Residents of Southern Ontario woke up to a generous dusting of snow this morning and, while most of it melted quickly, some fields were still white several hours later. I was therefore keen to explore the country roads for birds of prey.

I had my daughter’s dog, Rilo, along for the ride. Last time he accompanied me ‘on the hunt’ I spotted a Northern Harrier and captured some of my favourite images of these interesting raptors. I hoped he would bring me luck once again. And, to sweeten the deal I brought along a bag of his favourite treats.

A female Northern harrier that Rilo, my lucky mascot, helped me find last time out.

Within minutes I spotted a large dark blob atop a bare tree about 400 or 500 metres away. It was too big to be a crow or raven and I haven’t seen a turkey vulture in a few weeks so my senses told me it was probably a  bald eagle, the most majestic of our resident birds of prey.  

Looking through my camera viewfinder I confirmed that it was, indeed one of the adults that nest near these fields, along the nearby Grand River. I parked my car with the window down and waited to see where this eagle might go. Last week the pair roosted together in the same row of trees before flying over my car. 

After twenty minutes or so this eagle took off and headed straight towards the nest. I watched it disappear into the trees and made a mental note to swing by later if nothing else appeared.

Further along the road I saw a red tailed hawk hunting from a tree. It was too far away for photos. There are sometimes three hawks in these fields and I wondered if it was one that I had photographed a couple of weeks ago along the main road.

This red tailed hawk was hunting along the road connecting Cambridge and Paris, Ontario one afternoon recently

Turning down another of my favourite roads where raptors tend to hunt I saw an eagle fly overhead. I wondered if it was the same one I had seen earlier or perhaps its mate. While I had seen a few potential subjects to photograph I had a word with Rilo. “Are you going to bring me luck today, Rilo?” He was rather noncommittal.

Without a single image I headed back towards the area of the bald eagle nest. As I drove around a slight curve in the road I was delighted at the sight of not one but two eagles. Rilo had come through. There was one adult with a juvenile eagle perched in the same tree. I pulled over to the side of the road gave Rilo another treat and told him to sit there in the car.

Grabbing my gloves and camera I stepped out of the car fearing I might startle the two eagles. They couldn’t have cared less.

After about twenty minutes the adult suddenly flew away leaving its offspring alone in the tree. She, I am guessing it is a female since it was of an enormous size, and female raptors are usually about 30% bigger than males, looked at me a couple of times and I half expected her to leave too. In truth I hoped that she flew soon because I was dressed inappropriately for a cold weather outing and was feeling the cold wind. 

The juvenile eagle glanced once at me.

But another thirty minutes passed. So did several automobiles. Although she looked down at the ones that slowed, the occupants puzzled as to what I was pointing my camera at, he young one remained in place. I thought she might take flight when a couple of crows flew at her in an attempt to move her along. She never budged.

The sound of an approaching group of sandhill cranes caught her attention and then what looked like a Merlin flew past her. Still, she remained in place.

It was only a matter of time before she flew, however. I just had to be patient. Bald eagles have enormous wingspans so rather than run the risk of having the wing tips cut off when I captured an image of her in flight I took several steps backwards. At the same time I couldn’t go too far back because there were tree branches that could block the view I had.

 The juvenile eagle taking off


She circled back in the same direction her parent had gone earlier – towards the nest – and then vanished. Although the light was rather dull I enjoyed the encounter nonetheless. After a few days where I didn’t come home with a single image it was nice to enjoy the outing. Rilo enjoyed it too but not for the same reason. He was able to gorge on another bag of treats!




  1. Brad Morley

    I agree with David Edge: great piece. As always, super photos, and the narrative on your hunt and Rilo’s influence on your outing makes for very enjoyable reading. Thanks again, Paul.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Craig, many thanks for the kind words. Pleased that you enjoyed it. After a few days of seeing these birds from a distance it was nice to have the opportunity to take a picture or two. Cheers!

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