'It's unusual, it's real and it's raw': Halifax woman wins national photo contest

An amateur Halifax photographer has won a national photography contest for her stunning photo of two eagles in a split-second standoff, wings unfurled and talons ready to strike.

Photo of eagle scrambling to defend its food wins top prize from Canadian Wildlife Federation

This photo by Halifax amateur photographer Sandi Little was the grand prize winner of the Canadian Wildlife Federation's annual Reflections of Nature photo contest. (Sandi Little)

An amateur Halifax photographer has won a national contest for her stunning photo of two eagles in a split-second standoff, wings unfurled and talons ready to strike.

"It's unusual, it's real and it's raw," said Sandi Little, grand prize winner of the 2018 Reflections of Nature photo contest put on by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Little took the photo in Sheffield Mills during the annual Eagle Watch, which sees hundreds of eagles, along with crows and gulls, clamouring for dead chickens placed to attract the birds — not to mention bird watchers and photographers. 

The photo actually includes three eagles, but the two squabbling over an unseen chicken are the focus of the photo, forming a circle of sorts with their outstretched wings and arched bodies.

'Nature at its most raw'

Little said the eagle on the bottom sensed the other eagle's approach and turned around as if to say, "You're not gonna get my chicken, buddy."

Most of the photographers were facing a different direction when Little grabbed the shot. The confrontation was over almost as soon as it began, with the intruding eagle unsuccessful. 

Little says she loves how she learns during long stretches observing the outdoors. (Sandi Little)

"I just caught in the corner of my eye this little scurry of action and I just turned my camera just in time to see that eagle come in, and didn't know what I had until I checked my camera," she told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon.

"But I was certainly a happy camper when I saw that picture on my camera." 

She said the photo's circular composition is part of its appeal, as well as its look at "nature at its most raw."

"They have to fight and fend for their food and they do what they have to do."

'There's so much to learn'

Little says the photo's best quality is how unique it is.

"I've never seen a photo like it," she said. "There are people who have captured eagles catching fish with their talons, and there's all kinds of other photos, beautiful photos of eagles doing what they do, but they've never seen anything quite like this."

Little said she has no particular passion for eagles, but loves wildlife photography.

"There's so much to learn," she said. "There's so many things. I've shot a lot of ducks in my time, and you look at a duck and think, 'It's a duck.' But once you are standing there for hours and watching them and the interactions and what they do and how they do it, you notice that there are things that are rituals with them."

Little also captured this less aggressive display of wings. (Sandi Little)

As the contest's grand prize winner, Little won $500, a one-year subscription to Canadian Wildlife and a numbered print from Canadian artist Pierre Francis Surtes, Arctic Springtime — Polar Bear.

"I'm humbled and I'm happy and it certainly made my day," said Little.

With files from CBC Radio's Maritime Noon