'A quiet confidence': Photographers snapping more photos of 'majestic' bald eagles
Influx could be due to change in natural habitat, DDT ban, amateur naturalist says
Take a drive through Saskatchewan's countryside and you might just catch a glimpse of the familiar features of a bald eagle.
The large birds are popular photo subjects from those who spot them, and they're showing up more and more on social media bird watching pages in the province.
Scott Currie, a photographer from Saskatoon, has captured many photos of bald eagles since he started taking nature photos five years ago.
"They amaze me," said Currie. "Their flight, the way they can hover and dive for their prey."
He's taken photos of the eagles in several locations in Saskatchewan, including Delisle, Wakaw and Waskesiu.
Currie drives for kilometres down back roads almost every day to get the perfect shot.
He doesn't find it every day, but occasionally the waiting game pays off.
"I was surprised at how many there are," he said. "That's kind of why we go to Waskesiu, because you'll find quite a few of them up there."
A couple of years ago, he found some bald eagles nesting at Wakaw Lake, where he spends time at his cabin.
Trevor Herriot, an amateur naturalist, believes the sheer size of the eagles — whose wings can be almost two metres in length — are what draws people to them.
"To see one close up and fly past you is stirring," said Herriot. "They're just beautiful birds."
Herriot said the province is a "stronghold" for the birds — especially when they're not wintering in warmer climates — and he believes numbers have increased in recent decades.
Herriot said DDT, a toxic insecticide, caused bald eagle populations to dwindle when it was used in their habitats. But since its banning in 1985, he said he's noticed a comeback.
Bald eagles, he said, usually live in the boreal forest region of northern Saskatchewan, but the expansion of the Aspen parkland — the area that divides the boreal forest and prairie regions — due to years without major wildfires, means the eagles are on the move into more populated regions.
"That change has, perhaps, given more tree growth for birds like the bald eagle in the south," he said. "So as long as there's good size lakes with fish and trees to nest in, they'll take advantage of them."
Brenda Reifferscheid lives near Humboldt and first started snapping photos of bald eagles when they arrived in the area in 2010.
"We got flooded so bad and with the floods came a whole bunch of new rodents and shore birds," said Reifferscheid. "So the eagles kind of followed that."
"They look so ... majestic. They kind of have a quiet confidence. You can tell, even the way they sit in a tree.... There's a certain posture that just looks so cool."
Reifferscheid has also taken up photographing the birds. She's created a photo book with shots of the eagles she's taken.
Herriot said while photos can make for beautiful art, he cautions people not to get close to a bald eagle's nest.
"If they're just building a nest or if they've just laid a couple eggs, they may abandon [them] if there's too much disturbance," he said, adding half a kilometre or farther is the best distance.