"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

ZOOMING IN ON EAGLES

By on November 24, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Mom eagle flies from the nest, announcing lunch, as she had just dropped off food. The junior eagles came in a few minutes later.

Story and photos 

by Julanne Burts

My Name is Julanne Burts and I enjoy photographing our local eagles and documenting their progress. 

I suppose that sounds a little like an introduction to a 12-step program but I assure you this is a harmless hobby. 

I was born in Wenatchee and graduated from Eastmont High School in 1977, became a dental assistant, got married. College took us to Pullman and careers took us to King County in the early ’80s. We returned in 2002, when my husband was able to transfer back to this area. We have been back for 18 years and are grateful to be home in this beautiful area. 

When we moved back home, our house attracted a lot of birds and my mother, who lived with us at the time, fed them. I think she may have spent as much on bird seed as she did on dog food, and she had four dogs. We soon had hundreds of sparrows and finches turning bird seed into fertilizer. 

Dad eagle bringing home the bacon… or in this case, a fish.

Maybe it was the exposure, maybe it was genetic, but I was also interested in birds. Watching them play and flit about provided lots of entertainment for mom and me. 

We also attracted humming birds and for the last 15 years, we have maintained a year round feeder. We can see and hear them from our living room. These amazing birds filled up several pages in my photo album. 

One winter morning, a sharp-skin hawk settled on our fence and waited for dinner to fly by. It was magnificent, with beautiful plumage, yellow eyes and sharp talons. It was also very confident and tolerated my photography with an attitude of royal indifference. 

During high school I got interested in photography but cameras and film were expensive. We had to wait for the film to be processed and the cost made us timid about wasting film. Still, I have hundreds of pictures of friends, kids, family and pets. Some of them are pretty good, many of them are not. Our camera went on most of our trips and we obtained some telephoto lenses and filters to improve our results. 

This was the third eaglet to fly from the 2020 hatching.

When photography went digital it was revolutionary. Cameras and the cost of photography dropped. 

Our outdoor activities gradually became a way for me to get out and take pictures. With digital editing, we could improve the image and crop pictures. On a hike to Blue Lake in the North Cascades, we averaged one picture every 500 feet. Until we got to the lake, then I practically filled the memory stick with images as the lake changed colors over and over. It was during this time that I wore out my trusty digital camera. 

With all those photos the odds were some of them would be good pictures. As I practiced, the results improved and soon I was sharing pictures on Facebook and giving them away as presents. 

I unofficially became the official photographer for the Apple Country Snowmobile Club and this gave me more opportunities to share pictures. It wasn’t long before my next camera started to wear out. 

Julanne Burts finds that documenting eagles is a great way to de-stress.

Maybe it was too much time in the bumpy old truck or too many jolts on the snowmobile. I don’t know. But I did know it was time for new equipment. 

As I was considering new equipment, I learned about the new eagle nest on the Horan Nature Trail. According to an article in the Wenatchee World, there had not been an eagle’s nest in the Confluence area for 30 years. 

I wanted to get pictures and struggled with my old equipment until my husband, who tolerates my obsession with mild amusement, suggested this would be a good birthday present. 

Away to the forums I flew. I read about different makes and models of cameras. What features were useful, and tips and techniques to take better pictures. I got expert advice from our cousin who has been a serious photographer for 45 years. 

Now, armed with a Nikon 5600 camera, plus two lenses — a wide angle and a zoom — I was down at the eagle’s nest for hours at a time. Waiting for the eggs to hatch, watching the parents bring in food. 

I was delighted as the eaglet first appeared above the rim of the nest. Excited as he or she — it is hard to tell with baby eagles — started developing its feathers and exercising in the nest. 

I was a little sad when the young eagle launched its own life in June of that year. I wish it all the success possible. 

The Horan Nature Trail is a wonderful resource for our community. This sanctuary in the city is home for eagles, osprey, deer, pheasants, owls, all sorts of waterfowl and birds. There was even a moose. But I believe she has settled down and started a family somewhere else. 

This is all available to anyone willing to put their phone in their pocket as they walk through. 

In 2020, with COVID, and lock downs, and all the social disruption that goes with it, documenting the eagles was a way for me to de-stress. It was also a good year for our resident eagles as they raised three babies. 

Eagles have made a comeback in the lower 48 states. Their numbers, once dangerously low, are increasing and I am pleased that my grandchildren will be able to share these magnificent raptors with their grandchildren. 

To see more pictures and stories of the eagles, go to Julanne’s Wenatchee wildlife photos, on facebook.

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