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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Eagle Still Flies

October 8th, 2012 · No Comments

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At 4:18 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong said simply, “The Eagle has landed.” With these four words the world knew that humans had made the first landing on the Moon.

That evening I was on tour in Malawi, where I was AID Affairs Officer in charge of the American aid program helping that African country. I vividly remember crowding around a large table in the guest house near Nsanje at the far southern end of the country with members of my staff and others from the American Embassy. As we listened to my shortwave radio it was almost midnight in Malawi when the Eagle landed, but a big cheer went up from that table.

This afternoon I recalled that great moment in history when the opposite occurred. The Eagle that landed on the Moon was one of the most sophisticated machines we ever built. The eagle that I saw flying today was sophisticated in its own way, but it was a marvel of nature. And instead of listening by radio I saw with my eyes and camera.

I saw a pair of Bald Eagles hiking the Cradleboard Trail that makes a loop through the Carolyn Holmberg Preserve near the southeast corner of Boulder County. Under sunny skies the temperature here reached 73 degrees, so of course I was on the trail.

One of the eagles perched on a bare tree, offering me a clear shot with my camera. Then as it started to fly, I took these pictures.

A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Perches at the Top of a Tree at 4:38:06 PM MST (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Perches at the Top of a Tree at 4:38:06 PM MST (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The next four photos came 4 seconds later. I took all of those shots in that single second.

Wings Up, the Bird Gets Ready to Fly (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Wings Up, the Bird Gets Ready to Fly (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge
Wings are Higher Yet (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Wings are Higher Yet (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge
Wings Outstretched (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Wings Outstretched (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge
Wings All the Way Up (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Wings All the Way Up (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

In this series I didn’t get usable shots of this bird in flight, since trees blocked my view and it flew away from me. But 18 minutes later I captured this image of the same eagle or its mate as it flew past.

The Eagle Flies (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 375mm, f/8, 1/3000, ISO 800)

The Eagle Flies (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 375mm, f/8, 1/3000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Bald Eagles, the national bird of the United States, came close to going extinct by the 1950s. Only 412 nesting pairs remained in the lower 48 at that time due to DDT poisoning. They have recovered strongly, and more than 100,000 birds are here now.

When the Eagle carrying Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon, it was big news. But knowing and seeing that Bald Eagles still fly is just as wonderful.

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