One of the strange things about bird photography is that the birds you are trying to photograph invariably fly off when you need them to stay and stay when you want them to fly. Today’s story is about an obstinate White-bellied Sea Eagle that steadfastly refused to fly off even though we were only a few meters below its perch
The story begins last Sunday afternoon when we decided to make a short trip out to the Paya Indah Wetlands to see if the migrating birds had started to arrive. The good thing about Paya Indah is you are free to drive many of the roads round the wetlands which means you don’t have to walk miles to the remote ponds and photography from the car is possible which helps a lot when it’s really hot and humid.
Shortly after entering the park we came across the White-bellied Sea Eagle perched in a relatively low branch of a tree next to the road. Now, every time we have come across such a bird in the past they have taken flight long before we can get a decent shot. So to make sure we didn’t disturb it we slowly positioned the car as best we could to get our shots out of the window. When it became clear the bird was not about to fly I decided to be more daring and get out and use a beanbag on the roof of the car to rest the lens. Still the bird did not move.
As the angle was not the best and there were a lot of leaves and sticks obscuring the view we decided to push our luck some more and assembled the tripod. The Eagle just sat there and watched us and even had the audacity to call out to its mate nearby and complain.
By now I had managed to get hundreds of shots of it perched in the tree, but because of all the leaves, none that could be considered anything special. So we decided to tempt fate. It was only a matter of time before it decided to take flight and so we decided to push our luck as far as it would go and aim for the flying shot of a lifetime.
This meant dumping the tripod and changing lenses and going for hand-held tracking and shooting. To encourage the Eagle to fly I slowly walked towards it pre-focused and ready for it to take off. I walked right up to the tree to the point where I couldn’t zoom back anymore and the leaves started obscuring the bird. Apart from some open wing display’s it still it sat there….Unbelievable!!
Then Lynette had a brainwave, she decided to walk right up under the bird and clap her hands while I stood back ready to catch the action…still no response. So she tried jumping up and down and waving her cap…..still to no avail. This was becoming a ridiculous situation. The eagle was not at all fussed and was just not playing our game. Now, you have to know we were right in the middle of a tropical wetland basically not that far north of the equator at four in the afternoon. It was so humid you could hardly breathe and it was Hot…really HOT! We were both sweating like pigs and sweat was literally running off our backs. Our clothes were as wet as if they just came out of the washer.
That’s when disaster struck. As a last resort Lynette decided to try and shake the tree but all she succeeded in doing was annoying some bee’s that took exception to the smell of sweat and decided to punish her for disturbing them and the bird. Stung on the arm, neck and finger no way was she doing any more tree shaking.
By this time a number of people had driven past and watched the performance of the two “Mat Salleh’s” that by now had become so dehydrated and exasperated that we had decided to call it quits. Just as we walked off back to the car the bird decided it had had enough fun for the day and to leave as well. It flapped off with me blasting six shots a second always one second too late and one meter too far behind.
So at the end of it all, we got lots of a bird on a branch shots, and not a single flying frame….Bird Score 10 – Photographer Score, Zero!!!