the sunrise. In a pitch black hide we bundled up in the sleeping bags and sat patiently and quietly. Outside temperature was around -10 C but inside was fairly warm. With every passing minute it was getting lighter and we started seeing silhouette of mountains through tiny windows of the hide.

The first Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) swooped down from the sky around 7:30 am. It is a very powerful but at the same time very cautious bird. We patiently waited for the bird to feel relaxed before we pressed the shutter of the camera. 

Most of the time we used to see one Golden eagle at a time.  It was very protective and used to cover it's prey every time he heard a cry of another eagle.

In the afternoon the wind picked up bringing us grey clouds of snow. 

Golden EagleGolden Eagle

Ah hour later even heavier band of snow moved in dumping several inches of snow. There were no birds left around except a lonely Hooded Crow.

Hooded Crow in the Falling SnowHooded Crow in the Falling Snow

Fortunately, late afternoon the heavy snow moved away. As the nature haven’t decided what to give as weather wise next, we were rewarded with a mixture of snow and sunshine.

Golden EagleGolden Eagle

In the evening Ole took as back to the lodge. "See you tomorrow" he said walking away. Without a doubt we were very excited about tomorrow's session and seeing eagles again.

The following morning was bright and cold with a deep blue sky. The hide was a bit chillier than yesterday, so we quickly jumped into sleeping bags and placed flasks full of hot tea close to us.

There is lots of waiting involved in eagle photography. During a quiet period Eurasian Jays and Hooded Crows are brilliant companions.

Jay in the Falling Snow, NorwayJay in the Falling Snow, Norway

Three hours later a Golden Eagle landed in a tree close to the hide. 

To our big surprise one more eagle swooped down on the ground.

They didn't stay long and flew away to the woods.

The peak of the day was a remarkable performance of a White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).

It is a large and impressive bird, but we could not stop giggling when we saw it’s funny and clumsy walk. It was a particularly memorable encounter. We simply felt in love with this bird.
White-tailed Eagles are fairly easy-going birds and do not mind to be accompanied by Hooded Crows or another White-tailed Eagles.

Later on Golden Eagle swooped down for couple of minutes.

Golden EagleGolden Eagle

Afternoon was quiet. The temperature dropped and snow started falling down again. We were pleasantly surprised by the last visit by a Golden Eagle. 10 - 15 minutes later it flew away disappearing in the falling snow. 

The next day was planned for White-tailed Eagle photography from a small boat in the Norwegian Sea. For this journey we've dressed in red overalls and looked like hobbits in sumo wrestling suits. Such an outfit was very helpful in the sea when temperatures dropped up to -10 C.

During the first day White-tailed Eagles dived more than 20 times. Ole worked incredibly hard in positioning the boat in the best possible photographic position. White-tailed Eagle is a really large bird of prey with broad wings up to 245 cm (over 8 feet) wide. They may reach speeds of up to 60 miles an hour but dives up to 100 miles per hour.

White-tailed EagleWhite-tailed Eagle

White-Tailed Eagle in FlightWhite-Tailed Eagle in Flight70-80% of White-tailed Eagle's food is fish. It could be either dead fish floating in the sea or washed ashore, left over from otters or sea gulls. 70-80% of White-tailed Eagle's food is fish. It could be either dead fish floating in the sea or washed ashore, left over from otters or sea gulls. White-tailed Eagles even try to steal food from other birds such as gannets, herons, ravens, gulls, crows.

White-tailed Eagles can live for  more than 20 years. It's interesting to mention some data which could be read from the bird rings. For example blue ring on the right leg of the White-tailed Eagle means he was ringed in Norway. Red/silver ring means the eagle was born in 1989.

Overall it was a great day and sea sick didn't spoil the experience at all. 

The following day, as we planned to photograph eagles in the afternoon, the morning was spent with red squirrels and small birds.

In the afternoon we headed to the sea. This time the day was dedicated for creative "arty-farty" photography as Ole would say.

Silhouette of White-tailed EagleSilhouette of White-tailed Eagle

 

We could spend weeks at this location. Sadly but all good things come to an end. On the way to the train station, we made a short stop to photograph Common Eiders.

 

Overall it was a brilliant trip. Hopefully one day we’ll be back in this superb place with a single malt whisky for a great man Ole Martin Dahle. His whisky collection already contains 120 bottles so it’ll be quite a challenge to find something unique but we'll do our best.