As a break from depressing article topics
During my first week in Yellowknife, I was standing atop the high point called Pilot’s Monument when a majestic bald eagle made a banking turn between me and the sun no more than ten metres away from me. I can’t show you a photograph of it, however; I was in the middle of changing camera lenses at the time. That dramatic moment, when one of the North’s most iconic creatures paused for a good look at this interloper in its territory, was just for me.
I love taking photographs of them. Unfortunately, I miss more excellent shots of them than I manage to get. Under their own power, eagles fly at least 50 kph (30 mph), and when diving they can swoop out of the sky at a startling 160 kph (100 mph), so to really catch them at their best I’d have to walk around with my camera at the ready all the time.
My most frequent views of eagles are as tiny dots lazily circling high overhead. Masters of using updrafts to fly with as little effort as possible, they like it more than 3000 metres up (10,000 ft or so), and reportedly sometimes climb up to twice that height. In order to spot prey from that great altitude, the amazing eyes that take up half the volume of their skull have five times as many cells per square millimetre of retina than ours do.
Up close, they can be startling. The farther away from the tropics a raptor lives, the larger it becomes to adapt to the colder climate. As a result, the iconic bald eagle is the biggest raptor in North America, and those here in Canada’s North among of the largest. Adults have a wingspan between 1.8 to 2.3 m (5 ft 11 in to 7 ft 7…