Hi everyone! I'm often asked how I get the photos I do so I've included a few tips below.
We’re still seeing a lot of eagles in the valley which is so awesome and I’ve noticed a lot of people pulling off the road to view them which, if done properly, I really suggest you do… as well as being our national symbol they are also just magnificent birds to watch. Since I’m suggesting that you stop and see them I’d also like to suggest a few tips so they don’t go flying off the second you stop as well as a few reminders so we don’t have any fender benders or worse…
If you see an eagle (or any other animal you’d like to get a better look at) the first thing you want to do is drive past it and don’t hit your brakes. Yes, drive past it. Believe me, wild animals are very smart as well as very skittish and they are watching you; if they see you do something the other cars aren’t doing they’ll get freaked out and take off right away so don’t stop! Continue to drive past the animal at least a quarter mile and then, when it’s safe, turn around and pull off the road as far back from it as possible. I say “when it’s safe” because I’ve seen a few bad fender benders happen all due to someone seeing a cool animal and coming to a screeching halt or making an immediate U-turn without taking traffic and pedestrians in to consideration. I get it… you’re excited and you want to make sure you get to see that animal… that doesn’t mean, however, that you can just throw caution and traffic laws out the window just because there’s a bald eagle on a fence post. Take your time, think about your surroundings and be safe.
The closer you get to any wild animal the more likely you are to disturb it so drive slowly and stop as far away from it as you can. Once you stop don’t just jump out of the vehicle! In fact, if you don’t have to, don’t get out at all and view the animal from where you are. If you are going to exit the vehicle it is best to wait a few minutes so the animal will hopefully relax a little. Remember, once a wild animal identifies you as a person they will take off at the first feeling of being threatened so letting the animal relax a little and providing minimal movement on your part are two of the best things you can do to help provide a long and pleasurable visit with any wildlife. If there are fences and fields between you and the animal then you have a little more leeway for moving around as the distance will keep the animal feeling less threatened but you still want to move slowly and quietly. Speaking of fences and fields – those fences, gates and signs are there for a reason. Abide by them and do not trespass or your quick stop to see that animal might turn in to a long talk with a property owner as well as the police. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a trespasser tell a property owner that it was okay if they hopped the fence or came on their property because all they were doing was getting a photograph. Uhm, no… if you do not have prior permission then that is not okay, ever.
Besides doing your best to not disturb the animals as well as the private property they are very likely to be on, you also want to keep in mind that others may be in the area viewing the animal as well. Because of this it is very important to drive slowly and cautiously – remember, especially with photographers, just because you don’t see someone it doesn’t mean they aren’t crouched down behind a bush or standing right on the other side of the telephone pole or tree you’re thinking of parking next to. That's another good reason to take that extra quarter mile before you turn around - you need to check out the area and make sure you don't turn around right on top of someone else. Whipping in to an "open spot" often turns out to not be the best idea for many reasons. Be very careful as well as courteous; keep windows rolled up and all noise to a minimum. Silence your cell phone and make sure to keep all pets in the vehicle – this is not an exercise break for Fido or a time to be talking to your bestie about what you had for lunch. Also, if you have small children make sure they understand that being quiet is key and you are not stopping to play.
There are other tips for a great viewing experience but these do a good job of covering the basics. Think about your surroundings and remember to be courteous not only to others in the area but also to the property owners and, most importantly, to the animals themselves.