A rehabilitated eagle takes flight. For a more complete description, see the sequence of release photos, below. © Linda Steider
In photo one, we see Robin’s husband Ken and grandson, Kathy and Robin at the back of the truck discussing a strategy for the release of a bald eagle on private property in Carson, Washington, after picking her up from Rowena Wildlife Clinic. This is a controlled event as the eagle is being held in a kennel in the back of the pickup, awaiting release. D850 with 70-200mm lens at 70mm, f/3.2, 1/1000 second, ISO 250.
In the second photo, as Kathy reaches in to help, Ken unclasps the lock on the eagle’s kennel, which has been placed on the ground. Robin stands in the background, ready to start photographing. This is a controlled event as the eagle is being held in a kennel on the ground in a grassy field, awaiting release. D850 with 70-200mm lens at 70mm f/3.2, 1/2000, ISO 250 second.
As Robin makes sure the blanket doesn’t catch on the latch in the third photo, Ken slowly and gently slides the blanket off the eagle’s kennel just before she is released back into the wild. Kathy watches and is about to move behind the kennel. D500 with 80-400mm lens at 80mm, f/4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 1250.
Ken walks away with the blanket in photo four, while Kathy stands behind the kennel watching the eagle kick open the door and take a few steps toward freedom. All participants are at appropriate distances from the eagle. Kathy has experience releasing raptors back into the wild, after being treated and/or rehabilitated from an accredited wildlife rescue clinic. D500 with 80-400mm lens at 80mm, f/4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 1250.
All images © Linda Steider
Away in an instant
We could hear the eagle stomping inside the kennel, anxious to be let out, as if she knew she was home. Before anyone could reach down to open the gate, the eagle kicked the door open, took two or three hops out, then powerfully took off in flight. It took her less than two seconds, flying low and fast, to reach the stand of fir trees across the field. She landed on a large branch there, mostly out of our view.
It all happened shockingly fast and I was glad we had spent the time to carefully prepare the cameras to record this thrilling event.
Afterwards Kathy and I circled the field slowly, attempting to locate her on the other side of the fir trees, to be sure she was ok. But she wanted no further contact with us and soared to the next stand of conifers. She was free and back in the wild. In less than three seconds!
Kathy’s grandchildren had been excused from their school for this once in a lifetime event. Shortly afterwards, they each presented a ‘show and tell’ to their classmates. Robin’s grandson had the bonus of picking up the rehabilitated eagle at Rowena Wildlife Clinic, then counting eagles he saw on the drive back to our release spot, while his grandmother gave him an eagle history lesson.
After she kicked open the door and took 3 or 4 hops to get outside the kennel in photo one, the female bald eagle takes off in flight. You can see that she’s banded but we don’t have banding information yet. Robin’s grandson in the background videoing the event with his phone. This is a wild shot as she is now free from her kennel and flying without obstruction. The zoom lens compresses the image, making Robin’s grandson appear closer than he actually is. D500 with 80-400mm lens at 80mm. f/4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 1250.
In photo two, the newly released bald eagle flies fast and low across a grassy field near the Bear Creek area, where she was found struggling just a couple of weeks before. This is a wild shot as she is free from her kennel and heading toward a stand of firs. D500 with 80-400mm lens at 80mm, f/4.5, 1/1250 second, ISO 1250.
Back in the wild in photo three, the eagle is about to land on a branch in a stand of fir trees near where she was rescued. This is also a wild shot. D500 with 500 5.6E PF ED VR lens at 500mm. F5.6, 1/1250 second, ISO 1250.
In photo four, the eagle rests on a fir branch just a few seconds after she was released back into the wild in the Columbia River Gorge. Branches and fir needles obstruct a clear view of her as she looks out toward her next perch. This is a wild shot as she is recently released from her kennel and now resting on a fir branch. D500 with 500 5.6E PF ED VR lens at 500mm, f/5.6, 1/1250 second, ISO 320, 500mm.
All images © Linda Steider
Editor’s note: The captions Linda Steider wrote for this article are particularly good examples of what NANPA advocates in our Truth in Captioning Statement. They contain the who, what, when, where and how of the image and they educate viewers about the context and intent of the photo.
Soaring into the future
Neighbors had reported seeing her mate, soaring overhead alone, during her absence After her return, the duo was spotted by many locals. She is banded, but when we checked, her banding data had not yet been processed with the USGS North American Bird Banding Program (BBL Bird Banding Lab) website, so no historical information about her is yet known.
What you can do
If you come across wildlife in distress, call your local wildlife rehabilitation center or state department of fish and wildlife. You can also call your local law enforcement, who will usually know who to contact.
If you fish or hunt, you can eliminate lead from your tackle box and ammunition.
If you enjoy photographing wildlife, maybe your local wildlife rehabilitation center could use some photos when they release healed animals back into the wild.
And something everyone can do is drive at a slower pace, enjoy the scenery and be ready in case wildlife suddenly jumps in front of your vehicle on the road.